PINEDALE – An ordinance establishing requirements for short-term rentals in residentially zoned areas passed its first reading by the Pinedale Town Council at its March 8 meeting. The final vote was 3-2, with Mayor Matt Murdock and Councilman Dean Loftus voting against the motion to adopt the ordinance. Councilmembers Isaac Best, Judi Boyce and Tyler Swafford voted in favor.
The council tabled the ordinance at its last meeting following several hours of discussion. The ordinance requires two additional readings before the council.
Short-term rentals are outlawed by existing town ordinances, Murdock emphasized at the meeting.
The purpose of the ordinance, drafted by the town’s planning and zoning commission, is to permit short-term rentals within town limits under certain restrictions, Murdock said. Short-term rentals are a growing industry and can generate revenue for property owners and the wider community, Murdock added.
The ordinance was intended to find a balance between acknowledging that short-term rentals are here to stay while protecting the integrity of residential neighborhoods, Murdock stated.
The primary issue of contention among council members was whether to allow hosted or non-hosted short-term rentals in residential areas. The proposed ordinance includes language allowing non-hosted short-term rentals as long as the owner lives within 30 miles of the property.
Best, a member of the planning and zoning commission, said the original draft included the 30-mile restriction to allow flexibility for people to own short-term rentals across Sublette County.
Murdock voiced opposition to allowing non-hosted rentals in Pinedale and wanted the 30-mile provision removed, limiting the ordinance to hosted operations that require the property owner to live on site. He argued that short-term rentals had a significant and adverse affect on the nature of residential areas, leading to a transient population, vacant properties and a rise in housing costs.
Best stated that the principal of the ordinance was not to take away the ability for people to operate short-term rentals but to find a legal avenue for them to operate. He argued in favor of allowing non-hosted short-term rentals.
Swafford questioned the scope of the problem and asked Abram Pearce, Pinedale’s director of public works, how many short-term rentals actually existed in the town.
Pearce responded that coming to an exact figure was difficult. He estimated that between 25 to 30 short-term rentals were operating at the time, although half that figure included established hotels and motels using short-term rental sites like Airbnb to book rooms, Pearce said.
Swafford added that he believed the ordinance needed more work and the council had tough decisions to make in weighing individual property rights with protecting residential neighborhoods.
Murdock warned that allowing non-hosted short-term rentals within a certain geographical zone could open the Pandora’s box for future councils to expand. Loftus also voiced concern about opening up possibilities for people living in Rock Springs or Jackson to own and operate non-hosted short-term rentals in Pinedale, and stressed a desire to keep the operations local.
In other town news
The council passed a motion to amend Ordinance 683 to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products within town limits. The town passed a similar amendment over a year ago that had since expired. Murdock stated that the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office and Prevention Coalition backed the amendment as an effective way to limit the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products among minors.
Best argued that he was unable to find any studies that claimed vaping products produced by established companies like JUUL were more dangerous than other tobacco products. The problem lay with vaping items sold on the black market, Best said, and he added that attempting to control the sale of certain items would only encourage the production of illicit products. The vote was 4-1, with Best voting against.