Wildernest Short-Term Rental Rules

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Over the years, the issue of affordable workforce housing in Summit County, Colorado has steadily gained prominence. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the challenges facing the local Summit County workforce have continued to escalate. Many local businesses believe that the scarcity of affordable Summit County housing is a significant contributor to the shortage of local workers. Moreover, there's growing concern that if those employed in the area cannot afford to live locally, it may alter the very essence of Summit County's character. Consequently, since 2018 and continuing to the present day, stakeholders across Summit County have engaged in extensive discussions to address the lack of affordable housing for local employees. Various governmental authorities in Summit County have invested considerable time and effort in identifying and implementing potential measures to alleviate the local workforce housing crisis. These discussions have led to the adoption or consideration of new regulations related to Wildernest short-term rental ("STR") licenses.

With the building height restrictions in place locally, Summit County does not have towering hotels with tremendous capacity to potentially serve its resort visitors. And, most locals agree the absence of such multi-story structures adds to the charm of our mountain community. However, Summit County's tourism industry relies on a healthy supply of accommodations, and Wildernest short-term rentals play an important role in meeting this demand. As a result, governmental bodies across Summit County are currently experimenting with changes to Wildernest short-term rental rules, aiming to strike the right balance between promoting increased local workforce housing and sustaining our vital tourism sector. Consequently, the regulatory landscape is evolving rapidly.

This web page is updated on an an ongoing basis to serve as a resource for folks considering the purchase or sale of a Wildernest property to use at least partially as a Wildernest short-term rental. My goal is to provide helpful insight into evolving changes in Wildernest short-term rental regulations. Stay updated with the latest developments and revisions in Wildernest short-term rental rules that may impact your real estate investment decisions.

Wildernest Short-Term Rentals
Property Owner FAQs

Wildernest Short-Term Rental Rule Changes

Within Summit County, there are a number of incorporated towns with defined boundaries.  If a property is located both within Summit County and also within the bounds of a particular town, the short-term rental rules of that particular town will apply.  If instead, the property is located in Summit County but falls outside any specific town's boundaries, it is considered to be located in unincorporated Summit County (hereinafter, just "Summit County").  In the latter circumstances, the controlling short-term rental ("STR") rules are those promulgated by the Summit County Board of County Commissioners (“BoCC”).  Accordingly, when you're thinking about the purchase of a specific Summit County property, it is especially important as a first step to determine the appropriate Summit County short-term rental jurisdiction.

The entirety of the Wildernest area is part of unincorporated Summit County, rather than being located within town boundaries. As a result, the controlling short-term rental rules for Wildernest are those promulgated by the Summit County Board of County Commissioners (“BoCC”).  Examples of significant Summit County areas that fall within the BoCC's jurisdiction for enacting short-term rental rules include Copper MountainDillon ValleyKeystoneMesa CortinaPeak 7, Summit Cove and Wildernest.

It's important to note that most Wildernest real estate listings showing a property for sale expressly name "Silverthorne" in either the "town" or "city" fields.  This is confusing for potential buyers, who view a Wildernest property listing, see "Silverthorne" somewhere in the listing and believe the controlling short-term rental ("STR") rules are those of the town of Silverthorne.  If a listing is located on Ryan Gulch Road, it is almost certainly in Wildernest, rather than Silverthorne.

Wildernest Short-Term Rental Licenses
Responsible Agent & Occupancy Limit

In December 2018, the Summit County BoCC conducted a second reading of its new Wildernest short-term rental regulations.  After listening to several hours of public comment, the BoCC voted on and adopted rules requiring Wildernest short-term rental property owners to obtain STR licenses.

Responsible Agent for Wildernest Short-Term Rentals

As part of the 2018 Wildernest short-term rental rules, the BoCC also adopted a Wildernest Responsible Agent requirement. For Wildernest, a Responsible Agent is defined as follows: "a person or company... [who] shall be available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to respond to potential issues and violations...." The BoCC established a Hotline to receive complaints that arise regarding Wildernest short-term rental properties. When a member of the public submits an initial complaint concerning a Wildernest short-term rental, it is directed to the Responsible Agent for the Wildernest property at issue. And then, the designated Responsible Agent must affirmatively respond within one hour of notification to rectify the complaint regarding their Wildernest short-term rental property. As part of their response, the Regulations also expressly require that the Wildernest Responsible Agent shall "respond to the complaint, including visiting the site if necessary." If violations reported to the Hotline are not corrected or if there are repeat offenders, Summit County staff will then pursue more formal action against the Wildernest short-term rental property owner.

