An appeals court has ruled that the City of Lakewood can prohibit Colorado Christian University from renting housing that it owns in nearby neighborhoods to students.
In 2021, the city passed an ordinance banning “student living units” from residential areas and defined such units as those “owned or controlled by a college or university.”
CCU, which owned six duplexes that it leased out, was sent a cease-and-desist letter by the city ordering it to stop renting them to students. CCU sued, alleging discrimination.
In March 2022, a Jefferson County judge sided with the city, ruling its ordinance was constitutional and reasonable since there is “a legitimate government interest in controlling the population of students and university-owned units within residential neighborhoods.”
CCU then took its case to the Colorado Court of Appeals. It accused the city of regulating land use “based solely upon the identity of the landowner and the user, rather than the actual use of the land,” in violation of constitutional rights to equal protection. The court disagreed.
“Lakewood’s stated purpose…is the restriction of some uses of property to maintain the residential character of certain neighborhoods,” Judge John Dailey wrote Wednesday for a unanimous three-judge panel. “These are legitimate purposes for an ordinance.”
The city’s ban on university-owned housing but not privately owned housing that is leased to students was fair because private landlords “are less likely to rent in as great (or even consolidated) numbers of students” as a college, the judges determined.
“These, in our view, are conceivable sets of facts that establish a rational relationship between the ordinance and its legitimate purpose in preserving the residential character of Lakewood’s neighborhoods. Thus, the ordinance does not violate CCU’s rights,” they added.
Deputy City Attorney Alex Dorotik represents Lakewood. He and a city spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment about their legal win last week.
CCU’s lawyers were Andrew Peters and Brian Connolly of Otten Johnson Robinson Neff & Ragonetti in Denver, plus Jonathan Slie and Thomas Scheffel with Scheffel and Associates in Denver. They and a CCU spokeswoman also declined to comment.