By Jamie Leary

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (CBS4) – It was another packed house in Breckenridge Tuesday night as Council members met for the first reading of an ordinance that would put a cap on short term rentals.

While there were some initial changes to the initial proposal, the main goal remained the same: to cap the number of short-term rentals from nearly 2,500 to 2,200.

“Over time we would get down to that 2,200 number through attrition and then we would administer a waitlist and fill the licenses on a first-come, first-serve basis, once we’re below that 2,200 number for the non-exempt category of licenses,” said Brian Waldes, Town Finance Director.

More than 90 people signed up to testify for a total of four-and-a-half hours of public comment. Most were vehemently opposed to the the cap, asking that council members take time to further research the implications.

One man who lives in Fairplay and commutes to Breckenridge for work argued that the cap wouldn’t make it any more affordable for him to live in Breckenridge and closer to work, it would only threaten rentals where he currently lives in Fairplay.

Council members have admitted that the reduction in short term rentals would not lead to a large-scale conversion and one community member argued the number of existing licenses has grown with owners trying to get in before the law is passed.

“I heard today that number has blown up to over 2,800 with license grabbing in the last two weeks, it will take years to normalize,” said resident Mary Waldman. “Since we all agree that the license cap will not increase local housing, don’t punish us with such a low number. Let us make peace. I ask the council for a cap of at least 2,550 or higher. Thank you.”

Waldman was among few people who wanted a cap at all, but was in agreement with many about the short-term rentals exempt from the cap.

To qualify for an exemption, you must have a a 24-hour security service, a 24-hour on site front desk attendant and a 24-hour phone system. The phone operator and security service cannot be the same person. There are just under 1,500 properties that qualify, and at last check, 2,476 that would be subject to the 2,200 cap.

“Right now you’re creating a value between hotels and timeshares versus condos and townhomes. Condos and townhomes have really been the heart and soul of the rental tourist market in Breckenridge so by creating that value for these hotels and timeshares, you’re changing that value of Breckenridge big time,” said resident Abby Brown.

Like many, Brown also took issue with the broad scope of the proposed ordinance,

“You’re assuming that all parts of Breckenridge are equal, and and a lot of these areas were developed to be short term rentals; Village Road, 4 O’Clock Road, Columbine, those are all resort areas and you’re treating them the same as, say, Baldy Mountain Townhomes,” said Brown.

Another man even argued the exemptions were discriminatory and only in favor of big business.

Many short-term rental owners also expressed concern over the loss of the value of their home.

“The proposed ordinance limiting short term rentals would not immediately affect us as we’ve already had a short-term rental license. However, it is likely to have a significant impact on eventual resale, as the future buyer will not be able to continue renting the property. If this ordinance passes, especially given the current real estate market, we would have to give serious consideration to selling the property. This would provide no benefit to the long-term rental market, as any buyer will know their likelihood of continuing to rent the property will be low. Therefore, any buyer would simply be someone who could afford to own it, without rental income, and leave it unused a significant portion of the year,” said David Wilcox on behalf of Dave and Melinda Rogers who own a vacation rental at the Woods Manor Complex.

By 10 p.m. Tuesday, public comment was ongoing and the town council had received more than 400 letters on the subject.

The ordinance would not impact any existing licenses but if the short-term rental property was sold, it would not transfer to the new owner. So the cap would essentially happen through attrition.

Mayor Eric Mamula says the legislation would go into effect 35 days after the second reading on Sept. 28- so Nov. 2, and expects a flood of applications until that time.

Jamie Leary