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City council resolves to prepare solutions for U+2

Fort+Collins+City+councilmembers+Tricia+Canonico%2C+Julie+Pignataro+and+Kelly+Ohlson+listen+to+members+of+the+public+express+grievances+regarding+the+citys+U%2B2+housing+policy+during+the+public+comment+section+of+the+City+Council+meeting+at+Fort+Collins+City+Hall+April+4.
Collegian | Lucy Morantz
Fort Collins City councilmembers Tricia Canonico, Julie Pignataro and Kelly Ohlson listen to members of the public express grievances regarding the city’s U+2 housing policy during the public comment section of the City Council meeting at Fort Collins City Hall April 4.

By a 5-2 vote, Resolution 2023-082 was passed Sept. 5, directing Fort Collins city staff to prepare solutions to solve the housing ordinance problems commonly seen with the U+2 occupancy law. 

The controversial U+2 land use code is an ordinance that means either one family and one additional person or a resident and up to two unrelated people can live in the same household. This ordinance has caused much unrest in the Fort Collins community, with some stating it is in direct violation of federal housing laws and others claiming it is discriminatory and only defines family by blood. 

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According to the ordinance, “Family shall mean any number of persons who are all related by blood, marriage, adoption, guardianship or other duly authorized custodial relationship and who live together as a single housekeeping unit and share common living, sleeping, cooking and eating facilities.”

For those who are not related and live together, this means that if a five-bedroom house is rented, only three people can live there. This has created a huge discrepancy between the number of people who can be housed with available living accommodations and whether they can afford rent. 

While many Fort Collins residents showed their disdain and concerns associated with U+2, there were a few people who showed support for keeping U+2 intact. The stance to preserve U+2 lies solely on preserving family communities and keeping a structured housing system in place.

Citizens who spoke against U+2 in public comment insisted the method of enforcing U+2 can lead to discrimination because it depends on a complaint-based system. 

Nick DeSalvo, president of the Associated Students of Colorado State University, along with a majority of the student organization made an appearance to share their thoughts on U+2 and its future in Fort Collins.

“Our student organization — all near 100 of us — agreed on the same thing,” DeSalvo said. “And that’s the direction U+2 needs to go.” 

On top of DeSalvo’s opinions, he also detailed a possible solution to the future of U+2.

“It’s an opportunity for this council to actually explore U+2 through a rigorous community engagement process that includes the opinions of and thoughts of everyone in this community,” DeSalvo said. “Because I’ll be the first one to concede that there are genuine issues with both sides that we really need to consider as far as … preserving the sanctity of neighborhoods for families.”

In an interview with The Collegian following his public comment, DeSalvo said he believed placing U+2 as an issue on the ballot would be a mistake. 

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“(Enacting change tonight) would mean the council actually listens to the community,” DeSalvo said. “It would be a step in the right direction for allowing everyone in the community to have affordable housing because we’re in the midst of a crisis. I think they’re aware of that, but to what extent and to who the most? We’re coming up to a time where more than 50% of the violations for U+2 are not students — they’re normal people. It’s a pivotal point for (the city) council to actually serve the citizens of the community.”

Resolution 2023-082 passing means the Fort Collins City Council has now directed city staff to prepare and present amendments to the Fort Collins Land Use Code that increase limits on occupancy in residential dwellings.

Also on the agenda was Resolution 2023-083, which refers to increasing the specific land code regulations to increase occupancy. It died due to lack of motion, meaning occupancy regulations will not be referred to the registered electors of the City of Fort Collins concerning amending the Fort Collins Land Use Code to increase occupancy allowed in residential dwellings.

The city council will be presented with solutions and steps for how to go about increasing limits on occupancy in residential residences in the future.

Although uncertainty surrounds the outcome of U+2 and its future in Fort Collins, it appeared the city council has heard outcry and is looking to move forward to find a solution. 

The most vocal opposition to the resolution on the council was Kelly Ohlson, council member for District 5. 

“I won’t be supporting the motion because it lays out what the outcome is,” Ohlson said after the motion was made. “I still haven’t seen what kind of relationships don’t just involve a way to get around the number of people in a dwelling. … If there are those, I’m committed to fixing those as well, but I’m afraid it’s perhaps a use to allow massive amounts of people in neighborhoods that are not zoned for that.” 

Ohlson and Councilmember Susan Gutowsky were the two lone votes against the resolution. 

