Estes Park City Council met on Tuesday evening in person at Town Hall for its regular meeting. potential sources of income.
At the city’s last study session on August 10, the idea of raising taxes (known as “pillow taxes”) or increasing fees on vacation homes and rentals Short Term (STR) to create funds that the city will use in affordable housing initiatives for the workforce. was pushed around. This discussion continued on Tuesday evening.
The move would likely force vacation home owners to charge more for their guests, essentially forcing tourists and renters to fund housing projects for the workforce.
“Whether it’s a user fee or an accommodation tax, these fees are ultimately paid for by the guests and not by our constituents, and not by the people who live here,” said Mayor Pro-tem Patrick Martchink. “If you want to create a general fund, the sales tax goes up in all areas, you impact everyone in the valley and are much less likely to be passed.”
City Council received a total of 47 emails from visitors and residents sharing their views on the matter. Of these emails, only three were neutral and 37 were against.
“Estes doesn’t feel like a community because people don’t live here anymore. Please tax STRs so that it can really change our affordable housing. We need teachers, waiters, police, post office workers, nursing staff, grocery store clerks, city workers, firefighters, store clerks, dental assistants, gas station attendants, librarians, ordinary people with ordinary jobs… not just tourists who come for a short stay. term stay, ”said one person identified only as“ someone who once loved Estes ”in an email to the board.
This person was in the minority as only seven emails supported the idea of increasing taxes and / or fees on STRs.
“I don’t agree with the idea of imposing a tax on short-term rentals to fund the affordable housing initiative,” said Dody Neis. “We bought a condo in Estes and stay there for several weeks each year. We rent it through a manager and pay for a permit. This is not a fair way to expect short term rentals to handle the load.
There were also four people who attended the meeting and physically made their voices heard. One of them, Greg Rosener, is the owner and CEO of SkyRun-Estes Park, Larimer County’s largest vacation rental service.
“Let’s get more facts before we go down this road,” Rosener said. “It is essential to involve members of the industry in the upcoming conversations. Putting the burden of repairing labor housing on the backs of rentals is not sustainable, and second, it is a community problem. “
Another in-person attendee was the Executive Director of the Estes Park Housing Authority, Naomi Hawf.
“Our community has diverse housing needs that require diverse and varied housing solutions, and while many solutions are needed… there is no one-size-fits-all answer,” Hawf told the board. “Our ability to bridge the housing gap and maintain a sustainable community for our residents, businesses, employees and guests requires funding and that funding will need to come from a variety of revenue sources.”
Estes Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Donna Carlson joined the meeting via the internet and said she was speaking as a member of the Estes Park Vacation Rentals Board. She told the board that the board had received 18 letters from rental landlords speaking out against the idea of a tax increase and / or a fee increase.
“I ask you to work with us to build a vacation rental philosophy that we can all support,” said Carlson.
While there are many who sit on opposite ends of this discussion, there are at least three who are in the middle, and some believe the proposed measures are only a temporary solution to a long-term problem. .
“The fees and taxes are just a band-aid that targets a small group (STR),” said Niki Schneider. “A study on affordable housing and a solution using grants would save the city money and be a more comprehensive solution.”
Administrator Marie Cenac said she was not in favor of additional charges on STRs, but found it a bit unfair that accommodations such as hotels and guesthouses pay commercial property taxes, unlike rental homes.
“But it’s a state problem, it’s not our problem,” Cenac said.
Administrator Carlie Bangs was passionate in her comments which spoke in favor of collecting more data points and possibly implementing new charges on residential STRS.
“I think a lot of my peers, friends, colleagues and clients I work for would say there is a direct correlation between workforce housing and DOS,” Bangs said. “We need more information. I think a fee study… is absolutely necessary. We are not closing vacation rentals, we are not against any sector of the industry. “
Bangs believes that while the solution may be complex and controversial, the problem itself is quite simple: DOSs in residential areas directly reduce the amount of housing available to residents year-round by turning a potential permanent home into a rental. .
“Taking houses in residential areas and using them for commercial purposes has an impact on an already very delicate situation,” Bangs said. “I think people have this perception that our workforce is [in the] the service industry or people coming and going for seasonal jobs. No, the workforce is me. He’s someone who tries to work 40 hours a week and tries to put food on his table and just tries to have a two bedroom house.
Martchink was also visibly passionate about the issue and believes that taking the first step in a fee study is the least that the board can do to solve a problem that so many people are comfortable seeing as “something that has always existed ”.
“A cost study is not an implementation of costs, a cost study can find information. A fee study is an impact study that will let us know exactly what impact STRs have on the supply of housing for the workforce, ”said Martchink.
“Just because it’s been around for a long time, a problem that city council after city council has faced, should we just keep doing nothing?” It’s time to fix the problem, ”Martchink said. “Previous city councils had to fix the problem. Complacency is not acceptable, we must do what we can to improve our community. “
Any cost study the city conducts in the future will be funded from general funds and not from vacation rental owners.
Mayor Koenig said she would support a fee study, but believes that updating the Housing Needs Survey should be done first, as its findings may better inform the fee study. Martchink thinks it would be best to move forward with both studies simultaneously in order to progress as quickly as possible.
“Do you know what the last four housing needs assessments say? We need more housing, ”Martchink said. “The next one? That’ll say we need more housing. These two studies could move forward in tandem. If we don’t go ahead with at least one study, it will send a strong and clear message about what this board thinks of its workforce at Estes Park.If you’re not ready to fix the problem, remove it from the strategic plan.
For this week, the topic was only a discussion and no action was taken, but the council asked city staff to update the housing needs assessment survey that was conducted. in 2016 and move forward with a fee study to determine what, if there is a correlation. exists between residential zoned STRs and workforce housing issues.
Hawf informed the board that it would take approx. six to ten months at EPHA to update the needs assessment survey.