At the Town of Norwood’s monthly meeting, held Sept. 8, one long-time local citizen appeared on the agenda with a warning for trustees and staff. John Mansfield urged officials to act now — without delay — on limiting short-term rentals. After much discussion, those in attendance agreed to not let what’s happening in Telluride occur in the West End.
Mansfield said communities nationwide are limiting AirBnB and VRBO properties. He said they’ve become problematic because they can negatively affect locals’ housing.
Mansfield added entire neighborhoods and towns can be changed by corporations and finance groups, which are buying up properties as investments. Those buyers then make a lot of money off of short-term stays. Unfortunately, those money-making vacation spots typically take away what was once long-term housing options — rentals for people who work in the schools, medical centers, restaurants, local governments and more.
“It destroys community,” he said. I’m asking (Norwood) to regulate this. … ”
Mansfield said surrounding communities like Ridgway and Dolores have already put regulations into place that limit the number of short-term rentals that can be available in their towns. He also reminded the audience of what was currently happening in Telluride, where the short-term rental issue has blown up, the workforce has nearly no housing, and businesses are cutting back hours or closing altogether.
“I’m afraid of losing community … and neighborhoods that have no neighbors,” he said. “No PTA, no boards, no school kids … ghost towns.”
Mansfield told Norwood officials that he would be willing to do work on the issue, put a proposal together and then bring it back to town trustees. He said he wanted approval to move forward on the issue.
“(The Town of) Dolores said get on it fast before you have a problem,” he said. “They came up with a ratio number. They feel theirs is 22 (short-term rental licenses).”
Mansfield also requested one Norwood town board member to work with him on the issue. Trustee and mayor pro-tem Candy Meehan agreed to be that agent.
This past week, Meehan said she and Mansfield have been working very closely. She added that Norwood’s planner, Henry Hemphill, has also been included in the matter. Hemphill is also employed as the planner for the City of Fruita, and he’s been through the short-term rental cap process before.
Meehan said Norwood’s town officials weren’t worried about property owners who rent a room in their home short-term. She said if a person or family is already occupying a space long-term, it doesn’t matter if they decide to rent out a room to visitors for short-term stays.
“That is not taking anything away,” she said.
She said it’s about preserving the long-term rental housing options, so locals have a place to dwell.
Meehan said currently there are two existing VRBO or AirBnB properties in the Town of Norwood, and likely the town working with the Norwood Planning & Zoning board will cap the number at three. She said with a census of 556, that just makes sense. She said the town could revisit the number later, though, if needed because of population growth.
Meehan said she was “100 percent” supportive of sustaining local housing.
“We want to be proactive with this,” she said. “It could displace young professionals who are trying to really get a foothold here.”
Norwood’s mayor Kieffer Parrino said he thanked Meehan for her work on the issue with Mansfield. He said it was critical to keep rentals available for Norwood’s workforce.
“We can’t let this get it out of control,” he said on Thursday. “We have to stay ahead of it.”
Regan Tuttle is the editor of the Norwood Post.