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About the Project

Project Purpose

Short-term rentals are defined as residential properties, or parts of such properties, that are rented out for less than 30 days. 

Short-term rentals, also known as STRs or vacation rentals, have become very popular in communities across the world in the last decade. This popularity has been driven by the rise of online platforms such as AirBnB and Vrbo that have made it easy to connect owners of STRs with guests.

Managing the Benefits and Drawbacks of STRs

The basic purpose of this project is to create a STR "program" that establishes a mechanism for STRs to legally operate in the County and that effectively manages the benefits and drawbacks of STRs.

Short-term rentals can offer benefits to residents, visitors, and the community at-large. They may provide a homeowner the opportunity to earn extra income by renting out part of their home. They provide affordable lodging options that supplement the offerings of traditional hotels, inns, or bed & breakfasts. STRs are especially useful for professionals, such as visiting nurses, who require housing for longer than a hotel can provide but for less time than the typical minimum 6-month or 12-month lease available at rental homes or apartments. 

STRs can have drawbacks for a community, too. They may drive up the cost of housing in communities when properties that would otherwise be available for housing local residents are used instead for lodging out-of-town visitors. STRs might also affect the availability of on-street parking in a neighborhood. STRs may be used to host gatherings that generate nuisances such as noise or trash.

A community can maximize the benefits of STRs and reduce their drawbacks when it enacts effective regulations and enforces those regulations. Communities throughout the region, including Santa Fe, Taos, and Albuquerque, have adopted STR regulations to effectively manage the STRs in their communities.

How does the County regulate STRs today? 

It doesn't, at least not directly.


Short-term rentals are not defined or directly addressed in the County's Code of Ordinances. Some STRs are regulated using the bed & breakfast regulations in the County Code. But STRs are not the same as bed & breakfasts, and some of the existing regulations are not suited to STRs. Meanwhile, the STR owners who have registered their STRs as bed & breakfasts have done so voluntarily, as there is no requirement for STR operators to register with the County. This means that many more STRs likely exist in the community than the County is aware of, and consequently, the County cannot manage them in important ways, such as by ensuring that life-safety regulations are being followed or by collecting taxes that fund the community services.

Why this project now?


Los Alamos County recently completed a comprehensive update to Chapter 16 of its code of ordinances, the County's Development Code. The County received a lot of input about STRs during the Chapter 16 update process, demonstrating that STRs are an important and complex topic for the Los Alamos community. Instead of creating STR regulations during the Chapter 16 update, the County decided that STRs were an important enough topic that they deserved their own dedicated process. This process will allow the Los Alamos County's residents, business owners, and leaders to have a more in-depth dialogue about the future of STRs in the community.

Another reason that STRs were not addressed during the Chapter 16 update process is that STR regulations might affect more than Chapter 16. Other sections of the County's code might need to be amended, too, in order to effectively regulate STRs.


An STR "program:" It's not just regulations


The goal of this project is not only to create STR regulations, but to establish an entire program to effectively manage STRs. An STR program is a comprehensive approach – it would create regulations and provide the resources & processes to effectively manage STRs and enforce regulations.

Regulations can address important questions such as:

  • How is a short-term rental defined? How is it different from a hotel or bed & breakfast?

  • How long can a guest stay?

  • How many total short-term rentals are allowed in the County?

  • In what zoning districts are short-term rentals allowed? In which are they prohibited? 

  • Can an entire property be rented out, or only a bedroom?

  • What happens when there's an emergency at a short-term rental?

A full STR program will address additional questions that regulations cannot, such as:

  • How will the County keep track of short-term rentals? 

  • How much time will County staff need to regulate STRs? Are additional County staff needed?

  • What will it cost the County to regulate STRs? How will those costs be covered? Should those costs be covered by STR owners, STR guests, or the community? 

Project Scope

The Project Team aims to fulfill the project purpose described above through the following tasks or phases: 

• Task 1: Design and Administer a Community and Stakeholder Input Process and Plan

• Task 2:  Identify, Assess, and Provide Code Revision Recommendations for the STR Program

• Task 3: Develop a STR Program Report

• Task 4: Recommended Draft Ordinance for County Council Approval

Project Team & Steering Committee

This project is led by the Los Alamos County Community Development Department, with assistance from planning consultant Wilson & Company. You can learn more about the Project Team here.


The Project Team is working closely with a project Steering Committee. The Committee is made up of representatives from the local business community, including the lodging and tourism industry, County leaders and staff, neighborhood advocates, and STR operators. The Steering Committee's main function is to provide recommendations and expertise to the Project Team to help guide the project process and deliver an effective STR program for Los Alamos County. 

Steering Committee Members


Jim McGonnell

Susan Odgard

Sandy Jones

Jack Allison

Cindy Hollabaugh

Ryn Herman

George Chandler

Lance Eaton

Matthew Allen

David Hampton

David Martinez

James Pepe (or designee)

Oliver Morris (or designee)

Sobia Sayeda

Desirae Lujan

Beatrice Odezulu

Katie Thwaits

Anita Barela

Antoinette Padilla

Adrienne Lovato

Andrea Fresquez

Eric Abeyta


Los Alamos Medical

Los Alamos Public Schools

UNM/Small Business Center

Visiting Nurses

Los Alamos Housing Partners

Chamber of Commerce/LACDC

Neighborhood advocate

Property management/Realtor

Pueblo Canyon Inn

Planning and Zoning Commissioner

Los Alamos County - Building

Los Alamos County - Fire Marshall

Los Alamos County - Police Department

Los Alamos County - Community Development Department (CDD)

Los Alamos County - CDD

Los Alamos County - Finance

Los Alamos County - Legal (Observation only)

Los Alamos County - CDD (as needed)

Los Alamos County - CDD (as needed)

Los Alamos County - CDD (as needed)

Los Alamos County - CDD (as needed)

Los Alamos County - CDD (as needed)

Project Schedule

Key project milestones are listed in the table below. To see the details of specific events, including public meetings, click here.

Project Activity
Anticipated Date
Project Kickoff
November 28, 2022
Public Meeting #1
February 22, 2023
Short-Term Program Report
April 2023
Public Meeting #2
May 17, 2023
Update Presentation to County Council
September 5, 2023
Planning and Zoning Commission Public Hearing
County Council Introduction of Ordinance
County Council Public Hearing of Ordinance
Implementation of Short-term Rental Plan
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