Citizen initiative seeks to repeal Aspen’s residential and short-term rental moratorium

Two Aspen real estate agents file citizen-initiated ordinance and must get nearly 1,000 signatures from city-registered voters for elected officials to consider or send to special election

Two local real estate agents have filed a citizen-initiated ordinance that seeks to repeal legislation passed by Aspen City Council earlier this month that puts a six-month moratorium on new residential development and the issuance of short-term rental permits.

Bill Guth and Bob Bowden filed the paperwork Friday with City Clerk Nicole Henning, who has five days to accept the language of the initiative.

Once she finds that it meets the city’s requirements and approves the citizen-initiated ordinance, Guth and Bowden would have up to 180 days to collect 993 signatures of registered Aspen voters, which is 15% of the electorate.

“We are confident that we will get the signatures and send the message to council and maybe they will hear us better,” Guth said Monday.

He and Bowden were two of more than 100 people who work in the development, real estate or short-term rental industry who attended council’s Dec. 8 meeting when elected officials passed the moratorium under an emergency ordinance.

The ban is in response to the real estate market explosion in Aspen over the past two years, and the proliferation of short-term rentals in single-family homes and condos.

City officials argued the impacts of speculative real estate activity is putting negative pressures on the local workforce, available housing, traffic, the environment and the quality of life that is emulated in the Aspen Area Community Plan, which is a guiding document used to make policy decisions.

The pause on residential development for up to six months and the issuance of permits on short-term rentals for up to nine months is to allow city officials to assess how current land use code regulations, the AACP and the affordable housing program matches with the unprecedented growth and the changing use in the local real estate market.

Bowden and Guth, along with their peers, said hitting the pause button will negatively affect hundreds of peoples’ livelihoods, particularly those in the construction industry, young architects and those who service vacation rentals.

“A moratorium is the most extreme action they can take,” Bowden said, adding that he felt marginalized and patronized when he was given 120 seconds to make public comment at the Dec. 8 meeting and he suspected council members had already made up their minds. “The ramifications are severe and the implications are so far reaching … people in the industry live paycheck to paycheck. … We don’t understand the emergency at all in trying to solve a 40-year problem that can’t be solved in six months.”

Should he and Guth collect the required amount of signatures and submit them to Henning’s office and she certifies them, the citizen-initiated ordinance must be reviewed by council within 20 days.

If council rejects the initiative, it will go to a special election not less than 30 days and not more than 90 days from elected officials’ decision, according to City Attorney Jim True, citing state statute.

The moratorium on new residential land use and building permit applications is set to expire on June 8, with the pause on short-term rental permits ending on Sept. 30.

In the meantime, city officials said they want to work with those in the industry as they make amendments to the land use code and create new affordable housing mitigation measures.

Guth and Bowden said they could do that without the moratorium, which has now alienated many people in the business.

“I don’t feel like we had the dialogue and this gives us the chance to have that dialogue,” Bowden said. “They aren’t listening to the best and the brightest in the business.”


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