chateau roaring fork

The Chateau Roaring Fork in Aspen sits alongside the river against a backdrop of fire-gold aspens on Tuesday. The property appears on both VRBO.com and Airbnb.com, managed by Frias Properties. 

Although different opinions persist among the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners as they relate to enacting short-term rental regulations locally, some common ground exists: namely, preventing land that is zoned “rural and remote” from being turned into a stomping ground for highly utilized Airbnbs and vacation rentals.

“I don’t want to see … little 1,000-square-foot hotels all over the backside [of Aspen Mountain] on different mining claims,” Commissioner Steve Child said during Tuesday’s BOCC work session. “That’s not what ‘rural and remote’ was intended for.”

Child did not necessarily oppose cabin owners renting their property out as short-term rentals in rural and remote areas, so long as they too lived on site.

The county’s land use code defines rural and remote zoning as intended to “conserve and protect the natural environment and its resources, while allowing for limited recreational uses and limited residential development.”  

In 2020, the Colorado General Assembly passed House Bill 20-1093, which allows counties the authority to license and regulate short-term rentals locally. The bill received some bipartisan support, and many legislators whose districts included resort communities also advocated for it. Democratic Colorado Sen. Kerry Donovan — who represents Pitkin, Eagle and other regions on the Western Slope — and Republican Colorado Sen. Bob Rankin — who serves Summit, Routt, Garfield and other mountain areas — both sponsored the bill concerning the implementation of short-term rental regulations locally.

A quick search of Pitkin County on websites like Airbnb.com or Vrbo.com turns up numerous short-term rental listings with prices ranging from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars, per night. 

“I am not in support of people buying them with LLCs and LMNOPs … just to use them literally for nothing but short-term rentals for the revenue,” Commissioner Patti Clapper said. “They are a commercial use then, and I am not going to support that for the short-term rentals of 30 days or less. It’s got to have a local address. It’s got to be owned by a human being — not a corporation.”

A draft of the county’s proposed short-term rental regulations presented Tuesday defined a principal residence as “the location which is the owner’s, or at least one person who is an ownership position, legal residence and place of usual habitation during the term of the license. 

Some commissioners had concerns about the county’s regulations not being stringent enough and thus opening up the possibility of entities purchasing large properties and converting them into short-term rentals managed by a hired, so-called “resident.”

“You can’t buy houses and have somebody move in to caretake the house, that then rents it out as an Airbnb. It has to be a resident,” Clapper said. “You can’t hire a chalet girl or boy to come in and rent your place and then therefore qualify for Airbnb or a short-term rental.” 

Wanting more time to flesh out the regulations, the BOCC will host another work session about short-term rental licensing in the near future.

Matthew Bennett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at: matthew@aspendailynews.com