Aspen petitioners won’t push for election after Ordinance 27 court ruling
Although a group of petitioners won’t pursue a special election to repeal Ordinance 27, which temporarily banned new short-term rental licenses and residential real estate development in Aspen, its leaders said their work is not done.
Bill Guth, one of the organizers of the petition drive that was launched in response to Aspen City Council’s ordinance adopted Dec. 7-8 through emergency legislation, said they have collected the signatures of close to 1,000 residents. They would have needed 993 signatures of registered Aspen voters, 15% of the electorate, to advance their initiative to let voters decide on the moratoriums.
“We’re still finalizing what we’re going to do, but I think we’re just going to deliver the signatures to council,” Guth said Monday.
Recent developments in both the court system and City Hall made their mission moot, Guth said, but the group believes the tally of petition signatures they gathered should should stand for something.
“We know that technically this petition was specific to Ordinance 27,” he said, “and I think Ordinance 27 for all intents and purposes is dead in the water.”
Ordinance 27 remains city law, but it is unenforceable for now after a judge ruled earlier this month the city did not properly notice the public about about the legislation before it went to Aspen City Council. The Aspen Board of Realtors had filed a motion for temporary injunctive relief from Ordinance 27; their lawsuit against the city and motion for permanent injunction are pending.
Yet the judge’s ruling, delivered March 11, had limited effect in terms of Ordinance 27’s two moratoriums.
With a pause on Ordinance 27, two other city ordinances have effectively taken its place by having the same restrictions. That’s because the City Council in December passed Ordinance 26, which also banned applications for new STR licenses until the end of September. And on March 15, the City Council, in response to the judge’s ruling, adopted emergency legislation pausing residential development through another moratorium. The basis for the emergency is STRs’ and residential developments’ negative impacts on climate change, the city has said.
City government leaders and officeholders also have said the moratoriums are needed in order to contain the explosion of STRs, which they have argued is stripping longer term housing from people who live and work here year-round. STRs, which are vacation rentals for a maximum 30 days, also are changing the character of neighborhoods and stretching services, supporters of the moratorium have argued. Likewise, the volume of residential development runs counter to the city’s climate goals, proponents have said.
During the duration of the moratoriums, the city is aiming to set new policy regarding both residential development and vacation rentals by amending its land use code under the guidance of the Aspen Area Community Plan.
Guth and Bowden said the City Council’s actions show they have overlooked a major segment of the public — people who make their living through STRs and real estate development.
“We want them to know that there are a lot of people who disagree with their courses of action,“ Guth said.
Likewise, Bowden said, “It is a matter of principle and a matter of making a statement, which is why we started this effort. We’re not being listened to.”
“We didn’t go out looking for a fight,” he added. “We went out looking for dialogue. We went out looking for a reaction from the community, and we wanted to see what the community wants, and we don’t think this is what the community wants.”
City Attorney Jim True said the city will treat the petition like any other petition and validate the group’s signatures if they are presented to the city.
Editor’s note: The original story on the judge’s ruling incorrectly said that it invalidated Ordinance 27. In fact, Ordinance 27 was made temporarily unenforceable, but it was not invalidated.
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