Every neighborhood has one of those houses that makes you wonder just what’s going on in there.
Maybe it’s a house that is always dark.
Or maybe it’s one where it seems somebody different is always living there — but not like a rental where folks live six months or a year or more and leave. These are strangers who come for a week or a month and then disappear. Sometimes, they barely speak English.
It’s possible the house is part of the growing inventory of vacation rentals that are advertised on the Internet and attract tourists from around the world. An estimated 60 to 80 Springs-area homes are being used as vacation rentals. The number caught the attention of the city, which has established a task force to determine if the houses need to be licensed and regulated and, more importantly, taxed.
“We’re looking at if there is a need to regulate it and if so, how,” said Dick Anderwald, city land-use review chief. “It’s a concern in a couple neighborhoods, but it doesn’t seem to be widely felt throughout the community.”
Only a handful of complaints have come into the city, mostly on the west side and in the Broadmoor area. Both neighborhoods are represented on the task force, and they want the city to crack down on vacation rentals.
Some critics describe them as a blight on neighborhoods — party houses that disrupt neighborhoods with trash, traffic and strangers. They don’t like strangers in the neighborhood, especially when they take up scarce parking spaces.
And the critics say absentee landlords let the houses deteriorate.
But others defend them as a property rights issue. They say it’s no different than a bed-and-breakfast or boutique hotel. They say the homes are ideal for families, providing a home-like environment for people with special needs: the elderly, disabled children or folks who require a sterile kitchen.
It appears the task force meetings may produce nothing more than sales tax collections from vacation rental property owners.
“Our goal was to get something out by the end of the year,” Anderwald said. “But we may just have to agree to disagree on this. We’re having a difficult time.”
Meetings have been less than pleasant, according to several task force members.
“The problem is not with vacation rentals,” said Jackie Ayers, who calls her business Colorado Springs Vacation Rentals. She rents her own home as a vacation property and manages another for a friend.
“I think it’s just two women who have an ax to grind,” she said, referring to other task force members.
Ayers said only one legitimate complaint that has surfaced: that it’s unfair for the vacation houses to escape paying sales taxes.
“We’re going to start adding and paying that immediately,” she said. “I understand that completely.”
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