For most Durangoans, the City Council’s limits on vacation rentals probably seem reasonable. And they may well be – if they hold. To work, however, they will require continued attention from residents of those neighborhoods where vacation rentals are unwelcome and pressure to hold the city to its agreed-upon numbers.
The council’s decision – part of the ongoing revision of the city’s Land Use and Development Code – will allow up to 63 vacation rentals split between Existing Neighborhood 1, the residential area east of the Central Business District, and EN-2, West Second and West Third avenues adjacent to North Main. The council also limited vacation rentals to two per section of street between each intersection.
The number that can be permitted represents 5 percent of the dwellings in those neighborhoods. And whether that constitutes a few or a lot is entirely subjective. Durango has around 4,600 dwellings in total, and under current rules, the city could permit 52 vacation rentals citywide, meaning the new rule would allow 11 more.
There are now 22 permitted vacation rentals in the city, with as many as 30 operating illegally. Owners of vacation rentals now operating illegally in EN-1 or EN-2 would presumably be able to apply for a permit – but the city says those found in other areas will be shut down.
Still, there is no getting around the fact that the city is allowing commercial enterprises in residential neighborhoods. And while those who fear vacation rentals will harm the character of their neighborhoods can take some comfort in the council’s restrictions, none of them are cast in stone. What some see as imposing limits, others see as the first step on a slippery slope.
In any case, no matter what constraints the city enacts, they will have no meaning unless enforced. To ensure that will require residents’ ongoing focus.
At a public hearing on vacation rentals held Tuesday, one speaker complained that, “We’re constantly having to come in here and fight for our rights, fight for our neighborhoods.”
She was right. And that will not change.