Published in the July 19, 2017, edition of the Redstone Review.
Updates on long-term rentals in ADUs and short-term rentals for tourists
COMMENTARY: AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN LYONS
By Amy Reinholds
Affordable Housing Columnist
LYONS – Just as I was sitting down to write this column, a well researched, thoughtful article was published in Outside magazine, titled “Did Airbnb Kill the Mountain Town?” Writer Tom Vanderbilt describes situations where renters are competing for fewer places to live because landlords are cashing in renting short-term vacation lodging to tourists. The article starts with “The rise of online short-term rentals may be the tipping point that causes idyllic outposts like Crested Butte, Colorado, to lose their middle class altogether—and with it, their soul.” Read the entire article to learn how a wide range of people are affected in Crested Butte, and about similar challenges in Florida, North Carolina, California, and Montana.
I am concerned about how both accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and short-term vacation rentals could affect affordable housing stock in Lyons. Also known as mother-in-law apartments or carriage houses, ADUs are small apartments in either the existing house, a garage, or a separate outbuilding. ADUs are an attempt to add more lower-cost, market-rate rentals for people who work in Lyons, which in general I feel positive about. As an incentive for homeowners to provide more long-term rentals, the Lyons Board of Trustees approved code changes at the end of 2016 to allow ADUs in separate buildings to share utility connection fees with the main house (saving homeowners thousands of dollars in additional connection fees). I’m watching for results. But short-term vacation rentals might work in the opposite direction, as described in the Outside magazine article, where fewer longer-term rentals are available that people who work in town can afford.
Here’s what’s going on in Lyons: The Town of Lyons ADU ordinance prohibits using ADUs for short-term vacation rentals, because the policy is intended to increase the number of lower-cost residential rentals for people who work in town. Homeowners must rent for periods of 30 days or longer (for example, at least a month-to-month lease). You can read the ADU ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units. As of July 3, both the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Board of Trustees have approved conditional use review plans for three ADUs: a garage apartment at 427 Stickney Street, a garage apartment at 327 Seward Street, and a separate 600 square-foot one bedroom apartment at 600 Indian Lookout Road, currently an undeveloped parcel where a new home will also be built.
So where are short-term vacation rentals allowed in Lyons, if they are not allowed in ADUs? Right now, in town limits, short-term vacation rentals are not permitted by right on residential (R-1 and R-2) zoned land (neighborhoods where most of us live). Bed and breakfasts with 6 or fewer units are allowed as a use by right on estate residential and agricultural zoned land, if the homeowners have a business license and the rented units are in the main house. In addition to agricultural and estate zoned land, lodging is also allowed in commercial zoned land. To legally rent rooms as short-term vacation rentals in residential (R-1 or R-2) zones, current town code requires that homeowners apply for a conditional use review as a bed and breakfast, with several steps and public hearings before the PCDC and the Board of Trustees. But no homeowners in residential zones have applied for this kind of conditional use review.
However, a new, proposed short-term vacation rental ordinance that the PCDC and town planning staff are working on would also allow some short-term vacation rental use by right in residential zones (R-1 and R-2) in the Town of Lyons. To give residential property owners a break, the PCDC looked into simplifying town policy to allow renting rooms or suites in a house in a residential zone where the owner lives, to only one party at a time, with limited number of people in that party. The use would be less than a bed and breakfast, and no conditional use review process would be required. However, homeowners would be required to get a short-term vacation rental business license (similar in cost to other Town of Lyons business licenses) and comply with safety-based requirements such as fire inspections. Public hearings about these changes to town code are expected August 14 for the PCDC and, depending on the PCDC recommendations, as early as August 21 for the Board of Trustees.
I only covered Town of Lyons policies in my column this month. People who own homes outside Lyons town limits are subject to the specific regulations for their county (Boulder or Larimer). It’s also important to know that some homeowners associations have more restrictive rules than Town of Lyons ordinances and might prohibit short-term vacation rentals or even ADUs that are rented out to long-term tenants.
This column is a monthly commentary (opinion column) in the Redstone Review about affordable housing after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including one buy out of a mobile home park) and to the changed use of a second mobile home park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) in 5-7 acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 in a special Town of Lyons election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots at 2nd and Park in Lyons, to build six permanently affordable homes (three duplexes). For history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, read previous columns posted at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.
Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.