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Solution for vacation rentals: One per block

Compromise standard set to be adopted in spring

The City Council on Monday reached a compromise on the contentious issue of vacation rentals, deciding to allow only one per block.

The current standard allows only one vacation rental per 500 square feet, which Councilor Christina Rinderle called “onerous” or too restrictive because the average residential block is only 350 feet long.

The new standard will be incorporated into the city’s revised land-use development code, which the council plans to adopt in April.

It will not allow two vacation rentals to be on opposite of sides of the street, which satisfied Councilor Sweetie Marbury.

“I like it,” she said after the council’s study session. “It allows me to keep my neighbors.”

Marbury wanted to preserve rental property for full-time residents and the kind of neighborhoods where people know each other and “shovel each others’ car out of the snow and borrow eggs.”

Mayor Doug Lyon, who described himself as a former opponent of vacation rentals, also thought there were other barriers to the proliferation of vacation rentals, noting they typically don’t generate a lot of income.

“They’re not the gold mines people think they are,” he said.

In vacation-rental situations where the owner lives out of town, Rinderle said, most of the owner’s revenue is eaten up by management fees.

City Manager Ron Le-Blanc said the city will still have to work out many issues, such as what to do with the vacation rentals that are advertised on the Internet but not permitted by the city.

The city has legally permitted 18 vacation rentals, but Marbury said she has found 50 rentals advertised online for Durango, although some might be outside the city limits.

Greg Hoch, the chief planning director, said vacation rentals are a persistent problem in big multi-family developments such as Park Terrace, where residents are constantly complaining to the city about unknown vacation renters causing problems such as blocking their cars.

In other land-use changes, Hoch suggested a solution to help satisfy opponents of accessory dwellings, also known as mother-in-law apartments or alley cottages.

Because opponents fear owners or renters won’t be responsible for the rental property, Hoch proposed requiring the owner or manager to live in either the accessory dwelling or the bigger house on the same property.

Lyon, however, feared the rule would make people “a prisoner of their home,” determining where they should live.

The council will take up the issue of accessory dwellings again today during a special study session set aside for the topic.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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