City Council initiates rezoning of Hughes Stadium property

Samantha Ye

In a four to two vote, Fort Collins City Council has approved the rezoning process for the land where Hughes Stadium once stood.

The unprecedented move will require more focused public input for the future development and lengthen the overall review process, according to City staff.

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“It lets the zoning decision be more straight-forward and related strictly to our city plan, our city goals, and not have to get tied up in one particular development proposal versus another,” said councilmember Ross Cunniff, who initiated the rezoning. 

The City-initiated rezoning comes with at least one required neighborhood meeting which could happen as soon as Aug. 8, followed by a Planning and Zoning Board hearing Sep. 19 and Council hearing Oct. 1. All dates are tentative. 

A road closed sign with Hughes Stadium in the background.
Hughes Stadium used to sit west of Overland Trail and north of Larimer County Road 32. It was demolished last spring and the 165-acre plot was sold to Lennar, a home construction company. (Jenn Yingling | Collegian)

Why is rezoning important?

In February 2018, Colorado State University petitioned the Hughes Stadium property to be annexed into the City.

Once annexed, the City designated the 165-acre area as a transition zone district or T-zone. New development is not allowed on a T-zone, according to City land use code, thus any new projects would require a further rezoning. 

In October 2018, CSU sold the property to Lennar, a home construction company. 

Lennar has since proposed building 600 to 700 homes on the land, though no official applications have been submitted.  

Typically, the developer would submit their request to the City for a certain zoning type, according to City staff. Zoning determines what kind of development can be built in an area. 

Applicants can decide whether or not they want the zoning process done in conjunction with the development review (consolidated) or for zoning to be approved first and then the development reviewed (bifurcated). 

Hughes is currently on the consolidated path, according to City staff. When the City initiates the rezoning, that takes it onto the bifurcated path.

That is an unusual move for the City. Cameron Gloss, City planning manager, said it may be the first time they have done so. It could set a precedent for future rezonings.

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In this case, the special T-zone designation, a rarity in the City, and a high public interest in the project played a part in Council’s decision. 

It can create more certainty for developers if they know the land’s zoning designation before making their property proposals, but the overall review process would likely take longer. 

“While the process isn’t maybe our normal process, it’s still process-driven, it still seems like a very fair process and it provides a couple opportunities for public input that does separate out zoning from the development,” said Mayor Pro Tem Kristin Stephens, who supported the measure. 

Audience holding up green signs during city council
Audience members held up green signs during City Council to show their support for PATHS, a committee dedicated to the sustainable redevelopment of Hughes. (Samantha Ye | Collegian)

What do the people think? 

Nearly two dozen residents appeared before Council Tuesday, asking that the initial proposal of 600 to 700 homes not be allowed. They cited safety and sustainability concerns with many asking for the land to be incorporated as a natural area instead. 

While Fort Collins Natural Area did look at purchasing the land, it ultimately didn’t make sense to invest millions in that specific property at the cost of protecting other future areas, said director John Stokes.

But the community will still have a chance to influence the final zoning.

“This is a space that is extremely important to the community as recreational space and as a gateway to Horsetooth Reservoir — it deserves serious consideration,” said Mary Grant, member of the Planning Actions to Transform Hughes Sustainably committee. 

Residents expressed a consistent desire for comprehensive community input opportunities about the issue. During the meeting, dozens of audience members held up green signs in support of PATHS member statements.

The rezoning process will come with at least one neighborhood meeting, though councilmember Emily Gorgol said they would probably need more. Notices will be sent out to homeowners and renters.

This is a space that is extremely important to the community as recreational space and as a gateway to Horsetooth Reservoir — it deserves serious consideration.” -Mary Grant, member of the Planning Actions to Transform Hughes Sustainably committee

Two speakers, Kevin Jones, business advocacy director for the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce, and Justin Pless, attorney for several Fort Collins business owners, asked Council to let the developer’s consolidated plan run its course. 

They said the City initiating rezoning could create uncertainty for future developments and the lengthened process may lessen the affordability of the finished homes.

Mayor Wade Troxell said the new process is more linear, but keeping a standard, predictable process is also important. As this may be the first time the City initiates a rezoning such as this, it introduces uncertainty he said he is concerned about. 

Troxell and councilmember Ken Summers both voted against initiating rezoning. The remaining councilmembers, minus Susan Gutowsky, who was absent, voted in favor.  

“This is a hypersensitive area even before this project,” Troxell said. “And I think it’s important that we’re doing it for the right reasons, and I’m not necessarily sure about that.”

More at Council

Council considers looking into migrant detention centers: During public comment, 14 residents asked Council to make a statement condemning the overcrowded migrant detention centers and family separation policies. 

Cunniff and Stephens both said they have spoken out about the camps outside of Council and that it is a moral and humanitarian issue that needs addressing. 

Summers said Council should be cautious about the multifaceted issue, do their own fact-finding, and not rely on the “perspective that is not totally well-balanced and well-informed from those who just make public comments.”

Troxell and Gorgol said they would like to do further fact-finding about the issue and look into their options as Council. 

Some possible options Council brought up included visiting a camp for themselves (if they would be allowed in) and taking the concerns to the Legislative Review Board

Temporary prohibition placed on redevelopment of mobile home parks: Council unanimously approved a one-year moratorium on accepting any redevelopment plans that would cause part or all of any mobile home park to close.

Although there are no pending applications for redevelopment, Fort Collins’ remaining mobile home parks sit in areas ripe for redevelopment, City staff said. Residents in those parks are particularly vulnerable come displacement. 

Several councilmembers noted that in the past, the City has not paid enough attention to mobile home parks in the affordable housing discussion. This moratorium, initiated by Gorgol, would give Council time to gather more information and find a way to address the needs of that population. 

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