City-Funded STR Vote Slated for Dec. 12
The short-term rental battle in Woodland Park may finally reach a conclusion by the end of this year.
With a special election looming, many residents, civic leaders, realtors and business operators are anxiously awaiting the fate of the complex situation surrounding short-term rentals (STRs). This controversial issue, a hot topic in many Colorado mountain communities, will now be officially decided by Woodland Park voters.
The date of Dec. 12 for the election will mark a 12-month-plus time span that the city has been in fight mode over the presence of short-term rental businesses operating in local residential zones. The anti-STR group, coined “Preserving Neighborhood Character in Woodland Park,” has successfully won the latest battle in the STR war by getting enough valid petition signatures approved to send the issue to the voters.
The group leaders, who have remained optimistic about winning the war if it came down to a vote, will soon know the fate of their proposed ordinance. In a recent meeting, City Clerk Suzanne Leclercq announced that WP officials verified enough signatures to put the ordinance proposed by the citizens up to a vote. The election will be funded by the city.
“This petition contained 1,438 signatures,” Leclercq said at a recent council meeting. “The requirements for this petition to be successful were 1,018 signatures which was equal to 15 percent of the voters in the city of Woodland Park. This past Tuesday, I officially certified this petition as being sufficient. I certified 1,345 signatures, only needing 1,018 signatures, the petitioners had 327 more signatures than needed.”
The city clerk also mentioned that under law there is a 40-day protest period, following the petition deadline, which was set on Aug. 21. Residents had until the first week of October to protest the petition process.
Under their current process, the council has 20 days to adopt the group’s proposed ordinance, which was certified on Sept. 19. If the council chooses to not adopt the ordinance, it would then be sent to a special election with a date for the election being between 60 and 150 days of the certification of the petition.
Leclercq then recommended that the date for the special election be set for Dec. 12. “This date meets the criteria as put forth in state statute,” the city clerk stated. “It also won’t interfere or confuse the voters with the upcoming regularly scheduled election in April.”
Council Adds Another Ordinance to the Ballot
The STR battle in Woodland Park, though, continues to get more complex every day.
During a related STR work session, following the announcement of the latest successful petition effort, the council agreed to send the issue to a special election. They preferred taking this route rather than adopting the citizens’ anti-STR proposal, which bans these units in residential areas, unless they are owner-occupied.
Most of the council agreed that the citizens wanted the election to decide the fate of STRs. “It would be great if the council would listen to their citizens and approve their ordinance,” Councilman Robert Zuluaga said. “However, given the temperament that I see on council, I think that it is safer for the citizens to go to the ballot then it is to have council pass it as an ordinance and then have the ability to fiddle with it. Whereas, if it goes to the citizens by a vote, then we can’t fiddle with it for two years.”
According to the city clerk, the council had the ability to add other ordinances or issues to the special election ballot. Leclercq said that if there were other differing ordinances on the ballot then whichever one got the most “yes” votes would be put into law.
Later in the work session, Mayor Hilary LaBarre suggested that the council also add the ordinance the city council and planning commission came up with. This one would open the door more for STR units, under certain guidelines. In the end, the council came to a consensus that two ordinances will appear on the ballot. These will include ordinance 1455, tabled by the city council, and the citizens’ proposed measure.
The main difference between the two ordinances is that the citizens’ plan would outlaw non-owner occupied STR businesses in residential neighborhoods and Ordinance 1455 would allow some non-owner occupied STRs in residential neighborhoods, but would impose a cap.
Councilman Rusty Neal said that he would like to change the caps on STRs in residential neighborhoods before it gets on the ballot. The city attorney said that the council still had time to make changes to Ordinance 1455 before it got voted on by the citizens.