In a working session at its Tuesday meeting, Telluride City Council was presented with another proposal to address the area’s housing problems. Entitled “Proposed Order Regarding Short-Term Rentals and Increasing Funding for Affordable Housing for the Workforce,” the document was reviewed by the board in a two-hour discussion. Introduced by local business owner Keith Hampton, the proposal was touted as an alternative to the citizens’ initiative, which also calls for a cap on short-term rental licenses.
“We reached out to many segments of the community and talked to people from the citizens’ initiative about the potential impact of reducing short-term rental licenses, the potential impact in terms of long-term housing options. term. , and what other ideas there might be that could really help with what we see as an immediate housing crisis, ”said Hampton. “As a business owner in this community for 30 years, I now understand how difficult it is to find good employees to find employees. “
The proposal includes capping the number of short-term rental business licenses, Hampton told the board.
“First of all, it was clear that we needed to take a break from short-term rental licenses, create a moratorium, which would give the community a chance to breathe,” he said. “We don’t necessarily think it’s going to create long-term housing per se, but it’s clearly a lightning rod in the community and nationally, and so we’re trying to be sensitive to that and scale up. So our moratorium … which we submitted to council for consideration, is that there would be a two-year moratorium on any new rental license.
The council earlier at Tuesday’s meeting passed a resolution imposing an emergency order that suspends STR licensing for six months, starting Tuesday.
The other major element of the proposal is to create a new source of income for workforce housing and rental assistance by eliminating the levies of property transfer taxes. If they are written on the ballot for the Nov. 2 election and approved by voters, Hampton said the proposed measures will take effect immediately.
“The idea is to put this measure on the ballot as a choice, compared to the citizens’ initiative, so that voters can have the chance to really understand the problem, to understand what is possible and how different approaches could affect the community, ”said Hampton. “We believe this approach offers two key benefits. The first is that it is immediate… the citizens’ initiative does not take effect until 2023. And second, we believe that it creates sources of funding and creates actions, without risking creating unintended consequences for the economy. simply by reducing the number of rental licenses. And just to be clear, we talked about a cap on the citizens’ initiative, it really is a substantial reduction in licenses. It’s going to have huge economic consequences that I don’t think we can really predict what it’s going to do in two years, so we’re trying to come up with solutions in the context of our current economy.
Mayor DeLanie Young and other council members took issue with the late addition of the proposal to the council agenda and expressed concerns about the process. Referring to the proposal’s plan to increase the business license fee, Young and others noted that the fee increases did not require voter approval. Council member Adrienne Christy said that while flawed, she liked some of the ideas on offer, such as increasing business license fees, but that did not necessarily justify returning the ballot.
“I have no desire to send this specific document back to the voter. However, what I see is a menu of options offered by some community members of actions that city council could take that they feel comfortable with, ”Christy said. “I love to hear and see that this community is in favor of increasing their business license fees and generally fundraising for housing, which seemed like something they opposed in the past… but things have changed. So I think it’s wonderful. And I’m happy to take that step at our budget meeting and follow their lead in budgeting for the fee increase.
Council also dissected the plan for the proposal to use $ 2 million in land transfer tax collections for housing. This money is normally spent on capital projects. Christy also announced a plan to offer rent assistance with dollars taken from the Affordable Housing Fund, a sum of money used for new housing projects. The items listed in the proposal, Christy noted, could all take place as board actions.
“I have the impression that the community gives us an idea of what it wants, or at least what some of them want and we can just act on our own without having to refer to the citizens and cause serious confusion and increase the amount of work for our municipal staff, ”she said.
City lawyer Kevin Geiger clarified the process on the proposal, which is neither a citizens’ petition nor a referendum.
“This is not a petition initiated by the citizens, it is not a referendum of an ordinance already adopted by the municipal council. It’s really – and the only reason we’re here – because the council members have requested that this be added to the agenda, under the separate authority under the charter that says the the council of its own initiative will have the power to submit to a special election or any draft ordinance or any question to a vote of the qualified voters.
If council wants to see the proposal on the ballot, Geiger said staff would need guidance on how it should be worded in order to meet the September 3 deadline for filing the ballot wording with the ballot. from the San Miguel County Clerk. He added that while busy with many other issues, he would do his utmost to reformulate a document under the direction of the board that would reflect any desired changes.
“If you ask me to make any changes, I would work in all haste and in good faith to try to do so,” he said.
Council member Geneva Shaunette agreed with Christy that it would be better to just take action on elements of the proposal, rather than send it to voters.
“I just don’t think there is anything in this proposal that we are against. Normally we would have the option to send it to the voters or approve it as is, or take parts of it and run them, ”Shaunette said. “I think we should just implement some of these policies. We already have this morning we are talking about increasing the business license fees, we are talking about subsidizing rents for a short period or more. We were going to do all of these things so more than anything I’m really thankful that people come to the table with these alternatives, and I really appreciate it and I think it’s great, but I just don’t see the point of put that to the polls.
Board member Jessie Rae Arguelles, who, along with Hampton and board member Tom Watkinson, organized the item, advocated for the proposal to be put on the ballot.
“I would like the voters to have a voice on this because I think there is an option that is quite myopic and that will affect us economically in a way that it will take us at least 15 years to recover,” he said. she declared. noted. “However, there is one that is more equitable, and that’s a word I want to resonate in everyone’s heads. The most important thing for me is job security for almost 40 percent. people who work for short term rentals. That’s something to discuss. “
Watkinson added his support for further talks by the council and explained why it deserved to be returned to the ballot.
“The reason I presented this to the board was that I thought it was fundamentally different from the citizens’ initiative on STRs. He was bringing substance to the table, ”Watkinson said. “It brought money to the affordable housing fund, he suggested ways to take lower income short term rentals by doing long term rentals, bridging the gap between landlords and renters, suggesting to use some of our excess tax on real estate transfers, raise business license fees for short term rentals and tenants, and I thought that carried more weight than the citizens’ initiative (and could) really to help.
The Council then entered into an in-depth discussion of each point contained in the proposal.
Editor’s note: This story will continue in the Wednesday, September 1 edition of the Daily Planet.