From the June 16, 2010 issue:
By Elaine Weinreb
Press Staff Writer
Trinidad came a step closer to regulating its controversial vacation dwelling industry, which opponents say its threatening to turn the town into a giant motel strip.
Vacation homes now consist of 15 percent of Trinidad’s limited housing stock.
City Councilmember Julie Fulkerson has been a vocal advocate of limiting the number of vacation homes, saying that there are already too few permanent residents in the village to fill local government positions and do the volunteer work that is necessary to keep the community thriving.
Other people view it as a property rights issue. Banning vacation rentals, they say, would not change the fact that Trinidad housing is already unaffordable for most people.
Neighbors of vacation home rentals have complained about noise, loud parties, overflowing parking, and overloaded septic systems.
At the June 9 meeting of the Trinidad City Council, an advisory committee composed of vacation dwelling owners, managers, and their neighbors proposed a set of regulations, which were hammered out during a series of nine meetings over the past several months.
“We learned to appreciate each other’s views and see different perspectives, whether you agree with them or not,” said Trinidad resident Mike Reinman, who owns several vacation rentals.
Under the proposed regulations, all vacation rental establishments would have to register with the city, and pay an initial $100 fee, which would be reduced in subsequent years to $45. Only one vacation rental would be allowed on each residential parcel.
The number of visitors would be limited to two per bedroom, plus an additional two people. Parties, weddings, and other events not hosted by the property owner would be forbidden.
All parking would have to be entirely on-site. Visitors could not park on streets or in front of neighbors’ houses. Vacation homes would have to maintain a discreet residential appearance.
Each vacation home would have to set up a sign near the front door, showing the name and contact number of a local contact person, who must live within 25 miles of Trinidad. Complaints about noise, parking, or other problems would be directed to the contact person, who would be expected to deal with the problem promptly.
The committee also recommended that the “bed tax” be raised from 8 percent to 10 percent.
No existing vacation homes would be grandfathered in; all would have to go through the same process to get started.
Tom Davies, who chaired the advisory committee, said that the group was split over the issue of capping the number of vacation rentals, but that those opposed slightly outnumbered those who favored it.
Mayor Stan Binnie wondered whether economics would eventually limit the number of vacation rentals, and asked committee member Mike Reinman, who owns several, whether the competition had affected his business.
Reinman said his business had decreased in recent months, but blamed it on the slow economy. He agreed that a natural leveling-off process would happen sooner or later.
Gail Saunders, a longtime Trinidad resident, who manages a chain of vacation rentals, said she is eager to be a good neighbor, and wants to know when visitors misbehave.
On the whole, the City Council seemed pleased with the recommendations, and will incorporate them into a draft ordinance within the next two months.