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Fort Collins City Council rejects appeal of Union on West Elizabeth apartment complex

Man standing at podium in City Hall
Rory Heath, a CSU alumni, speaks at Fort Collins City Council Tuesday night. Heath is appealing the potential new student housing complex, The Union on Elizabeth. (Erica Giesenagen | Collegian)

The development of the Union on Elizabeth will go forward as planned.

The Fort Collins City Council rejected an appeal of the Planning and Zoning Board’s approval of the development on the intersection of West Elizabeth Street and Shields Street Tuesday night.

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Council members said the evidence presented by the appellate did not meet the standards of proof to back claims of an unfair board hearing, and that while a five-story building would look different in the area now, it aligns with the City’s desire to expand upwards.

“I know that some people are having trouble with (taller buildings), and I understand that it may not look the same as we’re used to it looking, but it is part of our West Central Area Plan, it is part of the areas we’re growing up around transportation,” Councilwoman Kristin Stephens said. “While it may lead to some heartburn, it is kind of the path that we’re looking at for West Elizabeth (Street).”

The proposed Union on Elizabeth is expected to be a five-story building with 107 units, 402 bedrooms and 3,875 square feet of retail space on the first floor. At last estimate, it would provide 310 parking spaces for apartment residents.

The development will be built in the area that previously held the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Panhandler’s Pizza, Butters and Village Vidiot.

Two weeks after the Board unanimously approved the project’s final development plan on Dec. 14, 2017, Rory Heath, a Fort Collins resident submitted an appeal.  

Heath said that the Board failed to conduct a fair hearing for the project and did not properly interpret and apply relevant provisions of the Land Use Code.

In the appeal, Heath selected all the possible complaints for an appeal, including that the Board exceeded its jurisdiction, considered evidence that was grossly misleading, and ignored relevant evidence due to bias from the decision makers.

Heath said that Board Chairman Jeffrey Schneider, who works in the construction industry, was self-evidently biased to support the project.

Dino DiTullio of Westward Development, in opposition to the appeal and a partner in developing the complex, called it a reckless allegation.

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“To my knowledge, I’ve never met Jeffrey Schneider or had any interaction with him outside of the planning commission,” DiTullio said. “I think it’s reckless to make that kind of accusation without any evidence.”

City staff reviewed and rebutted all complaints after an analysis of the hearing transcripts.

Stephanie Hansen, a landscape developer who presented for the DiTullio, also asserted their project plan alleviated the concerns from the City and relevant public.

“(Of) all the assertions made here (in the appeal), there is absolutely zero evidence,” Councilman Ray Martinez said before voting against the appeal. “Lot of assumptions and gut feelings and things like that — we can’t operate that way.”

Despite voting against the appeal, Stephens acknowledged the incongruency of a five-story building in the current area and said the City would have to deal with much of the growing pains as more multistory buildings are approved.

“I hope that people will … get used to the idea that our City is getting bigger and that we’re growing up,” Stephens said. “And, that we need more space in our City for people to live.”

Collegian reporter Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.

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