The Santa Fe County Commission is considering extending the timeframe for licensing and registering short-term rentals under a controversial ordinance that drew concerns over its application process.
During a special meeting Tuesday, the commission discussed moving the deadline from March 15 to June 1. On March 14, the county will hold another meeting to discuss updates to the ordinance.
County Manager Greg Shaffer said the commission can decide to extend the deadline even further if it chooses to do so.
The ordinance, which was passed in October, requires short-term rental owners — including those who rent their home on Airbnb or Vrbo — to get a business license with the county. The ordinance also will require these rental owners to adhere to the county’s Sustainable Land Development Code.
Since the ordinance was implemented, the county has received a barrage of complaints about the license application process and the rigorous development code some rental owners were not aware of until the ordinance was introduced.
Commission chairwoman Anna Hansen said the commission also hopes to allow property owners who don’t meet code compliance to get a temporary license while they remedy the issue.
“The board heard citizen concerns about the deadline as well as the challenges for people who have [short-term rentals] that do not comply with the Sustainable Land Development Code,” Hansen said in a statement. “We intend to offer a temporary solution to those who act promptly to remedy noncompliance.
“Notwithstanding the anticipated extension, short-term rental owners are encouraged to apply as soon as possible,” she added.
During previous hearings, members of the commission considered looking into grandfathering properties that would have been approved under the previous code, which were already short-term rentals before the ordinance was implemented.
That idea was shot down after county staff made recommendations against it.
“There’s liability issues, not only to the property owner but also to the renters and ultimately eventually to the county,” said A. Erle Wright, the county’s Geographic Information Systems manager. “This is one of the things that we just can’t selectively enforce. ... If we’re going to grandfather these [properties], have we opened the door to essentially grandfathering everything — long-term rentals, primary residences, accessory dwelling units, even land uses themselves?”
Hansen noted the county can still approve variances in special circumstances that could allow rental owners to get a license, even if they are unable to meet the Sustainable Land Development Code’s standards.
Many attendees at Tuesday’s meeting raised concerns about the process they had to go through to get the permit. Currently, applicants are required to set up a meeting with the Growth Management Department to get help with their application.
Some short-term rental owners explained that having to go in person can be hard for some residents, especially those who don’t live in Santa Fe.
“I don’t understand why we can’t have a WebEx meeting and do a lot more of this electronically with changes that have come from COVID. It seems shortsighted to make people travel to Santa Fe to meet in person,” said rental owner Myra Canterbury.
Another rental owner, Vance Williams, said though he completed his applications, he still does not know where he stands or if it has been approved.
“A little more communication on the part of the recipients of the application will be more helpful,” Williams said.