Should bed and breakfasts be allowed in residential areas of Grand County? That was the question that area residents and council members debated at the Nov. 21 meeting of the Grand County Council. Residents voiced their opinions on possible changes to the bed and breakfast section of the Grand County Land Use Code. The Grand County Planning Commission considered the issue on Nov. 8 but was split over which of two options to recommend to the county council.
One option restricts bed and breakfasts to the overnight accommodations overlay zone. The other option strengthens existing regulations on bed and breakfasts, mandating that bed and breakfasts are owner-operated and owner-occupied, limiting the bed and breakfasts to a maximum of two bedrooms or four guests per night and requiring that the owner be present when guests are present, among other stipulations. It would also require a buffer zone between bed and breakfasts to limit the density of overnight rentals occurring in any given residential area.
At the public hearing, Grand County Planning Commission Member Joe Kingsley said that if he had been able to attend the recent commission meeting, he would have voted to preserve the right to have B&Bs in residential zones with more stringent regulations.
“We debated leaving a lot of the existing code in a compromise in this direction because one of our mutual objectives was to eliminate the individual who buys a property solely for the purpose of renting it overnight, and what this does is allow private Moab citizens to continue to be able to have a bed and breakfast but discourages or prevents a person from out of town either buying or actually building a home strictly for the use of overnight rentals, which has happened ... owner-occupied, limiting the rooms but still giving citizens some residual right of ownership of their property,” Kingsley said.
Eight other citizens spoke in favor of restricting bed and breakfasts to the overnight accommodations overlay zone rather than allowing them in standard residential areas. One person spoke in favor of preserving the right to rent properties out nightly.
“What we’re finding coming into our community now is not people who are just wanting to be able to come into our homes and be able to tell them about it,” said Spanish Valley resident Barbara Holcomb. “The new people coming in looking at B&Bs are not really looking at B&Bs, they are looking at the best way to make money off of our community ... we did move into the neighborhoods that we have for the quiet and the peace and that has changed.”
Amanda Wilson spoke in opposition to restricting bed and breakfasts to the overnight accommodations overlay zone.
“All you’re doing is taking away the possibility of a good experience for someone coming in to give them a good impression of our neighborhoods because that’s why people do stay at bed and breakfasts,” Wilson said. “It’s also a really good source of income if you are a single person in this town; you don’t have to deal with a roommate for 30 days of the month, you can rent out your room a couple weekends a month and make the same amount of money.”
Grand County Community Development Director Zacharia Levine said the option to more strictly regulate bed and breakfasts would address some but not all of the problems created by bed and breakfasts in residential areas.
“Speaking as a staff person who deals on the front line with many of the complaints, I would say that it’s not specific to just that neighborhood, though that neighborhood is very active and I would say that the recommendations made by the planning commission do move in the direction of addressing the major concerns that you’ve heard about but they do not address all of them,” Levine said.
Council Member Jaylyn Hawks said though she used to be opposed to stricter bed and breakfast regulations, she has come to see the need for some of the proposed measures.
“A year ago I would have said, absolutely no perimeter but looking at the problems that have cropped up, I now agree with that and I now agree with owner-occupied regulations as well and a year ago I would have said, no, you should be able to have a manager there. I don’t agree with some of the stricter things like trying to dictate when the owner needs to be there,” Hawks said.
Hawks said that of 38 respondents, many of whom sent several letters, 26 were from one area that has been having problems with several individual bed and breakfasts.
“That really speaks to the problem and the issue there,” Hawks said. “However I do believe that the proposals being offered by the planning commission for option one [to more strictly regulate bed and breakfasts] would do a lot to alleviate at least more abuses of that.”
The regulations are “only as good as our ability to impose [them],” said Council Member Curtis Wells, referring to House Bill 253, a new state law signed in March that protects the right to advertise nightly rentals even in areas where nightly rentals are not legal. “Creating a highly regulatory environment for bed and breakfasts in the county in a fight that I would say we’re not winning right now just shifts burden onto enforcement by the county that could very well end up in a bottomless pit of time and resources and also adds an additional burden to the citizens [who have to complain]. It’s a really unfortunate situation for bed and breakfast owners that are following the rules and running a tight ship. I still think that the real challenge here, aside from those impacts of having a bed and breakfast in the area even if they’re following the rules, is the loophole that people are using to get through the regulations very easily right now to market those as nightly rentals.”
After the public hearing, the council voted to extend May’s moratorium on new bed and breakfasts by 60 days in order to give the council time to make a decision on the proposed land use code changes before the bed and breakfast moratorium expires. The new moratorium will end Jan. 29. The council will vote on the proposed changes to bed and breakfast regulations at their regular meeting on Dec. 5.
Public comment on the proposed code changes remains open until Nov. 29. Comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Grand County Council, 125 E. Center St., Moab, UT 84532.