Neighbors voice concerns on short-term marijuana vacation rentals

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DENVER -- A Florida woman has been cashing in on Colorado’s marijuana laws by marketing short-term rentals to pot smokers, but she will now have a harder time turning those rooms around.

Dale Koppel calls herself a real estate entrepreneur and marijuana smoker who decided to buy and rent several Denver properties on sites like Airbnb.com and VRBO.com after the state made recreational marijuana legal.

"I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to provide a safe place, a legal place, for people who were coming here to smoke,” Koppel said.

Though marketing to marijuana smokers is legal, Denver zoning laws do not allow short term rentals of less than 30 days in residential areas. The city issued cease and desist letters at two of Koppel's properties last year, but on Tuesday she asked a zoning board for an extension so she could honor reservations that were made prior to her receiving those letters.

“They do no harm," Koppel said. "They are the nicest guests imaginable. They don’t disrupt the neighborhood.”

More than 20 people from two neighborhoods showed up to the appeal hearing to oppose Koppel.

“I understand that she says these are wonderful people and they may be, but I don’t think she has any idea who these people are," said Scott Faust, who lives near one of the locations on St. Paul Street. "They could be ex-cons, they could be on the lam from anywhere.”

“It turns into non-stop marijuana smoke during the summers," said Jim Riley, another neighbor. "You can’t have your windows open. Many times I can’t have my kids outside.”

Though neighbors say the marijuana marketing makes the situation worse, they say the biggest issue is the short term rentals.

“It’s clearly just a hotel, and it’s a hotel without any front desk," Faust said. "There's no place that I could go to and say, ‘Hey, something is wrong with the people staying here.’”

The board denied Koppel’s request for an extension, and she can now only rent the properties for 30 days or more, which she plans to do.

“Remarkably, there is a business out there for 30-day plus rentals," she said. "So I am getting them and I am filling the units.”

Neighbors say they won’t have a problem with that, as long as she keeps her word.

"We will continue to monitor the property," Faust said. "If they don’t come into compliance with the law we will be back here.”​

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