Wildernest Short-Term Rental Occupancy Limit

As part of the 2018 Wildernest short-term rental rules, the BoCC also added the following Wildernest short-term rental occupancy limits:

  • Wildernest single family homes, duplexes and townhomes: a) 2 persons per bedroom plus 4 additional occupants; OR b) 1 person per 200 square feet of living area, whichever allows for a greater occupancy
  • Wildernest condos: Either (a) or (b) below, whichever allows for a greater occupancy
    • a) 2 persons per bedroom plus 4 additional occupants, or 2 persons per bedroom plus 2 additional occupants in buildings with interior egress components less than 44 inches wide and without a sprinkler system; OR
    • b) 1 person per 200 square feet of living area

When a condominium unit contains a County-approved lock-off room that meets the definition of a lock-off room set forth in Chapter 15 of the Development Code, the lock-off room shall be allowed a total of 4 occupants.

  • Wildernest homes w/ Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems ("OWTS"): the maximum overnight occupancy of this Wildernest short-term rental property shall be limited to the capacity established on the OWTS permit. OWTS systems in Wildernest are typically designed to accommodate a maximum occupancy of 2 persons per bedroom.

Wildernest Short-Term Rentals
Stringent Residential Zone STR Rules

On November 23, 2021, the BoCC conducted a first reading of proposed legislative amendments that would create overlay zones and licensing types for short-term rental properties located in Summit County.  Based on community feedback, Summit County staff offered a Summit County Short-Term Rental presentation, which contained proposals for new Summit County STR license rules.  The BoCC adopted two types of overlay zones for Summit County short-term rentals: the Resort Zone and the Residential Zone. The Wildernest area is located within what the BoCC considers to be the Summit County Residential Zone.

The BoCC and County staff thereafter spent much of 2022 discussing how to implement further restrictions in the Residential Zone on Wildernest short-term rental licenses.  For much of 2022, the BoCC imposed a moratorium on the issuance of any new Wildernest short-term rental licenses.  On January 24, 2023, the County released a Staff Presentation on Summit County Short-Term Rental Regulations.  In February 2023, the County released a lengthy document, outlining its proposal for new Wildernest short-term rental license caps and limits on Wildernest short-term rental bookings.  On February 15, 2023, the County acted to finalize and adopt these Wildernest short-term rental license rule changes in the form of Ordinance 20-C.

Neighborhood Zone for Wildernest STR Licenses
Cap on Number of Type II STR Licenses Issued
Type III STR Licenses Temporarily Eliminated

In November 2021, the BoCC received a staff memo on Summit County short-term rentals; it opined that neighborhoods in the Neighborhood Zone were not generally developed as resort locales. While some individual homes may have been designed or purchased with an intent towards short-term rental use, the BoCC found that the overall subdivisions in the Neighborhood Zone were not developed to support intense, hotel-like STR use with tourist amenities. As it pertains to some portions of the Wildernest area, there are likely many Wildernest short-term rental owners who disagree with the preceding Summit County conclusions. Additionally, the BoCC added that short-term rental complaint incidents were relatively high in the Neighborhood Zone (when compared to the Resort Zone). County staff cited those complaint incidents as demonstrating tension between traditional neighborhood uses and STRs. Accordingly, via the adoption of Ordinance 20-C on Feb. 15, 2023, the BoCC decided to promulgate more stringent restrictions on Wildernest short-term rentals.

Because all Wildernest short-term rental properties are located in the Neighborhood Zone, there are currently two different "active" Wildernest short-term rental license types and a third Wildernest short-term rental license type that might become relevant once again in the future:

Type I Wildernest Short-Term Rental License

(licenses currently being issued):

To be eligible for a Type I Wildernest short-term rental license, the Wildernest STR Property must be the primary residence of a member of the local workforce, who meets the definition of a Qualified Occupant.  In turn, the Wildernest primary residence must be occupied by the Qualified Occupant as that individual's principal place of residence for at least 9 months out of the year, and the Wildernest short-term rental licensee must be able to provide supporting documentation for that 9-month occupancy.  Maximum occupancy for a Type I Wildernest short-term rental license cannot exceed 2 short-term renters per bedroom plus 2 additional short-term renters (unless further restricted by an on-site wastewater treatment system).  When the Qualified Occupant is on-site during Wildernest short-term rentals and is engaged in partial home rental, no more than 50% of the approved bedrooms in the home - up to 2 bedrooms - may be short-term rented.  A Type I Wildernest short-term rental license carries a limitation of no more than 35 "bookings" per year, as calculated from October 1 through September 30.  However, there is no limit on the number of nights that each Wildernest short-term rental booking can last.  Finally, there are no caps on the issuance of Type I Wildernest short-term rental licenses; the County continues to issue them at present.

