The simmering controversy of short-term rental housing in Corrales has begun to boil over. Perhaps because it can be viewed as increasingly pervasive commercial intrusion into residential neighborhoods, applications to the Village Planning and Zoning office for such businesses are gaining much more scrutiny than in the past.
At the May 19 P&Z commission meeting, it was neighbor-against-neighbor as a Corrales resident sought a Short-Term Rental permit for a house at 593 Reclining Acres, west of Loma Larga.
Just a few years ago, the Village didn’t even have an application form to fill out for such a permit. The application submitted by Jeannine Grayson to rent out parts of her home has been opposed by dozens of villagers, many of whom live along Reclining Acres. A petition with at least 42 signatures opposing the permit was submitted before the May 19 P&Z meeting. Among them was former Village Councillor Pat Clauser and former P&Z Commissioner Mike Sorce.
Signators were encouraged to state on the petition why they opposed the permit. Reasons included increased traffic, noise, greater density and concern over well water quality due to expected increase in septic discharges. Another request for a short-term rental permit was filed recently for a residence at 5220 Corrales Road to temporarily house up to six adults and three children. In that case, Brian Blum said he wanted the permit “so that if from time to time I would rent out a room to somebody in the house, I would have the permits in place to do so.
“It is not my primary business. It is not even a significant source of income. It is just to have that as an option. I like meeting new people, and having people come from out of state and out of the country to visit, so that is a big part of it.” The controversy has spread all across the United States, especially with the advent of Airbnb accommodations for visitors who want a place to stay in a residential area rather than a typical hotel or motel. But here as elsewhere, many nearby homeowners object.
Signs and banners have begun going up in several parts of Corrales as villagers try to head off more of those ventures. Related opposition has sprung up to counter an increase in new construction of “casitas,” or secondary dwellings, on one-acre parcels. Earlier this year, the Village Council imposed a moratorium on issuance of building permits for “casitas, or guesthouses or “granny quarters” typically rented out.
At its January 26, 2021 session, the council voted five-to-one to impose a 180-day moratorium on building permits for “casitas.” Since the earliest days of Corrales’ existence as a municipality, one of the bedrock elements of community consensus was prevention of commercial intrusion into neighborhoods. Exceptions were made for home-based businesses such as bookkeeping, rented stables and yoga classes, and “grandfathered” businesses of any type were largely ignored.
Still bed-and-breakfast businesses in residential neighborhoods have nearly always been approved here over many decades. But that does not seem to be what today’s applicants for short-term rental permits have in mind.
In the case before the P&Z commission May 19 with Grayson’s application, she named her business “Corrales Suite Lodging.” To aid the P&Z’s consideration of the Grayson application, P&Z Administrator Laurie Stout prepared a summary which included the following statement of the issues. “She is requesting to rent out two of the four bedrooms in the house.… She has a total of two properties adjacent to one another, and is also requesting a short-term permit (STR 21-05) at the other address, which will be the next application. The staff report noted that the current application is an amended submittal since “the applicant has lowered her occupancy request from eight to four short-term renters.”
“In Ms Grayson’s narrative, she states there are four bedrooms which will accommodate up to six occupants. She lives in one bedroom, another is occupied by one long-term renter. The remaining two bedrooms are designated for the short-term rental business with two occupants each.”
Stout’s memo further explained that “at the first hearing for this application, a number of neighbors wrote or commented on the short-term rental, and were vehemently opposed. The same can be expected this time. A neighbor has stirred up the street.… While concerns about additional traffic, etc. are valid, there seems to be an extreme effort to shoot down any and all business activity now that Ms. Grayson is attempting to become compliant.”
The Village’s current ordinance allows short-term rentals under the following restrictions. The residence can have no more than six guest rooms, and no more than two occupants per bedroom. Children 12 and under are not included in that permissible total.
The rules also say that off-street parking is required, with at least one parking space per bedroom on the property. In supporting her application for the permit Grayson pointed out that her business is just one of five or six already existing along Reclining Acres. Among those, she said is a winery, a blacksmith farrier and an auto salvage yard.
Grayson’s request has drawn support from former short-term renters and neighbors. One of the former submitted a statement that “As of May 8, 2021, a coordinated public smear campaign against ‘Short-Term Rentals on Reclining Acres” has appeared, multiple properties are displaying a garish and tactless sign.… Planning and Zoning can only evaluate if Jeannine’s space meets the rules of Corrales for short-term rentals. It’s not up to Planning and Zoning to deny one street from having a short-term rental. What is the purpose to air grievances in this manner?”Another neighbor wrote “While Ms. Grayson is currently applying for permits to operate short-term rentals at both houses, it is my understanding she has had short-term renters residing at both houses without the required permits for several years now.”
Two years ago the P&Z office was struggling to address a growing demand for short-term rentals and casitas. A Planning and Zoning staff report dated April 10, 2019 stated that the administrator “is continuing to research ‘short-term rental’ ordinances in other communities to determine what might be appropriate for the Village.”
A short-term rental is defined as “any dwelling or property in which the owner may or may not reside, that is available for use or is used for accommodations or lodging of guests, paying a fee or other compensation for a period of less than 30 consecutive days.”
In recent years, controversies have arisen over neighborhood disturbances from short-term rentals during the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Partying by balloonists, chase crews and others has sometimes gotten out of hand, at least from the standpoint of nearby residents.
In 2017 the Village Council unanimously approved Resolution 17-003 supporting N.M Legislature House Bill 266 and corresponding Senate Bill 254 at the Village Council meeting February 14. The two bills removed exemptions from lodgers’ taxes for people renting out fewer than three rooms. The Senate bill was sponsored by Corrales’ John Sapien.
But then-Governor Susana Martinez vetoed both bills. The rapid growth of web-driven Airbnb continues to out-pace tax regulations in place across the country, both on the local and the state level. So gross receipts taxes and lodging taxes are under the microscope now, as localities eye lost revenues from homeowners hosting through Airbnb.
Many states still have no state-wide legislation in place regarding short term rentals, though some major cities affected by a surge of Airbnb and Vrbo accommodations have zeroed in on tax collection.
Airbnb has pushed for voluntary collection agreements, or VCAs, with local governments, among them Santa Fe, which continues such an arrangement today. Back in 2019, Corrales P&Z Administrator at the time, Janet Cunningham- Stephens said she had “lots of concerns” regarding short-term rentals. “Are they changing the density and the feel of our neighborhoods, for example? And should commercial needs be favored over residential?”