We are Linda and Jay Hellstrom, and we built our home here in 1981. From the beginning we were actually encouraged by the town to put it in the rental pool in order to grow Telluride‘s bed base. We willingly did, since our philosophy leads us to feel it’s a shame for us to have a house sitting dark while we are not here when other people could enjoy it.
After 40 years of renting our home, if Question 300 wins, we will be eliminated from the rental pool, since most of the single-family homes in Bachman Village, as well as Cimmarron, are considered in the commercial zone. Our house sleeps 10. Our neighbor next door will be eliminating eight beds. If two of the large condos across the street in Smuggler are not chosen in the lottery, that’s a loss of 10 beds each. Licenses are given to a housing unit, not issued per bed. If more of the licenses chosen out of the lottery are one-bedroom or efficiency condos, that will eliminate 10 beds for one, an obvious multiplier beyond just eliminating 300 licenses.
Some people in town seem to be using the term “tourists“ in a pejorative way and slamming the "crowds" which are occurring in this very unusual pandemic situation when more people are traveling closer to home than usual. Crowds will likely soon be back to a more normal level, but meanwhile let's dissect these words and take a closer look at the actual people behind these terms. We and our neighbors have been home to many of the technicians for film festival and those of the other festivals. They often stay in several houses and rent for two or three weeks at a time. We have families attending weddings, and often the bride and her wedding party book separately. Large families whose kids are enrolled in summer camp at Telluride Academy, return year after year, again staying weeks at a time. We have been a home to San Francisco ballet dancers and scientists for Pinhead, individual festival goers, jeepers and bicyclists, as well as numerous families coming from different parts of the country for family reunions. The pages in our guest book attest to the great places they’ve been in town, their favorite restaurants and fun adventures in the mountains. And for many of these visitors, the equivalent in individual hotel space would be four or five rooms each, a highly unaffordable situation and untenable at best if they have to eat out with kids for weeks of three meals a day.
While we already know if 300 passes we will not be able to rent our home, we also know that we will not be putting it up for long-term rental, nor will any of the neighbors and the many other condo owners we have talked to. We, and they, use our homes often at various times throughout the year and in different seasons. It would obviously be impossible to use our own homes if we rented out to anyone long-term.
The proponents of Question 300 have never definitively answered the question, with hard facts and actual numbers, of exactly where they think long-term rentals will come from. Let us be absolutely clear, we feel strongly that eliminating close to a third of the short-term licenses, thousands of available weekly beds, will do nothing to provide even a single unit of affordable housing. However, for those who just want to get rid of the tourists in town, they should realize they are eliminating much of the cultural lifeblood and economic foundation upon which Telluride rests. In a very sad way, if 300 passes, a great deal of the affordable housing needs will be taken care of through loss of jobs in restaurants, retail, wedding planning, cultural events, housekeeping services, jeeping, camping, Telluride Academy and real estate, to name a few. The property management, plumbers and repair people, electricians, hot tub maintenance and garden care services we utilize throughout the year are all local, and the needs for those services will be significantly reduced when the house is not used. The loss of jobs, especially in housekeeping and maintenance associated with short-term rentals, will also sadly adversely affect the dynamic cultural diversity of our schools and overall community.
On the money side, 300 will eliminate at least a third of the 2.4 percent tax collected from short-term rentals, which is dedicated right now to affordable housing. It will also put a large hit on the town budget by eliminating a large portion of the sales taxes and 4 percent lodging tax collected on each short-term rental. The town needs to supply real data estimates as to the loss of revenue so voters can know exactly the economic effect of 300.
We have been part-time locals now for 40 years, but though we have been active participants in the town in many ways, we have never been able to vote. People who have commuted into town for years and participate in all its many aspects, also cannot vote. Now we all are also made to feel like pariahs. Yet to those of us who have been here, even part-time, since the 1980s and have seen the town when jobs were scarce and people lived on the edge, turning back the clock will not be pretty. Putting a cap on rentals, while giving us all the breathing room to find better solutions for real affordable housing is the sensible way to go right now.
We urge you to vote "no" on 300 and "yes" on 2D.
Linda and Jay Hellstrom