Judgment Day Coming For Woodland Park’s Anti-Short-Term Rental Movement

Petitioners Are Confident About Forcing a Special Election

Trevor Phipps

With a crucial deadline approaching, Woodland Park residents could face the possibility of a special election to decide the fate of short-term rentals within the city.

The countdown is only days away for a preliminary D-Day for petitioners in their staunch effort to outlaw non-owner occupied short term rentals (STRs) in residential neighborhoods.


Petitioners have until August 21 to collect and submit just over 1,000 signatures from registered voters of the city of Woodland Park. If enough valid signatures are obtained, the council has the option to either adopt the ordinance proposed by the petitioners, or send it to a vote of the people via a special election.


If the petitioners do not get enough validated signatures, then the city council already has another ordinance in place to regulate STRs. The new ordinance that places regulations on STR businesses and places caps on the amount is slated to go up for public hearing during the first city council meeting in October, if the petition effort falls short.


But the organizers of the petition are quite confident that they will have enough validated signatures by the deadline date. Late last year, the same group successfully stopped city ordinance 1431, which would have allowed STRs in most city zones.


The group collected more than 800 signatures the first time around, which proved to be a good jump start to their current goal of over 1,000. And this time around, the group had more time to collect signatures than they did with the earlier referendum on a council ordinance decision.


The petitioners have said that if the petition is successful, they hope that the council opts to send it to a vote during a special election that would take place this November. Even though the special election comes with a five-figure price tag to be paid by taxpayers, the group wants the vote from the people to confirm the popularity of their proposed ordinance.


During a city council meeting earlier this month, one of the main leaders of the petition group, Jerry Penland, addressed the council and gave an update of their progress. Penland stressed the support this effort has generated in a somewhat theatrical style. During his speech, Penland held a stack of signed petitions to use as a reference to prove how much interest their ordinance has seen by local residents.


According to Penland, after gathering more information provided by city staff, he found that the proposed ordinance would only affect 27 residents that own non-owner occupied short term rental properties within the city. He compared the small stack of the 27 local STR owners with the much larger stack of signed petitions to show the drastic difference in numbers.


“Of course, there are more than 27 short term rental investors, but where do they come from?” Penland asked the council. “All of the other STR investor that you (the council) support come from other areas in Colorado outside of Woodland Park, California, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Washington state. I have no answer to give the hundreds of folks who over the last eight months have asked, why are you (the council) doing what you are doing to support short term rental investors? I have no answer to give them, but the ones asking the questions are strong supporters of our citizens’ ordinance.”


Penland questioned the agenda of the council regarding this issue, noting that apparently the majority members of the elected panel approve of people anywhere in the world coming into the city to buy houses in residential neighborhoods to operate STR businesses. “Your community is speaking very clearly to you, you just don’t listen,” Penland added. “You are not putting our Woodland Park community first.”


He said that the hundreds of residents who signed the petitions don’t support the council’s vision to protect investors. Instead, Penland said the hundreds of residents that have signed the petition support the group’s vision to preserve the character of the community.


“We’re Woodland Park, a home-ruled city in Colorado,” Penland said. “We’re not California, we’re not Texas, we’re not Florida or any of the states in between. Why are members of our city council desperately doing research to find case law anywhere in the nation that supports their desire to give away our neighborhoods to investors? Do we really want to rely on California, Texas, or Florida to decide what we should do about our short term rental problems?”


After the deadline this month, there is a 30 day period where people can protest the process. The city staff will then spend the next few weeks after the deadline validating all of the signatures.