Rachel Stovall

Have you heard of the “Battle of the Bike Lanes”? The catchy phrase dominated local headlines for several months last year. Our new controversy is aptly named “Skirmish of the Short-Term Rentals.”

More than a local issue, for years short-term rentals have been in headlines all over the country. There have been raised emotions, heated debates and even lawsuits of city vs. corporations.

For those new to this subject, a short-term rental is the practice renting out of a furnished home, apartment or condominium. The owner of the property usually will rent out to guests paying on a weekly or nightly rate.

It’s like having a small bed and breakfast in a residential neighborhood. I guess we can see how that could cause some angst among usually friendly neighbors within the Pikes Peak Region.

Let’s hear from the critics first.

Arguments against short-term rentals include: Short-term rentals reduce the affordable housing supply, leading to displacement, gentrification and segregation. Short-term rentals lead to disturbances in neighborhoods. Short-term rentals adversely affect local economies.

Let’s hear from the supporters next.

Arguments for the use of short-term rentals include: Short-term rentals support the tourism economy by providing lodging for visitors. Short-term rentals provide an opportunity for residents to make extra income enabling them to afford the increased cost of living.

The use of vacation rentals generates property management jobs in the community. Finally, permitting, sales tax and lodging tax are an important source of revenue for the municipalities that they reside in.

In skirmish-prone areas like ours, proposed solutions seem to show up as regulations. These new regulations try to balance citizen property rights with those of their neighbors. The new laws, ordinances or regulations also try to reduce noise, parking and trash complaints related to short-term renters. Seems fair enough.

In the Pikes Peak region, our solution was an ordinance that limits the number of STRs per lawful dwelling unit and per property. It also bans STRs in trailers, tents and other mobile or temporary structures while requiring that neighbors be given an emergency contact available 24/7.

Our ordinance allows the city to shut down or suspend nuisance rentals. An annual $119 permit is required as well as the payment of other applicable taxes. In addition, those who use sites other than Airbnb need a sales tax license. Basically, local ordinance sets forth a variety of other standards and rules meant to enhance safety and promote neighborhood tranquility.

The City Council has already implemented a solution that fully addresses the needs of short-term rental owners and those disturbed by them. Why change a solution already working?

Complaints: 58 complaints that included possible code violations. City principal planner Morgan Hester presented the 58 complaints and proposed changes in an August meeting to address new issues.

Apparently, our locally based Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, led by Michael Applegate and their 27 Facebook followers, wants more than the ordinance addresses.

If we believe the numbers presented by Hester, there are about 2,300 short-term rentals in Colorado Springs. Most are 75% occupied daily. Out of all those people coming and going into our city, the city of Colorado Springs has record of 58 complaints in nine months.

For all of this “trouble,” the city is earning 3.12% sales tax + 2% lodging tax on those 2,300 units. The estimate of the cash in taxes gained is $193,418 per complaint. That statistic was supplied by Ryan Spradlin of the Colorado Springs Short-Term Rental Alliance.

Does anyone remember how the bike lanes were implemented after the vote of 44 local citizens? And the local response to finding out that at small group was using the City Council to create policy that gave them what they wanted?

Here we are again. Fifty-eight citizens are pushing their wishes on a city of 700,000 — through some of our City Council.

The final decision on this issue will be by vote on Tuesday, Oct. 22. Go to the meeting and let your voice be heard in this “Skirmish of the Short-Term Rentals.”

Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Stovall is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.

Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Stovall is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.

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