Short-term rental owners, residents want stiffer regulations, enforcement in unincorporated Jeffco

Deb Hurley Brobst
Posted 9/6/23

Both owners and opponents of short-term rentals in unincorporated Jefferson County agree: The county’s regulations need both to be updated and enforced.

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Short-term rental owners, residents want stiffer regulations, enforcement in unincorporated Jeffco


Both owners and opponents of short-term rentals in unincorporated Jefferson County agree: The county’s regulations need both to be updated and enforced.

Short-term rental owners said the current process to get a license was onerous, and there was little recourse to enforce the rules. Opponents, who would prefer no short-term rentals in the foothills, said if they were allowed, they should be limited, and there should be strong rules and even stronger enforcement.

About 100 people attended a community meeting on Aug. 30 conducted by Jeffco’s Planning & Zoning staff to discuss changes they would like to see in new regulations that staff is drafting for short-term rentals, called STRs. Staff conducted a virtual meeting earlier in August and will conduct its final community meeting, also virtual, at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12. Anyone wanting to provide feedback on the STR regulations also can email

Jeffco Planner Cassidy Clements, who is facilitating the changes, has said repeatedly that the county knows changes need to take place. The county began working on the short-term rental rules in 2022, but the pandemic stopped the process. Jeffco has begun again, hosting community meetings to get input and hiring a consultant to help with creating the enforcement plans.

Among the rules in the current Jeffco STR regulations are that STRs must be on a minimum one-acre lot; adequate parking must be provided, equaling the number of bedrooms in the home plus an additional spot; defensible space requirements must be met; and there can be no more than five bedrooms.

Owners must go through an application process that includes a hearing before the county’s Board of Adjustment, and if someone complains about an unpermitted STR, one of the county’s four enforcement staff members tries to validate the complaint within three to four days. The operator has 10 days to correct the violation.

The county believes there are about 900 homes operating as STRs in unincorporated Jefferson County, though it is difficult to get data on exactly how many are operating, and only 30 of them have received county permits.

STR suggestions

Among the ideas speakers suggested are:

  • Those staying at STRs should not be allowed to have anything that could create a spark because of wildfire concerns. 
  • Fines for noncompliance could be large to deter STR owners from breaking the rules. 
  • Rules should be required on trash, so uninformed guests don’t attract bears.
  • Don’t allow parties.
  • Require homeowners to be on-site.
  • Allow fewer short-term rentals in the foothills than down the hill.
  • Limit the number of STRs throughout the county.
  • STRs should not be allowed on a dead-end road.
  • Septic tanks should be pumped regularly.
  • Don’t allow hot tubs, especially on properties that are on wells.
  • Commercial businesses should not be allowed to buy up homes to create STRs.

STR owners

“I own a short-term rental property,” one owner named Sara said. “It’s unfortunate it’s come to this point. We can all agree there’s frustrations on both sides.”

The permitting process, she said, is difficult, and it would help if Jeffco’s enforcement process was better.

“Both ends have the same concerns,” she said. “The county is not doing its job. People who are responsible short-term rental owners are being thrown under the bus.”

Another STR owner said she operates one to supplement her income, so she can stay in her house. Others use STRs to pay for second homes.

Another STR owner said he tried to get a short-term rental license, but it took so long that he gave up and operated one without a license.

“Many of the concerns can be mitigated by regulations and responsible owners,” an owner said. 

Concerns about STRs

Residents suggested the foothills were not vacation destinations, and people could stay in hotels instead of in homes. 

 “We live in our mountain community because that is where we want to live,” one speaker said. “If they want to live here, they should move here, not just be a tourist.”

Some said STR rules should be different in the foothills than down the hill because of different issues such as wildfire threats, wildlife, wells and septic systems. 

“As a resident,” one person who is against STRs said, “I feel abandoned. I feel like I’m not important. A clear compliance timeline would be helpful. If we complain, we need to know when there will be a response.”

Owners of short-term rentals, especially those that are owned by commercial ventures, are willing to risk (residents’) lives and homes to make money, one speaker said.

Residents said they love their safety, privacy and security, but instead, there’s been animosity, frustration and anxiety. They are concerned about security in the neighborhood because residents don’t know who is staying in their neighborhoods.

“Our neighborhoods are being disrupted,” said Randy Leonard, an organizer of Foothills Foothills Community Action Group, a group working to get county rules changed and enforcement increased. “Some of us have had our lives turned upside down because of short-term rentals.”

STR, short-term rental, Jefferson County, Cassidy Clements, Jeffco Planning & Zoning


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