City Councilman’s Professional Work with STRs Still Not in Conflict, City Lawyer Says

Aspen city council candidate Skippy Mesirow
Anna Stonehouse / The Aspen Times File Photo

Aspen city councilor Skippy Mesirow was able to vote on regulating the vacation rental industry in which he works because he, his relatives and his employer would not directly benefit from the legislation, city prosecutor says .

Verbal allegations of a conflict of interest over his vote on STR legislation surfaced this week against Mesirow, a first-term city councilor who is also the managing director of Broomfield-based SkyRun Vacation Rental’s Aspen operation.

In an interview on Wednesday, hours before he joined his other four council members to vote in favor of Ordinance 27, Mesirow said SkyRun operates two rental properties within the city limits of Aspen and that he personally owned a short term vacation rental outside of Aspen. Mesirow’s personal and professional efforts in the area of ​​STR did not prevent him from voting on legislation related to his work, he said.

“My direct compensation is not affected by the outcome of this,” Mesirow said, noting that he was fully committed to voting for the ordinance, which, when passed, immediately halted filing of permit applications. lease term while making existing permits effective through September 30.

Mesirow said STR legislation is “not something that I refuse and the reality is that I feel lucky to have an intimate knowledge of this space and do not feel in conflict”.

His role as both an elected policy maker and operator of a vacation rental management company had already been addressed in October 2020, when city council held two hearings on the unit owner obligation. individuals to obtain both a business license and an STR permit if they are renting the units for less than 30 days. Mesirow was part of the council that on October 13, 2020 passed legislation to better track the overall inventory of SRT units and also to capture a previously untapped source of sales and accommodation tax revenue.

At that point, True concluded that Mesirow did not conflict with the vote on the matter. That position had not changed this week, True said.

Aspen city council chambers were packed with people on Wednesday when council voted to pass the ordinance. Speaker after speaker, the law was criticized, which also imposed a moratorium on residential and commercial development. Aspen real estate broker Joshua Landis was among them and he raised Mesirow’s issue, saying “this process is flawed”.

“And I want to bring up the one thing that I think needs to be addressed that hasn’t come up yet,” Landis said. “And he’s a board member that I respect and love a lot. But the one who more than any other city councilor brought this to the fore and saw it as an emergency is also someone who works in the vacation rental business and currently manages 15 properties in our valley and is working for a national company which manages in the short term. term rental for owners largely absent.

Landis’ remarks sparked a cry of “recuse yourself!” From a member of the public directed to Mesirow. People responded with applause.

Mesirow countered that the problem had been replayed and that “we are all aware and have talked about this dynamic, and it is a priority while we are working on it.” In Wednesday’s meeting, Mesirow also said he disclosed his professional and personal work with STRs during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

He was referring to his statement, “I mean, thank you guys, a lot for coming and this is a space (STR business) that I understand quite intimately. I work in space. I have worked on affordable housing issues for years. I have an STR in another space. I understand that when it’s your job it can seem very rushed and very successful. So I just want to add a bit of context, which is if you haven’t had time to attend all of these meetings, I think the board understands the complexity of this issue.

In an interview with The Aspen Times, Mesirow echoed True’s point that he was not in conflict due to the general applicability of Order 27.

“It’s the same way that council members own their homes and are eligible for STR permits,” he said.

In an email to the Aspen Times this week, True said, “While her employer may or may not benefit from the action, just like any advisor who owns a home may or may not benefit from paving city streets, even in in front of their house, and in this case it is not clear whether or not his employer would benefit from the legislation, it is a question of general applicability. Therefore, I could not find any reason to force him to recuse himself.

Landis said companies like SkyRun, which also operates six units at Snowmass Village, according to its website, have an advantage over real estate companies and private landlords who use services like Airbnb. SkyRun is also partnering with Airbnb, Vrbo, and HomeAway, among other companies.

“If you want to be honest about this situation, there is no better example than Skippy’s business,” Landis wrote in an email to city council members, saying “they’ve got it all. a team of software engineers and marketing staff who work to optimize their performance. They have an incredible business model. Local owners cannot compete, real estate agencies cannot compete.

According to the company’s website, “Currently SkyRun is a rapidly growing multi-site organization with over 950 properties in over 35 locations. We have created the sweet spot in vacation rental management by combining the benefits of local ownership and management with the efficiency, power and support of a national brand.

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