Colorado Second-Home Owners Seek to Regain Access During Shutdown

July 22, 2020

Second-home owners in Gunnison County, Colo., are uniting after county officials barred part-time residents from their second homes during the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 3, Gunnison County issued an order that required nonresidents to leave the county. Officials said they were trying to slow the spread of the coronavirus to avoid overwhelming the county's health care facilities, saying nonresidents could face more complications from the coronavirus since they’re not as accustomed to the county’s high altitude.

One couple has sued the county over its ban, arguing it violated U.S. and state constitutions. The office of the Texas Attorney General, in a letter to the county’s department of health and human services, contended that the policy discriminates against nonresident homeowners.

A group of second-home owners in Gunnison County have since banded together to sway this fall’s county commission election, The Colorado Sun reports.

“We just want to be the voice that unifies and brings a little bit of fairness in governance within this county,” said Jim Moran, a resident from Texas who has a second home in Gunnison County. He has organized the Gunnison Valley Second Homeowners group. “One of the primary lessons we learned this spring was that you can’t really have an effective voice on issues unless you have an organization,” Moran says. “A goal of this organization is to put these two constituencies together—businesses and second-home owners—and work together toward more balance in our governance.”

Jonathan Houck, a lawmaker on the county commission up for reelection this fall, says the second-home group is more than an issue for Gunnison County but something that all counties should be aware of. “If this group is successful in using influence and money to buy an election and support people who have priorities above the priorities of local residents, what’s going to prevent them from spreading to [other counties]?” Houck told The Colorado Sun. “This is a litmus test for all resort communities.”