Type II Wildernest Short-Term Rental License

(2023 cap prevents new licenses from being issued):

The Type II Wildernest short-term rental license is generally targeted toward second-homeowners, who want to make personal use of their property and otherwise occasionally perform Wildernest short-term rentals within it as well.  During discussions in 2021, Summit County staff anticipated that the vast majority of short-term rentals across the Neighborhood Zone would fall under this license type.  Maximum occupancy for a Type II Wildernest short-term rental license cannot exceed 2 short-term renters per bedroom plus 2 additional short-term renters (unless further restricted by an on-site wastewater treatment system).  A Type II Wildernest short-term rental license carries a limitation of no more than 35 "bookings" per year, as calculated from October 1 through September 30. However, there is no limit on the number of nights that each Wildernest short-term rental booking can last.

Most importantly of all, the County implemented total cap numbers on the issuance of new Type II Wildernest short-term rental licenses.  The entirety of the Summit County Residential Zone is located within one of four basins as depicted in this map. The County created different short-term rental license caps for properties located in each of the four basins.  Within each of the four basins, the number of active short-term rental licenses already exceeds the established cap numbers for Type II short-term rental licenses.  Accordingly, until the total number of Type II short-term rental licenses in falls below the adopted cap number for each basin through natural attrition, the County will not issue new Type II short-term rental licenses in the Residential Zone. Natural attrition generally occurs when property owners with existing Type II Wildernest short-term rental licenses either: (1) do not renew their existing Wildernest short-term rental license; or (2) sell their property to a third-party (thereby extinguishing an existing Wildernest short-term rental license).

In sum, Wildernest short-term rental caps were established by the BoCC as per the chart in the preceding link, and Wildernest short-term rentals are located in the Lower Blue Basin.  As of December 2023, here are the numbers for the Lower Blue Basin that are relevant to Wildernest short-term licenses:

    • Lower Blue Basin cap: 550  (607 Type II STR licenses issued)

When the number of existing STR licenses in the Lower Blue Basin eventually falls within 10% of its corresponding cap, the County previously pledged to create a wait list for submitting new Type II Wildernest short-term rental licenses.  However, in an email dated February 8, 2024, the County's STR Program Coordinator stated they only check Summit County short-term rental license numbers once a year.  Because that process occurs "every January", the STR Program Coordinator likewise confirmed that they will not have awareness until late December 2024 or January 2025 that existing short-term rental license numbers in any the four basins might potentially have dropped within 10% of its STR license cap.  Accordingly, it appears unlikely that the County will commence a wait list process before January 2025 for submission of new Type II Wildernest

Type III Wildernest Short-Term Rental License

(temporarily eliminated):

In 2018, the BoCC created a Type III Wildernest short-term rental license, stating it was most appropriate for investment property STRs.  At that time, the County believed such STRs would rent in excess of 135 nights per year, and the County saw them as more akin to commercial lodging businesses.  However, as part of the adoption of Ordinance 20-C on Feb. 15, 2023, the BoCC, the County eliminated the Type III Wildernest STR license.  So, at least for now, there is no Type III Wildernest short-term rental license that afforded unlimited short-term rental nights to certain Summit County properties located in the Residential Zone.  While it couldn't do so at the meeting on Feb. 15, 2023, the BoCC did pledge to revisit Type III short-term rental licenses in the near future.  The BoCC stated that it hoped the County would find a way to reinstate a short-term rental license with unlimited rental nights to properties that were originally designed with a primary purpose to host short-term rental occupancies.  However, unless and until that happens, all Type III STR licenses in the Neighborhood Zone will be converted to Type II STR licenses when renewal takes place in the fall of 2023.

Need Help Understanding Wildernest Short-Term Rental Regulations?

If you’re interested in further discussing Wildernest real estate and how Wildernest short-term rental rule changes might potentially affect your decision to buy or sell a property in Wildernest please don’t hesitate to contact Philip for help.  After all, if you made it to this point, you’ll agree I’ve written "the book" when it comes to Wildernest short-term rental rules!