Marbleton council continues Airbnb discussions


MARBLETON – With vacation short-term rentals such as Airbnb and VRBO on the Sept. 9 agenda, the Marbleton Town Council talked through concerns with the goal of creating guidelines for an ordinance – or conditional use permit.

“I appreciate all the work you have done, getting (ordinances) from different towns,” Mayor Jim Robinson told town clerks Shannon McCormick and Ashley Jones. “It’s going to take me awhile for me to look through and evaluate this.”

He said he has “no personal experience” with how Airbnb and VRBO short-term vacation rentals work. He was worried that a host might have guests who party and disturb neighbors.

Councilmember Roger McMannis said both accredited rental websites have very similar rules. If someone wanted to rent a room, apartment or home for vacationers, a conditional-use permit might be the way to go because neighbors would need to sign off on an owner’s application.

If an owner received too many complaints, a permit could be taken away.

Councilmember BJ Meador agreed.

“You want people to be able to have a business and also want to have good neighbors,” said councilmember Karen Wenz.

Robinson added, he does not want to stifle entrepreneurship or allowing people “to use things they own to make extra money. I also know the neighbors have a right to know what’s going on.”

New resident Randy Formanek was the only citizen attending; he said he has seen “a lot of negative ramifications” with short-term guests, especially in residential areas, who pass through after a day or two.

“If the town lays down a laundry list – to limit (the negative impacts) – because people will test the limits … when they are away on vacation.”

He advised strong communications “up front” with owners with stipulations to protect neighbors.

Town attorney Thayne Peterson talked about his family’s experiences with using Airbnb and VRBO for get-togethers and vacations.

“We’ve had nothing but positive experiences with it,” he said, adding some people would party just as hard in a motel room.

As Marbleton’s municipal judge, Sam Bixler attended a judicial conference recently where the short-term rental topic came up: “A lot of towns are being proactive” and reap lodging taxes that the rental companies collect.

He pointed out stays of 30 days or more are “long term,” however, and not subject to lodging tax. “Maybe a conditional use permit is the way to go? I want people to come here and enjoy everything Marbleton has to offer but I understand the downside.”

Robinson asked if the council wanted to move forward or table it for another month.

McMannis said moving forward is proactive. Meador added that with a conditional use permit, the sheriff’s office and fire department could be part of approvals.

“If we don’t want the nightmare house in your neighborhood, let’s be prepared,” Wenz said.

Councilmember Jeff McCormick agreed, via Zoom, and Peterson will present a draft at the next Oct. 11 meeting.

Precautions

Bixler asked councilmembers and staff about “expectations if and when” COVID precautions become necessary again, with numbers rising countywide.

“This town set a real leadership role back in 2020,” he said.

Robinson praised the town’s response to COVID restrictions since last year. He said he felt office precautions could be handled quickly with the office locked and Plexiglas with an intercom and shelf installed.

Last year, he said, town employees delivered meals and prescriptions, volunteered at the Food Basket and helped people who needed it.

“We’ve proved we’re willing and able to approve these operations at the drop of a hat,” the mayor said. “I trust you guys and your interests and obligations to the community.”

Wenz asked if the town can help elderly or at-risk people – “It’s worse now than it was last year. It’s kind of bad right now.”

In other Marbleton news:

  • The council approved Waterhole #3’s 24-hour catering requests for Sept. 17, Oct. 29 and New Year’s Eve.
  • Public works’ Todd Brown said staff and Big Piney hope to join forces for a joint “pumpkin experiment” for Halloween to replace the past Pumpkin Walk.
  • Flicks N Pins manager Mike Orham said about 200 people came by for its 10th anniversary party. He plans to hire several more people to operate the facility with movie attendance up and bowling leagues filling up.
  • The council invited Triple Peak’s Shane Copeland to give his update on the new premade building at its community fishing pond. In August, contracted work appeared behind schedule and asked Copeland to report. Copeland said the building’s delivery is delayed for some weeks. He was prepping and compacting the site and hoped to pour concrete this week. Later, the council discussed whether to keep the existing contract, change the contract’s deadlines or “say you’re done and going to rebid,” Peterson said.

“We were getting kind of worried, but he stepped up,” McMannis said.

The council set a deadline of Sept. 18 for groundwork. The concrete deadline is Oct. 15 although “he gave us a verbal the concrete is going to happen next week,” Robinson said. The contract calls for substantial completion by Nov. 15, total completion by Nov. 30.

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