“It is interesting that (Colorado State University) gets such a pass,” Ohlson said. “They do miserably in doing their fair share as it relates to housing and the increase in enrollment throughout the years.”

Fort Collins Mayor Jeni Arndt and the rest of the members of the council approved the resolution following comment from Ohlson and Gutowsky. The city staff will get to work on proposing solutions to U+2, and it will be an internal decision, meaning the issue will not be placed on the November ballot. 

“As an incurable optimist, I have completely full faith in the staff of the city and the council, and I think with the input we get from our residents, we can craft a policy that’s right for Fort Collins (and) that acknowledges the growth and fundamentally that there are people in our community who need places to live,” Arndt said. “It’s been estimated there are 15,000 bedrooms that are empty, and from the bottom of my heart, I cannot go forward without working on an ordinance that addresses that issue.”

Reach Allie Seibel, Christian Arndt and Josh Harvey at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @csucollegian

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About the Contributors
Allie Seibel, Editor in Chief
Allie Seibel is the editor in chief of The Rocky Mountain Collegian, a role she loves more and more with each day. Previously the news editor and news director of The Collegian, Seibel has a background in news, but she’s excited to branch out and experience every facet of content this and following years. Seibel is a sophomore journalism and media communications major minoring in business administration and legal studies. She is a student in the Honors Program and is also an honors ambassador and honors peer mentor. She also is a satellite imagery writer for the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere at Colorado State University. Seibel is from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and loves how The Collegian has gotten her acquainted with Fort Collins and CSU. When she’s not writing, reporting or in class, you can always find her with a book, cross-stitching, planning where to travel to next, trying out a new recipe or listening to Taylor Swift. Seibel is incredibly proud of The Collegian’s past and understands the task of safeguarding its future. She’s committed to The Collegian’s brand as an alt-weekly newspaper and will continue to advance its status as a strong online publication while preserving the integrity and tradition of the print paper. Seibel is excited to begin a multi-year relationship with readers at the helm of the paper and cannot wait to see how the paper continues to grow. Through initiatives like the new science desk and letting each individual desk shine, Seibel is committed to furthering The Collegian and Rocky Mountain Student Media over the next few years.
Christian Arndt, Life & Culture Editor
Christian Arndt is this year's editor for the life and culture desk at The Collegian. Arndt joined The Collegian in the winter of 2023, when he started as an arts and entertainment writer, primarily focusing on movie reviews, local art installations and music-curated lists. Arndt is the second life and culture editor and is proud to step into this position. He is focusing on providing the best local coverage in the Fort Collins area with a focus on unique business profiles, important cultural events and fun local happenings. Arndt comes from Silverthorne, Colorado, and came to Colorado State University in the fall of 2021. He is a third-year and is majoring in journalism and media communication with a minor in English. He found his passion for writing during his English classes in high school, and eventually with the style he chose to pursue, he ended up finding a passion within journalism. Because he had no prior experience with journalism, he was adamant to join The Collegian and build up his experience and reputation there. Aside from writing for the paper, you can find him at the cinema, watching basketball, playing video games with friends, walking his adorable dog Penny Lane, snowboarding and listening to plenty of music. Arndt finds his role as an editor thrilling and looks forward to providing the utmost care and consistency with the content that comes out for the life and culture desk.
Lucy Morantz, Co-Photo Director
Lucy Morantz is a fourth-year journalism and political science student minoring in legal studies. She is one of the two photo directors for the fall 2022 semester. Growing up with parents who met working as journalists, media has been an ever-present component of Morantz’s life, and this is ultimately what inspired her to pursue a degree and career in journalism. She had always been pulled toward career paths that provided a creative outlet; photojournalism and The Collegian have allowed her to do precisely that while simultaneously fostering her passions and gaining meaningful career experience.  Throughout her college years, Morantz has worked with The Collegian every year. Growing up with the publication this way has given her a unique perspective on all the ways student media has helped students achieve their post-graduation goals, making her excited to see what her own career path with lead to. Additionally, the opportunity to collaborate with so many other student journalists to create a final product will be her most valued takeaway from her time at Colorado State University. Beyond her role at The Collegian, Morantz is also a College of Liberal Arts student ambassador and has interned with various political organizations. Outside the newsroom and classroom, Morantz can most likely be found paddle boarding at Horsetooth Reservoir, strolling through Old Town with friends or curating a new hyper-specific playlist to match her many moods.

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