Boulder County vacation rental regulations destroy retirements, friendships, memories – Longmont Times-Call

February 22, 2021

By Brian and Rosemary Donahue

We grew up in Allenspark and live in a home our family built. Since 1990, we have rented our home to vacationers. At 71 and 63 years old, and after 40-plus years as self-employed tradesman and in-home caregiver, we now rely on rental income as the primary source of our retirement income. To our great surprise, when we shared the severe impact the regulations will have on our retirement, Boulder County staff responded, “If you cannot meet the regulations, will you be selling and moving?” Remarkably, at least one long-time mountain cabin family has done just that.

In a recent edition of the Allenspark newsletter, this family wrote: “My husband and I sold our cabin on Riverside Drive in October for several reasons, one of which was the absolutely strong arm demands from the county in order for us to legally rent it as a short term rental.” The discouraged owners felt “truly sad that the county hamstrung those of us who live this area and want to share what we love.” As well, at least one other family has decided not to rent their Allenspark cabin this year due to the onerous regulations. Boulder County seems to be achieving its goal of shutting down vacation rentals without any consideration of these severe impacts on long-time residents.

In an attempt to help our retirement fund, we acquired a small run-down 1937 cabin and spent three years meticulously restoring it according to Boulder County historical landmark and building code requirements, hoping it could be a second rental. The new short-term rental regulations, however, allow persons to rent only one dwelling. Boulder County repeatedly told us that we cannot rent both properties, even though we pay separate property taxes, separate insurances, separate maintenances, etc. As private property owners it should be up to us if we want to get a license for each property as they serve different types of guests. What if one party owns two properties with a common property line? Will the county treat the two properties as one parcel?  Although we asked multiple times at every level and every opportunity about this, we never received an answer.

The process to obtain a license is unnecessarily complicated, lengthy, and expensive. One property owner stated it took him nine months just to get an appointment with the county to start the licensing process. The special review and limited special review procedures the county requires involve extensive reviews by multiple county departments that expose property owners to unparalleled public scrutiny. Complying with the conditions these multiple departments demand may cost thousands of dollars, on top of the outrageous $800 license fee. These extensive reviews are followed by additional reviews by the Planning Commission and county commissioners.

The regulations do not reflect any of the concerns voiced multiple times by affected property owners. The county staff and the commissioners ignored the Planning Commission’s directives that would have mitigated some of the severe impacts. Staff, however, apparently did listen to community members who are entirely opposed to any short-term rentals, one of whom publicly stated, “I hope I live long enough to see the end of short-term rentals.”

In its single-minded focus on eliminating mountain cabin vacation rentals, the county entirely ignored the benefits of these historic rentals, such as retirement planning, property maintenance and improvement, including infrastructure improvements such as septic systems, maintaining ownership of generational properties, and providing for in-home care for family members. The regulations will destroy the most important benefit of historic mountain cabin rentals: the opportunity to build lasting relationships and friendships across the world and share the unique beauty of Colorado’s mountains. To quote again from the Allenspark family noted above: “Every person who stayed at our place commented on lifelong family memories that they created there and were so thankful to be able to share the absolute beauty of this area.” Our own guest books are filled with many similar comments.

If you are interested in more information, please contact us at We encourage all concerned individuals to write to Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case, the planning commissioners, and the Boulder County commissioners.

Brian and Rosemary Donahue are Allenspark residents.