Breckenridge Town Council discusses short-term rental recommendations

Skiers walk to to their car near the Gondola Lot in Breckenridge on Monday, April 25. Breckenridge Town Council is working on a plan that would cap short-term rental licenses in certain zones to help the town maintain its character.
Andrew Maciejewski/Summit Daily News

It has been nearly six months since Breckenridge Town Council decided to put a pause on short-term rental licenses in the town, and the conversation about how to handle them going forward continues.

The Tourism Overlay District Task Force was given the task of finding out ways to handle increases in short-term rentals, and on Tuesday community development director Mark Truckey presented those to the council for discussion. In February, the task force divided the town of Breckenridge into three zones: Zone 1, Zone 2 and Zone 3.

“Overall, I think task force generally agreed on the overall goal is allowing some additional licensing in Zone 1, and in zone 2 and 3, we wouldn’t be encouraging additional licensing,” Truckey said.

This graph describes the current status of short-term rentals in Breckenridge.
Town of Breckenridge/Courtesy

Zone 1 is focused on neighborhoods and homes near the ski area. It includes much of the west and south sides of town, Main Street Station and areas near Columbine Road. In this area, according to the task force, approximately 78% of homes in this zone hold short-term rental licensing. Because this zone has a higher rate of short-term rentals than the other zones, the task force has recommended that this percentage be allowed to increase to 80% of all units in Zone 1, an increase of about 64 licenses. Currently, there are 3,144 short-term units in this zone.

Zone 2 primarily encompasses the downtown area of Breckenridge. It is the smallest of the three and includes Main Street, North and South Ridge Streets and the Upper Warrior’s Mark area. According to the task force, this zone has less short-term licenses than Zone 1 but still more than Zone 3.

For this zone, the plan is to keep current conditions, meaning that there will be no new licenses issued, and if one is lost through attrition, one new license would be available in Zone 2. Right now, there are 162 licenses, but to get it down to the suggested cap of 157, a handful would have to be not renewed if the Council were to choose to cap Zone 2 at 50%. Several public comments from residents of Warrior’s Mark expressed concerns about being in Zone 2 and hope that in the future, it may move to Zone 3.

Zone 3 consists mainly of neighborhoods with long-term rentals or homeowners. This zone has the least amount of licenses, but in recent years has seen an increase, which the task force has determined to be detrimental to historical neighborhoods of Breckenridge. The goal of this zone is to decrease the amount of short-term rentals in this area. Right now, there are 960 licenses and to get down to the task force’s 10% goal, the zone would have to lose over 600 licenses, which town manager Rick Holman said could take upwards of 20 years, if it happens at all.

These numbers describe the current number of short-term rentals in each proposed zone, and how many would have to be added or lost to reach a potential 3,700 license cap.
Town of Breckenridge/Courtesy

Since November, Town Council had paused the issuance of new short-term rental licenses. There was a brief time between September and November — when Council was pending action toward short-term rentals — where an additional 567 licenses were approved. Over half were in zones 2 and 3. As of Feb. 4, there are 4,266 total licenses in Breckenridge. As of Tuesday, there were 50 units on the waitlist for a license: 20 in Zone 1, four in Zone 2 and 26 in Zone 3.

“When I hear that we’ve got 26 people in Zone 3 on a waiting list, that troubles me. They bring some ambiguity to a lot of properties that I don’t think should necessarily be ambiguous,” council member Dick Carleton said, emphasizing his support of protecting the character of local neighborhoods. “So I’ll throw out that. I would be very comfortable saying zero in Zone 3, and moving all of those licenses to another zone. If you look at the scenario of (a cap on) 3,700, that would be 336 licenses, and put them in the Zone 1 right off the bat. And just say in Zone 3, there’s no longer any ambiguity in our neighborhoods.”

Overall, council members were supportive of the three-zone map, and Mayor Eric Mamula even suggested a fourth zone that has a very high concentration of rentals. Town Council discussed whether or not there should be a difference in exempt and non-exempt licenses, but several members felt they needed more information before deciding on whether or not there should be a distinction. This means the current cap on non-exempt licenses, which is currently set at 2,200, would go up to a combined 3,700 when including the cap of 1,500 non-exempt.

Breckenridge Town Council wants areas close to tourist areas — like downtown pictured here on Monday, April 25, — to have higher densities of short term rentals than quiet, residential neighborhoods, according to its plan.
Andrew Maciejewski/Summit Daily News

Another potential option would be to migrate licenses, meaning that if a license or two is not renewed in Zone 3, it could be moved to Zone 1. New council member Todd Rankin said he would like to see that turnover number higher, such as for every five licenses in Zone 3 relinquished, there would be one single license in one. That way, he said, overall licenses would go down, but busier areas that are tourist-centered can have a new license.

“The migration idea is intriguing,” member Jay Beckerman added. “I think it could provide the opportunity to shift licenses to areas that historically are intended for short-term rentals which have the infrastructure, that have sidewalks, that have transit and are walkable to town or onto the slopes.”

Holman added that there would likely be several more conversations from council before drafting any legislation that would regulate or change the cap on short-term rentals.

“I think we got a little closer on this stuff, and I think it significantly improves the direction that we’re going,” council member Carol Saade said. “But we’re going to have to continue to be nimble, even after this stuff, and continue to reevaluate.”