During an Oct. 21 public hearing on whether Arvada should alter its Land Development Code (LDC) to permit short-term rentals, or STRs, councilmembers listened to back-to-back citizen stories that portrayed opposite sides of the issue.
Arvada considers an STR as a rental for 30 days or less, often leased through sites like Airbnb.
Those for the issue, like resident Phillip Garnhart, spoke highly of their own experience with STRs. Garnhart inspects homes and said that he finds STR units are often in much better condition than long-term rental units. Further, by allowing STRs, Arvada will generate more tourism revenue, he said.
Those against the issue, like Michael Martinez Schifferl, told stories of neighbors who rent homes out for the weekends, often to groups who are partying and using drugs, he said. “Living next to a short-term rental is like living next to neighbors who always party and who you never get to know,” he said.
Like the residents who spoke, the council found itself at odds after taking several votes on whether to repeal an LDC article and replace it with a new article that would allow STRs.
Under the new article, individuals could rent out the primary unit on a property or an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to one party at a time.
To obtain an STR license, an individual would need to provide at least one additional off-street parking space and a local contact representative for complaints. The local contact would be required to respond within one hour and be located within 30 miles of the STR.
HOAs could prohibit or regulate STRs.
On the first vote, council members also considered an amendment to the new ordinance. The amendment would restrict STR licenses to the primary resident of a property. This would prevent someone from buying a home in Arvada purely to rent it out; individuals running STRs would be more likely to have an investment in the well-being of the house and community, city planners said.
Mayor Marc Williams proposed adopting the ordinance with the amendment. “I don’t want to see year-round party houses,” he said, and, “I want the non-HOA areas to have the same protection that the HOA areas do.”
The motion failed on a 3-3 vote, with Williams, councilmembers Bob Fifer and Nancy Ford voting yes and others voting no. Councilmember Dot Miller was in excused absence.
“I am afraid we will set up a regulatory environment that is against the realistic environment out there,” said Mayor Pro Tem John Marriott, who voted no on the amendment.
Prohibiting marijuana use
The next vote concerned whether to prohibit outdoor marijuana use on STR properties, such as in the backyard or on the front porch.
“The concern I have is the fact that the marijuana travels onto my property, where I’m enjoying the peace and quiet with my family and kids,” Fifer said.
While other activities like drinking are “confined to the backyard,” a regulation on smoking marijuana would make sense because the smoke travels to neighboring properties, he said.
Senior assistant attorney Lori Graham suggested councilmembers carefully consider the vote, saying that city staff had found no other jurisdictions that have such a regulation, likely for legal reasons. By prohibiting marijuana use, “we could be sued for being in violation of the Colorado constitution,” she said.
The motion failed on a 4-2 vote, with Fifer and Williams voting yes and others voting no.
New council will decide
In a third vote, councilmembers considered the new ordinance without any amendments.
“This (STRs) is happening in our community now, and it’s completely unregulated at this point,” Marriott said. “This ordinance allows what’s going to happen anyway, but with a layer of regulation for this to be a useful thing in our community.”
The motion failed on a 3-3, with Marriott and councilmembers David Jones and Mark McGoff voting yes, and other voting no.
City staff plans to bring the ordinance back to council for another public hearing and vote at a later date.
With elections taking place Nov. 5, the second public hearing will occur before a different council, with McGoff stepping down from council and three others — Williams, Fifer and Jones — competing to retain their seats.
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