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Durango considers changes to vacation rental regulations

Proposed land-use changes would also affect parking regulations and handicraft shops
The new prohibition on vacation rentals would affect areas that are zoned established-neighborhood multifamily, residential medium and high, shown in shades of brown, and mixed-use arterial and neighborhood, shown in shades of pink.

Vacation rentals could be blocked from opening in certain residential areas and in areas slated for redevelopment to help protect housing.

The potential change to vacation rental regulations was one of several updates to the land-use code the Durango Planning Commission unanimously approved Monday. The commission also approved new rules for handicraft shops, less stringent parking regulations for vacation rentals and rules that would grant the board more power to review variances from the land-use code, among others.

The revisions to the code must go before the Durango City Council for final approval.

The proposed vacation rental restrictions would prevent businesses from opening in areas where the city wants to encourage new housing, such as north Main Avenue and along Camino del Rio. It also prevents vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods that do not already have vacation rental caps in place, said Vicki Vandegrift, a city planner.

“We want to provide housing for people that live here,” she said.

Vacation rentals have grown in popularity because sites like VRBO allow property owners to rent out homes and apartments for short-term stays. As a result, the rentals have cut into homes available for residents.

City planning staff members selected areas where housing is dense for the proposed restriction, because vacation rentals have higher impacts in those areas, Planning Manager Scott Shine said in an interview.

Those operating existing vacation rentals would not be affected by the rule change.

Planning Commissioner Geoff Hickcox said justification for scaling back where vacation rentals are allowed makes sense, but he would like the city to create a different policy for people renting out a single room in their home to earn additional income. Vandegrift said a single-room rental is allowed in one area of town, and expanding where it is allowed would likely be discussed next year.

The city could also reduce parking requirements for vacation rentals. It could start counting tandem parking spaces – those that would block in another car – toward the total number of parking spaces needed for a vacation rental permit at a single family home or duplex, Vandegrift said.

The change was requested by the previous City Council, she said.

The code revisions would also create new standards for handicraft shops, defined as retail shops run by small-scale artisans, such as potters and carpenters.

If approved, the standards would allow artisans to open a combined retail and workshop space in any commercial area. The new rule would also reduce the parking allowances for a shop compared to a regular retail outlet, Vandegrift said.

To help streamline the planning process for developers, as part of the code revisions, the city also may allow the Planning Commission to act as the Land Use Code and Development Board of Adjustments to handle variance requests, such as height variances and larger project approvals, she said.

This could eliminate a meeting with the Board of Adjustment for applicants

“You are going to be empowered,” she told the Planning Commission.

Separate from acting as the Board of Adjustments, the Planning Commission could also start reviewing requests for parking space variances.

“The Planning Commission is probably best suited to talk about parking in a broader picture,” Vandegrift said.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

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