Bluff addresses short-term rentals

Short-term rentals and speeding through town are among the recent priorities of the Bluff Town Council.  

At a work session and in regular session on May 4, the town council discussed proposed ordinances for short-term rentals in the city.

Legwork for the proposed ordinance was provided by the Bluff Planning and Zoning Commission.

The proposed ordinance applies only to the residential zones in Bluff and is intended to prevent further housing issues in the town.

Council member Luanne Hook views the ordinance as an important preventative measure.

“There’s not a problem now,” she said. “[We’re] looking at other towns and seeing what can happen.”

Others agreed, with council member Brandt Murray saying, “It may be the biggest problem that resort towns are facing.”

The proposal would allow for 20 non-transferable permits in the residential zone. Planning and Zoning Commission Vice Chair Amanda Podmore reports that there are currently 13 or 14 units actively being used for short-term rentals in town.

The ordinance explains the definition of different types of property, the size of lots, the number of permits, termination issues, and other requirements. The draft ordinance and zoning map is available on the Town website. 

To discourage speculation, property must be ready to rent when applying for a permit.

Part of the council discussion revolved around what counts as a unit. For example, some homes could have three separate rooms for rent to three different parties. The question was asked if a permit should apply for each building or each rentable unit. Generally, the council seemed to prefer a permit counts towards only one unit. 

Additionally, Councilmember Jim Sayers argued that the ordinance proposal, which would allow two permits per entity or owner, is not strict enough.

Sayers, along with Hook and Murray, all disclosed conflicts of interest. Hook says she operates some rentals as well as lodging. Murray reports having a rental and Sayers says he has a single unit he plans to rent.

Public comment included concern that there are too many available permits and a comment from a renter in town hoping to be grandfathered in. The current renter has had more issues with long-term stays in their units than with nightly renters.

The council sent the ordinance to attorney Chris McAnany for further review. 

At the May 4 meeting, the town council also approved a request from the Rural Utah Project and Utah Film Center to use the Bluff Community Center parking lot and grounds for a Community Drive-In Film Screening.

Organizers will offer concessions at the event, and the council approved the use of the Fire Mesa Kitchen. It’s currently planned for Saturday, June 12. 

In April, the council also made some decisions regarding speed enforcement in Bluff. After debate on solar vs electric feedback signs, the council landed on solar-powered signs. The council also asked the Utah Department of Transportation, which installs the signs, to have them placed further up Cow Canyon in order to reduce speeds sooner as people come into town.

The council also agreed to ask law enforcement agencies for more speed enforcement in town.

After meeting with Sgt. Charlie Taylor of the Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) and seeking public feedback, the council asked for an increased presence in town, especially from 4 to 9 p.m. at the edge of town where pedestrians often come and go from hotels to dinner.

Sgt. Taylor explained that the UHP covers a large geographic area and resources are thin, but they can provide a focus in Bluff and particularly that area.

Taylor explained the UHP has five main mandates that they follow in prioritizing stops, including addressing those who are driving under the influence, speeders, seatbelt violations, equipment violations, and distracted drivers.

The council asked for additional presence to address speeders and sent a reminder to the town email list to be aware of added patrols.

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