Boulder County commissioners to hear from public on short-term/vacation rental changes – Colorado Hometown Weekly

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Editor’s note: The story has been updated to clarify that the proposed changes apply only to unincorporated parts of Boulder County and to explain restrictions in different parts of the county.

Short-term and vacation rentals are back on tap when the Boulder County commissioners meet Tuesday.

County staff suggested changes to short-term and vacation rental rules in unincorporated parts of the county earlier in the year. Some of the proposed changes include redefining short-term and vacation rentals, reducing the number of rental types, changing the review process for vacation rentals and capping the number of vacation rentals.

Residents have spoken both in favor and against proposed changes.

The public hearing will be held at 1 p.m. Attendees may come in person to the Boulder County Courthouse, 1325 Pearl St., or attend virtually. Register to attend or speak virtually at Register to speak in person at

County staff members proposed the changes following a review of a 2020 update to the regulations that was presented in January, as well as feedback from community members, the Planning Commission and the Boulder County commissioners.

Ethan Abner, a Boulder County long-range planner, said the goals based on the review include balancing the need to preserve housing stock and address concerns from neighbors with allowing the economic activity desired by property owners.

“This is a really good try at trying to achieve that balance,” Abner said.

The changes would establish a single, streamlined process to review both short-term and vacation rental uses. Property owners who receive a license for either type of rental also would be required to immediately notify adjacent property owners.

“There is more certainty for applicants,” Abner said. “It does clarify the process. It makes it quicker. It outlines what you need to do. And the regulations will be more enforceable.”

Under the changes being discussed, a short-term rental would need to be the owner or tenant’s primary residence. The owner would live at the home during the rental period. However, the owner or tenant could rent the entire dwelling unit without being present for up to 45 days per calendar year. By contrast, people who book a vacation rental would be the only ones who stayed there during the rental period.

The proposal caps vacation rentals, allowing up to 3.5% of total housing units in mountainous areas of unincorporated Boulder County to have vacation rental licenses. Vacation rentals wouldn’t be allowed on the plains.

“We want to guide vacation rentals to where we think they’re more appropriate and maintain availability of traditional housing stock,” Abner said.

Planning Commission changes supported by county staff members include striking the requirement that vacation rentals be rented for a two-night stay minimum, along with allowing a short-term rental owner to rent a space for up to 45 days without being present. The original proposal was for up to 30 days.

The proposal caps vacation rentals, allowing up to 3.5% of total housing units in mountainous areas of unincorporated Boulder County to have vacation rental licenses. The county is proposing allowing:

• Up to 169 licenses in the Upper St. Vrain Census County Division in the northern mountain area, which is bounded roughly by Lefthand Canyon Drive, James Canyon Drive and Overland Road on the south and by Heil Valley Ranch and Hall Ranch Open Space on the east.

• Up to 73 licenses in the Bald Mountain Census County Division in the southern mountain area, which is south of the St. Vrain Division and west of all but the northern tip of Boulder and the city’s open space and mountain parks.

• No vacation rentals on the plains, including the town of Lyons.


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