The Aspen City Council on Tuesday continued discussions about cracking down on short-term rentals by conducting a first reading of an ordinance they verbally supported on Nov. 16.
But in a surprise move, city staff presented an emergency ordinance that, if passed tonight at a special meeting, would impose a moratorium on all residential development and vacation rental permits until May 31 of next year. Council could vote tonight to extend that date.
Community Development Director Phillip Supino said the emergency ordinance will give the city, businesses and community a chance to take six months to discuss the future of STRs in Aspen.
“We’ve heard from council and the community and people are concerned about this set of issues,” Supino said. “Council’s desire to use the tool of a moratorium to create space to have a conversation about those significant issues may help the community align its policies with its regulations.”
On Nov. 16, council asked city staff to take immediate action on short-term rentals, according to a memo from Supino. Specifically, staff was asked to cap the number of STRs for 2022 to only those with a valid 2021 permit, to not issue 2022 permits, to extend the validity of 2021 permits into 2022 and to return to council in the first quarter of 2022 for a work session to present possible regulatory responses to STRs.
The recommended accompanying ordinance, which council approved Tuesday on first reading, would establish an amendment to the city’s land use code, which requires a policy resolution by ordinance and a public hearing.
Confusion abounded when members of the public who came to speak during the public hearing were told their comments would not be taken during the discussion of the emergency ordinance. The two ordinances, although related, were separate, and the emergency ordinance did not require a public hearing.
However, Mayor Torre did allow a handful of procedural questions, given the amount of raised hands in the room. Several Aspen residents who manage STRs were present in the room and on WebEx and were naturally confused about the timeline established by the two ordinances. The city rarely issues emergency ordinances, but city officials said it is necessary for the benefit of the community.
The council approved the emergency ordinance on first reading, and in doing so established a special council meeting at 7 p.m. tonight for a second reading in the armory building on South Galena Street. The meeting will not be a public hearing, but members of the public can observe it in person or over WebEx.
Anyone who needs to apply for an STR permit or business license will need to visit the city’s finance department today to get the process started. All existing 2021 permits will be carried into 2022, and any permits issued today also will be continued. All applicants will need a business license for 2021 and 2022, and will be applying for a 2021 STR permit.
After today, no new business permits will be issued if the emergency ordinance passes, but all existing permits will remain valid. The city will use the next six months to discuss STRs, and the public will be involved in those discussions, Torre said.
The next opportunity for the public to give comment on short-term rentals will be next Tuesday (Dec. 14) at the council’s next regular meeting.