County extends ban on some short-term rentals

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Nov. 17—Santa Fe County commissioners narrowly passed a three-month extension of a ban on some short-term rentals at a contentious meeting Friday.

Commissioners Hank Hughes and Camilla Bustamante joined Chair Anna Hansen in the 3-2 vote to extend the ban. Commissioners Justine Greene and Anna Hamilton voted against the extension.

The emergency ordinance extends to Feb. 26 an initial one-year prohibition against people creating non-owner-occupied short-term rentals on newly purchased property in unincorporated areas of the county. It had been set to expire Nov. 25. The extension is necessary, the ordinance states, to give commissioners more time to update short-term rental regulations.

A lawsuit filed earlier this month says the ordinance violates state law by declaring an emergency to prevent a lapse in the ban where, the plaintiffs say, no emergency exists.

Hansen said Friday the crime and community disturbances that rentals may cause constitute an emergency. She continues to receive complaints from neighbors of rentals, she said.

Greene and Hamilton both said Friday a lapse in the ban does not constitute an emergency.

"This so-called emergency is made by our own hands," Greene said. "I think this is a black eye on the county for the inability to roll out an effective program on time."

Short-term rentals are a key part of the local economy, housing not only tourists but some local workers, said Greene, who owns a non-owner-occupied rental in the city of Santa Fe.

The county supports owner-occupied rentals and shouldn't "discriminate" against non-owner-occupied rentals, he added.

Bustamante said she holds a bias against non-owner-occupied rentals if they impact housing availability or quality of life for county residents.

"I, as a local, born and reared ... have only seen the cost of living go up and seen family members driven out to live in other [places]," she said. "To say, 'Well, [rentals] are just good for the economy' — I'm sorry, that kind of economic growth is commensurate of a tumor. That's how cancer grows, without thinking about what it's killing in its path."

Hughes said he supported extending the ban because the county plans to update its regulations soon.

"We may be laissez faire and may be strict," he said. "It would be great to have those details all worked out before we open what's probably not a floodgate but a small gate" of new rentals.

Hamilton said a "false narrative" paints all non-owner-occupied rentals as managed by big, out-of-state businesses.

"I am just adding my concern that what we're doing is in order to keep the biggest business out, we're screwing little businesses," she said. "You know what, there is nothing evil about people who live here going out and buying a house or two and doing short-term rentals. ... There are many places where people are financing their retirement this way, are keeping their houses because of this and, in a bizarre economy, are trying to make ends meet."

Commissioners will discuss changes to the short-term rental ordinance at a study session on Nov. 30. The plan is for staff to present a revised ordinance on Dec. 12, ahead of a public hearing in January.