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Summit County delays nightly rental moratorium amid Realtor pushback

State lawmakers have limited local regulations of nightly rentals like those found on Airbnb and Vrbo, but Summit County is examining a range of regulations that remain available.
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The Summit County Council did not impose a nightly rental license moratorium on Wednesday, opting instead to hold a public hearing next week before acting.

A group of people, many apparently Realtors, attended the Summit County Council meeting to oppose the council’s plan to temporarily stop licensing nightly rentals.

Summit County officials have spoken for years about the negative effects on neighborhoods caused by nightly rentals like those found on Airbnb. But until recently, as Councilor Malena Stevens said Wednesday, many believed the state had effectively extinguished the county’s ability to regulate the industry.

“We found out two weeks ago that we could do anything about nightly rentals regarding regulation, whereas our previous — at least my previous — understanding was that that was not something that we had the ability to regulate," Stevens said. "And I want to make sure whatever we put into place, that we're doing it right.”

After a county attorney told the council it could impose regulations, the council floated the idea of temporarily halting new nightly rental licensing while it worked on crafting new rules. A draft ordinance the council did not pass on Wednesday would have barred new licenses until January. Such a move would have only affected nightly rentals in Summit County itself and not inside a city’s boundaries. It also would not apply to licenses already in place.

Instead of approving the ordinance, the council decided to hold a public hearing next week to gather input on the idea of a moratorium. Councilors did not allow comments from the room full of opponents to the plan, though there were some short conversations back and forth.

The Park City Board of Realtors emailed its members a call to action last week, asking them to attend the meeting to oppose the moratorium and calling this the board’s No. 1 issue. The emails said a moratorium could drastically impact sales on properties under contract, and suggested property owners had the right to do as they wish with their homes.

Councilor Doug Clyde discussed the downside of some nightly rentals, including parking congestion and the effective hollowing out of neighborhoods: replacing homes that once held families with houses that either sit empty or are filled with tourists.

“We are not just a resort," Clyde said. "There are people who live here who want to be part of these communities, who want to know their neighbors, who want their kids to play in the park and who don't want to be disturbed late at night.”

As for how the council wants to regulate the industry, Stevens suggested the county could require an Airbnb or Vrbo home to have directions posted so tenants know how to evacuate in case of an emergency, for example.

Councilor Glenn Wright said his biggest concern about nightly rentals is wildfire safety, and suggested barring them in the area known as the wildland urban interface, where homes are built among forests and open space.

But for many in the community, listing their home on a site like Airbnb is a source of income.

No Realtors KPCW contacted would talk on the record. Some said people who buy property in the Park City area view it as an investment, and that, while the owners may inhabit the home for some period of time, they count on the property generating rental income.

Councilor Roger Armstrong said it probably wouldn’t make sense to limit nightly rentals in places that wouldn’t be likely locations for long-term rentals, such as an upscale condominium hotel at the base of a ski resort. But regulations could make sense in neighborhoods where homes or apartments would otherwise be available to a longer-term tenant.

The Board of Realtors also said the moratorium infringes on private property rights. For Clyde and Armstrong, that argument didn’t hold water. Clyde said the government is well within its rights to regulate something that affects the health, safety and welfare of the community.

Armstrong compared the situation to a dispute about a proposed residential detox facility in the Highland Estates neighborhood, in which neighbors overwhelmingly oppose the project despite the property owner’s apparent right to use the land that way.

“So I assume everybody in this room is going to leave this meeting and attend the next planning commission meeting to insist that that property owner has the right to do whatever he wants to do with his property there. Since property rights is the lead — (crowd shouts) — okay, alright, just asking," Armstrong said. "So, I don't buy that one, either.”

The council suggested it would impose regulations by bolstering the requirements to get nightly rental business licenses. Those licenses are to be renewed annually by mid-January. Any new regulations the county imposes would not affect nightly rentals in Park City, which already has policies governing them.

Next week’s public hearing is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 1, at the Ledges Event Center, 202 Park Road in Coalville. It will also be streamed on the county’s Facebook page and via Zoom.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.