Active enforcement of U+2 to begin in Avery Park neighborhood

Erin Douglas

Beginning Jan. 1, the City of Fort Collins will more strictly enforce the occupancy-housing ordinance, commonly known as U+2, in a specific neighborhood west of campus. The enforcement will be an active approach, as opposed to previous enforcement in which a property was only investigated if someone made a complaint. 

A For Rent sign sits in front of a house on the east side of campus yesterday afternoon. Rental rates at many places around Fort Collins are begin to rise on a yearly basis. (Collegian File Photo)
A “For Rent” sign sits in front of a house on the east side of campus yesterday afternoon. Rental rates at many places around Fort Collins are begin to rise on a yearly basis. (Collegian File Photo)

Avery Park, the neighborhood where the pilot program will occur, is a highly student-populated area in which many extra occupancy complaints are made each year. The half-mile enforcement area of Avery Park is within South Taft Hill Road, South Shields Street, West Prospect Road and West Elizabeth Street. 

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“It accounts for 25 percent of all the complaints for occupancy,” said Dale Wood, the senior compliance inspector for the city. “The number of calls (related to occupancy complaints) from this area is disproportionately high.”

Enforcement will occur by “keeping an eye” on properties that have a history of violations in the past two years, Wood said. He will not actively drive around and try to look for signs of extra occupancy, but if he is investigating a property on a certain block, he will also consider the other properties on that block.

“Not many owners are in any sort of collaboration with their tenants to violate the law,” Wood said. “But, a deliberate indifference to extra occupancy clearly occurs. I often find that the person responsible turns a blind eye.” 

Avery Park is the only area of the city where this active enforcement will occur. The pilot program will last for one semester because there are fewer complaints during the summer months, said Wood. 

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“(Avery Park) is right next to five bars and is in within walking distance to CSU,” said Jake Miller, a senior corporate finance and real estate major who lives in Avery Park. “It’s a college neighborhood. People are going to be out late, and it’s kind of general knowledge that the makeup of the neighborhood is skewed towards the student population.”

This program will determine if active enforcement is feasible for the city, and will help the Fort Collins City Council determine if they should expand this type of enforcement in the future. 

“Resources are limited and we want to meet the needs of the community,” Wood said. “This type of enforcement city-wide would require 5 to 6 more investigators. The city has to be responsible in the spending of public funds, and it just makes more sense to enforce it here instead of other areas in the city.”

Some students feel that by targeting Avery Park, the city is discriminating against the student population. However, students are not a protected class, as defined by federal law.

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“For the people who aren’t abusing it and aren’t bothering their neighbors, I don’t think active enforcement makes any sort of sense,” said Alex Brandenburg, English education senior. “I think it’s the property owners’ right to determine how many people live there. I think it’s kind of messed up that they are only going to be enforcing it in one part of the city. If they enforce a policy, they should enforce it city wide.” 

Historically, the city has not enforced the ordinance universally to all situations or areas. During the recession, the city chose not to enforce certain violations because some families chose to have extra occupants as a result of financial struggles. Wood also said that they do not enforce the ordinance if an adult who is disabled has medical assistants living with them to provide around the clock care.

The administration of ASCSU has been engaged in conversations with city council and other stakeholder groups since the beginning of the semester to revise the current law, which they think is a burden on students.

ASCSU President, Jason Sydoriak, and Direcotr of Community Affairs, Edward Kendall, discussing upcoming community involvement and legislation supporting reform and improvements to better the experience of CSU students prior to senate session Wednesday evening.
ASCSU President, Jason Sydoriak, and Director of Community Affairs, Edward Kendall, discussing upcoming community involvement and legislation supporting reform and improvements to better the experience of CSU students prior to senate session Wednesday evening.

“The Avery Park Pilot Project is wrong and they should end it,” said Jason Sydoriak, president of ASCSU. “We might have students removed from their homes in the coldest months of the year. As a result, these students may not be able to live in Fort Collins or they may drop out from CSU entirely.”

Since January, 11 investigations out of 133 resulted in tickets for occupancy violations. The city is more interested in getting occupants in compliance with the law than issuing tickets, Wood said.

“I feel like, when the law was made, it had a good intention to stop over-crowding, but it’s not executed how it should be,” Miller said. “It’s stifling students and their success at school. The city should provide a waiver, with a fee, that is easier to get.”

There are currently 46 extra occupancy properties in Fort Collins, even though 15 out of 24 zoning districts allow properties to apply for one. Avery Park is one of the nine zones in which property owners cannot apply for a waiver, because it is a low-density residential zone.

Map of extra occupancy zones
Red: Zones in which properties can apply for extra occupancy Yellow: Colorado State University Green: Where active enforcement will occur beginning January 1. (Document courtesy of Dale Wood.)

Miller, an associate broker, said he does not think changing “U+2” to “Me+3” will work because extra occupancy will increase the density of people living in certain areas. He said this will decrease the amount of tax revenue as well as the amount of growth throughout the city. Instead, Miller suggested using yearly waivers that could be revoked if nuisance violations occur.

“If they (the city) do a waiver program they could control it,” Miller said. “That way it would not target good students, it would target bad students.”

Though the city does offer a waiver that 46 properties in Fort Collins currently have, the number of properties with waivers may not exceed 25 percent of a block, which is defined by both sides of the street, from intersection to intersection.  

 

 

 

The ordinance allows for:

Scenario 1:

  • A family of any size make-up
  • + 1 person

Scenario 2:

  • 1st adult and dependents
  • 2nd adult and dependents
  • +1 additional person
  • Two siblings count as one family, and they may only have one additional person living with them.
  • Three siblings, or any other size family, may have one additional person living with them.
  • The city defines occupancy as any one person spending 30 or more nights at a residency throughout the year, not sequentially.
  • The ordinance applies even if the home is owner occupied.

Collegian ASCSU Beat Reporter Erin Douglas can be reached online at news@collegian.com or on Twitter at @erinmdouglas23.