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How to regulate short-term rentals in Redstone?

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Halle Zander
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Aspen Public Radio
Bill Jochems takes a walk down Redstone Boulevard to mark which homes have become short-term rental properties in the remote town of Redstone, Colorado.

Redstone Boulevard is 17 miles south of Carbondale off of Highway 133.

And most residents and businesses are packed tightly into a half mile stretch of the road.

Bill Jochems has lived in his house on Redstone Boulevard since 1971.

“The houses, for the most part, sit on 50 foot lots,” said Jochems. “As a result of that, we’ve become much more closely acquainted.”

He has watched the Town of Redstone change over the past 51 years.

“The density of the short term rentals in this town are so substantial that I think it is affecting the character of the town. It's sort of diminishing its village character,” said Jochems.

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Halle Zander
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Aspen Public Radio
The home a few doors down from Jochem’s property is listed as a short-term rental. Most of the homes on Redstone Boulevard sit on 50-foot wide lots, so neighbors live in close quarters.

According to Pitkin County data, there are roughly 67 parcels of land on this section of Redstone Boulevard. About 25% of them are listed as short-term rentals. (links available on grove)

Homeowners and vacation rental companies are opting to rent their properties for just a few days at a time.

“It's amazing to me how much people will pay to rent by the night here–for three or four hundred dollars here in Redstone,” said Jochems. “And no landlord wants to commit to renting to somebody for $2000 a month when he can make that.”

And Jochems said that lack of long-term rental housing means a lack of real neighbors. He says the sense of community is what really makes Redstone home.

“We’re 17 miles from groceries, from gasoline, from medical care, from police protection,” said Jochems. “If your battery's dead, you know exactly who will come over and jump start your car. If you’re out of gas, you know who will lend you a gallon of gasoline.”

Jochems took a walk down the boulevard to showcase the ubiquity of STRs. Roughly one out of every four properties he passed were short-term rentals.

Jochems isn’t the only long-term resident with concerns.

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Halle Zander
/
Aspen Public Radio
Skip bell stands outside his home on Redstone Boulevard. Bell finds that short-term renters detract from the sense of community in Redstone. 

Skip Bell lives a few doors down from Jochems. Bell said the increasing price of real estate makes STRs more common.

“It's leading to people buying homes as investments rather than places to reside,” said Bell. “A lot of people are leaving that normally would be good neighbors and good friends.”

Lisa Wagner, who owns a Bed and Breakfast across the street from Bell, says STRs have taken away from her business. She wants to see regulations that tax STRs like all other commercial entities.

A number of STRs in Redstone are zoned residential, so those property owners don’t pay the same level of taxes as Wagner does for her B&B.

Lauren Kaufman operates a short-term rental in a residential district half a mile from the boulevard.

She typically rents for $365 per night. And she encourages visitors to support local businesses.

“We encourage going to check out all of the things that Redstone has to offer,” said Kaufman. “So we are really huge fans of the inn, propaganda pie, the general store. We push people into the town.”

Kaufman hopes this boost to the local economy balances any negative impacts from tourists.

“So hoping that does help offset bringing strangers in,” Kaufman said. “Are you taking away from the community or are you adding to the prosperity of the town? And I think it's a double edged sword.”

Kaufman adds that she will adjust to any new regulations the commissioners enact. And she might even rent on a long-term basis.

“If anything, we really enjoy those renters,” Kaufman said. “It's less wear and tear on the home. And there are people there with that love and they’re actually there to get into that community sense.”

But Kaufman’s opinion is not as popular among other STR managers.

Brittany Hailey is the founder and CEO of Cactus Vacations and she manages a property on the boulevard.

She says if the legislation passes and short-term renters have to be primary residents, the owners may rent the property long-term.

But they would have to charge a minimum of $5,000 per month.

“The cost of living here in the Roaring Fork Valley is extremely expensive,” said Hailey. “You can't expect to buy a property for $700,000, put a couple hundred thousand into it, and rent it for $2,500 a month. I think that's basically asking landlords and homeowners to subsidize a housing crisis. And I don't find that to be very fair.”

But if Hailey can’t find a long-term renter who’s willing to pay that price, the owners may have to sell. Or else the property would sit empty for 11 months out of the year.

“So what does that do to the community?” Hailey asked. “What does that do to your neighborhood? It makes it a ghost town.”

Hailey agrees that the percentage of STRs in Redstone is high, and she welcomes increased taxes alongside a permitting process.

But instead of a primary residency requirement, she supports other regulations, including a cap on the number of STR permits in residential zones.

“So how can we coexist?” Hailey asks. “How can we limit the amount that there are in the area? How can we keep those people responsible to get good guests in?”

Hailey wants to find a compromise. And Jochems acknowledges that tourism is a big part of Redstone, but he hopes the town will continue to be a home for many.

“It always had tourism as long as I’ve been here and before,” said Jochems. “But it's also been a place to live. It's home. I guess that's the best way I could put it.”

The fate of short-term rentals in Redstone and the rest of unincorporated Pitkin County is yet to be determined.

Commissioners will continue their discussion on short-term rentals on April 13th.

Halle is an award-winning journalist and the All Things Considered anchor for Aspen Public Radio. She has been recognized for her work by the Public Media Journalists Association and the Colorado Broadcasters Association. Before she began working full-time with Aspen Public Radio in September 2021, Halle was a freelance broadcast journalist for both Aspen Public Radio and KDNK. Halle studied environmental analysis at Pitzer College. She was an educator at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and at the Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment program, where she taught youth radio and managed a weekly public affairs show.