Marbleton talks short-term rental ordinance

MARBLETON – To bring in more public discussion about how short-term rentals should be managed, the Marbleton Town Council passed the first reading of Ordinance No. 2021-08 at its Oct. 11 meeting.

Town attorney Thayne Peterson drafted the ordinance, which can be amended with public input and council agreement for the second and third final readings.

Mayor Jim Robinson asked the council – Jeff McCormick, Roger McGinnis, BJ Meador and Karen Wenz – to approve the first reading and for now table future readings” at monthly meetings.

“This is a long-term discussion but let’s start the ball rolling and go from there,” Robinson said.

The council voted unanimously to do that.

“We’re looking at all possibilities and trying for more input,” Robinson said.

He and the council have put the topic of short-term rentals on the agenda recently to address how homeowners participating in Airbnb and Vacation Rentals By Owners, or VRBO, can be managed to benefit owners and protect neighbors without heavy regulation.

The ordinance amends Marbleton’s municipal code to define “short-term residential units” as “areas of residential housing within a residential district and/or attached to or within a single-family residence used to provide overnight lodging accommodations for a charge.”

It limits the length of time to 30 days or less to separate the use from long-term rentals, and to allow for lodging-tax collections.

“While drafting this, I certainly think this ordinance would need a lot of tinkering and a lot of thought,” Peterson told the council.

One situation he wanted to avoid was allowing a renter or tenant of someone else’s property to make a business of renting out a room. He also “wanted to avoid these places turning into party houses” where “untoward (guests) have a “massive rager and then disappear.”

The draft ordinance outlines requirements (in the form of restrictions) for owners to follow if they plan to rent out a portion of a home or an entire residence.

Owners would be required to:

  • Obtain an appropriate Marbleton business permit.
  • Give notice to and comply with Wyoming Department of Revenue rules and payment of the state’s lodging tax.
  • Rent only to people 21 and older.
  • Not use a residence already rented or leased by a non-owner, for example, subleasing a short-term rental.
  • Not allow a gathering of more than three people per designated bed. For example, a three-bedroom short-term rental could only have nine people gather at the residence.
  • Notify the town at least two days before the property is rented and report the number of guests and length of rental period.
  • Maintain an accurate nightly log or registry of the name, address and phone numbers of all adult renters for each night the property is rented.

Also, owners must offer at least one off-street parking space per two bedrooms available for rent. Each short-term unit must also have a functioning carbon dioxide alarm, smoke detector and fire extinguisher.

Peterson said in his research, he learned some cities prefer to have short-term rental owners apply for conditional-use permits, which would call for neighbors’ consent – “That’s something you may or may not want to do here.”

Those interested can get copies of the proposed ordinance at Marbleton Town Hall and residents are invited to comment on the draft.

Another item that passed first reading is Ordinance No. 2021-07, which lines with legislation to shift responsibility for enforcement of bar and retail liquor businesses’ last call and closing times from the state to the town. Everyone but employees must leave the premises on or before the time set by Marbleton, which is 2 a.m. The ordinance will have two more readings. 

Balancing act

Big Piney-Marbleton Community Economic Development committee members Kenda Tanner and Kelly Brause reported on activities and projects such as last summer’s UW Extension grant to start a community garden.

The group partnered with the Big Piney Food Closet to start a community garden with $500 that purchased soil and seeds, Tanner said. Extra produce, not much this first summer, was donated to the Food Closet.

The group partnered with the Pinedale Fine Arts Council to host an outdoor concert and provided an aid station with the Wyoming Endurance Run’s 100-mile footrace into the Wyoming Range. Although the route changed due to weather, it was very successful, they said.

The focus now is to determine what directions the towns and residents want the nonprofit group to take – business owners and town councils are invited to “help us make a plan to move forward,” Tanner said.

“Do you want people to come here and visit or do you want them to come and stay,” Robinson asked.

“Fifty-fifty,” Brause said. “It would be nice to have enough people in our community to support what we already have and maybe bring several more businesses – a level we can all be comfortable with.” 

In other Marbleton news

  • Marbleton has a wastewater apprenticeship opportunity with Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems that is “essentially free,” Riata Little Walker told the council. Training is a combination of online lessons and hands-on work with a mentor. The mayor said Marbleton and Big Piney see turnovers and retirements “and there’s not a big pool” of qualified jobseekers to choose from. “It doesn’t have the glamor but it’s definitely a demand. I brag about out town and our water – very few people think farther about it than turning the tap on.”
  • Flicks ‘N Pins manager Mike Orham asked if young employees could get a waiver to drive after the 11 p.m. curfew with movies ending at 11:30 p.m. Town staff will look into that.
  • Union Wireless reported on its progress and plans to build out in the airport area and throughout Sublette County. Its pace will depend in state funding and perhaps a town partnership.
  • The council voted unanimously in favor of Chrissy Zumpfe’s wire fence installation, Dennis Yeary’s conditional-use permit to run his plumbing business from his garage and subdividing The Liquor Store property from the adjacent café property.