EDITORIAL: The Agony of Owning a Vacation Rental, Part 1

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Who knew that owning and operating a short-term rental in Archuleta County – an STR, a vacation rental – could be a source of angst and heartache?

I certainly had no idea on Wednesday, until I walked into the Archuleta County Planning Commission evening meeting – with no idea what was on the meeting’s agenda – and that I reach an audience of half a dozen people, with a few more people in attendance via Zoom.

The first major point in the case turned out to be an appeal, asking the Planning Commission to overturn a decision by County Development Director Pamela Flowers – a decision to revoke the STR license for a house of five. bedrooms and a detached garage with a one bedroom apartment. , at 40 Elk Ridge Place, owned by Karen and Dennis Poquiz, whose address is Arlington, TX.

The house is located in the San Juan River Resort, an upscale subdivision north of town that has been mostly overrun with vacation rentals… or at least they told me by a few full-time residents.

Realtor.com currently values ​​the property at $ 821,000.

Photo courtesy of Realtor.com

In early July 2021, staff from the county planning department learned that the property was overbooking their home. In Archuleta County, STRs are allowed to allow two people per room, plus two additional people. The property at 40 Elk Ridge Place had six bedrooms in total – five in the house and one in the garage – thus theoretically allowing for up to fourteen guests per night.

However, Ms. Poquiz was running separate ads for the primary residence and the detached garage.

A violation of the regulations in force. To be in compliance with county land use regulations, the company needed two vacation rental permits, one for the house and one for the self-catering apartment.

This violation prompted staff to take a closer look at the property, which found that the detached garage had been built (by a previous owner) without the benefit of the required county building permit.

This would normally not be a problem for an owner. There are many unauthorized buildings in the county, and such violations are generally ignored, until the owner comes to the county for a change in use or a renovation. But a request for a seasonal rental permit constitutes a change of use, requiring the non-conforming garage structure to be brought into “conformity” by completing a building permit “after the fact”. In fact, the Land Use By-law does not allow the Planning Department to issue a vacation rental permit if buildings on the property are not compliant.

So Ms. Poquiz saw her license suspended.

Extract from the agenda of the planning committee meeting:

As often happens, the appellant and his property manager, iTrip Vacations, set up a conference call with the development manager to research resolution options and clarify the issues. As a result of this call, the appellant reached a compromise allowing him to remove the room in the garage from his number of rooms, remove all listings for the garage as a separate rental unit, remove the photos garage from other listings, and continue to rent only rooms in the main house while they worked with the building department to fully resolve the unauthorized structure violation.

Ms Poquiz then hired a licensed engineer to analyze the garage and was told it would cost $ 300,000 to upgrade the garage.

Although Ms Poquiz laughed as she revealed the estimated cost of the repair, it was what we might call an “uncomfortable laugh”.

Ms Poquiz told commissioners that she and her husband bought the house six years ago.

“Pagosa is beautiful. We like it. But what made Pagosa special to us were the people. Every store you walk in, every place you go, everyone greets you with a smile. Everyone is friendly, they say hello.

“Whenever we bring guests here, we always explain that when you sit down in a restaurant, now you are on pagosa time. Don’t get upset with the waitress; sit back and relax.

“So Pagosa Time has always been a real thing for us, and we love it here, that no one is in a real rush.”

I presume this story was meant to remind Commissioners that completing any type of construction project in Archuleta County – or even starting a project – requires a significant amount of patience. Especially since the community lacks construction workers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc. for reasons which we have often discussed here in the Position of the day.

“When we received the notice in July, we started the process. We had the engineer, and then we got the bad news that it might be an extended process, and not something I wanted to do from Texas … because the engineer said it would be less expensive to just throw [the whole garage] in the landfill and start over.

“You know, making that decision, between July and September, when I hadn’t even seen what he was talking about, seemed a little excessive to me.”

Ms Poquiz described herself as a “rule follower” and noted that she and her husband were among the very first DOSs in the county to apply for a vacation rental permit when these permits first became mandatory there. three years ago. She expected to be able to put the garage project on the back burner and continue to rent only the main house, at least during the Christmas holidays.

Instead, she received a notice that her license had been revoked.

“It was a kick in the gut, when we got the revocation notice, because I’m used to Pagosa being a laid back town and running on Pagosa Time…”

This meeting and appeal was therefore a chance for the town planning commissioners to bypass the development director and allow Ms Poquiz to continue operating for the following year, while she and her husband determine what you have to do about the garage.

Time can be of the essence, in this case – as is often the case in legal disputes – because the Archuleta County Commissioners Council could finally decide, at any time, that we already have too many DOSs in it. the community… and put a moratorium in place. Or even, a permanent cap.

And if that were to happen, Ms Poquiz and her husband could be left out, so to speak, without a permit.

Read the second part, Monday …

Bill hudson

Bill hudson

Bill Hudson began to share his opinions in the Pagosa’s daily message in 2004 and can’t seem to break the habit. He claims that in Pagosa Springs opinions are like vans: everyone has one.


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