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New land use code stirs arguments

Fort+Collins+City+Hall+Sept.+21%2C+2021.
Collegian | Ryan Schmidt
Fort Collins City Hall Sept. 21, 2021.

The future of Fort Collins will soon be changing, but not everyone has the same vision. With affordable housing issues, the city has a blend of ideas for the future. 

While some want to see the city grow, others are concerned that growth could negatively impact current residents. Everyone has an ideal Fort Collins in their mind, but it’s difficult to come to an agreement.

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The Colorado Department of Local Affairs describes a land use code as “a planning implementation tool of the community’s comprehensive plan.” These codes are enforced on properties like single-family homes, retail stores and parking lots.

The impact of these codes affects the city greatly. The codes determine what the entire city will look like and the overall feel of Fort Collins. Some common issues that occur with land use codes include violations like the use of recreational vehicles (RVs), excess junk and breaking regulations around short-term vacation rentals, whether a particular use is allowed in a certain zoning district and when and if a home occupation is allowed.

The 1997 land use code would change to the new updated code. The previous code had three review types: basic development review, Type 1 public hearing and Type 2 Planning and Zoning Commission hearing. The new code would still require public hearings.

One of the biggest changes coming with the new code is the allowance of accessory dwelling units. For a building to be considered an accessory dwelling unit, it must have running water and sewage and must be a habitable space.

These ADUs have been a hot point of contention, as they bend the definition of a livable place. These ADUs could affect rent prices, housing availability and more. The maximum number of square feet allowed for an ADU has remained at 1,000 square feet, with a height change from a 24-foot maximum to a 28-foot maximum.

Changes would also be made to how much power homeowners associations can have. Homeowner associations would be able to regulate if an ADU is internal or detached as well as the external aesthetics of homes and ADUs. 

The new land use code has been hotly debated for months now, largely by two major organizations. The two opponents of the code are Yes In My Back Yard and Preserve Fort Collins. The two groups see the new code in very different ways — the former as a way to expand the city and help with affordable housing, while the latter sees it as a strain on the city and its residents.

One of YIMBY’s leaders, Peter Erickson, spoke about the situation and expressed YIMBY’s concern that Preserve Fort Collins is a small group of wealthy homeowners who have abused the petition system for themselves. Erickson called Preserve Fort Collins an anti-housing group.

We need to build up, not out,” Erickson said. “Car-dependent, single-family suburbs have proven to be ecologically and financially unsustainable. They are responsible for the United States’ much higher per capita rate of climate emissions compared with the rest of the industrialized world. And rents and housing costs have soared, as local governments have all but banned denser forms of housing.”

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Erickson also expressed his concerns with Fort Collins’ U+2 law, which also contributes to these issues. The U+2 law causes financial strain on young adults seeking housing in Fort Collins.

“The proposed land use code includes crucial changes that would expedite approval for affordable housing projects and allow affordable housing developers to add more units,” Erickson said.

Another large part of the city’s current problem is that there is no middle housing: “multi-unit structures such as townhomes, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes, as well as cottage courts or cluster homes,” according to National Conference of State Legislatures. Adding middle housing would reduce the cost of living in Fort Collins, but in the past, it has been difficult to legally have middle housing in the city. 

“With a modest set of changes to the land use code, we can allow for what is often called ‘missing middle housing’ — the backyard cottages, basement apartments and row houses that would help make the city more affordable,” Erickson said.

Alternatively, Preserve Fort Collins calls for keeping Fort Collins closer to the way it has been in the past. Preserve Fort Collins calls for keeping the quality of life high for all its residents.

“Fort Collins enjoys high quality of life — safe neighborhoods and thriving communities, robust natural areas and great parks, accessible and accountable government — and we want to keep it that way,” reads Preserve Fort Collins’ website. “Our mission is to preserve Fort Collins’ high quality of life for all residents.”

Preserve Fort Collins has called the new changes from the City Council ill-advised and is actively working to repeal the new code. The group posted a video on their website of Fort Collins resident Katherine Dubiel speaking at a City Council Meeting against YIMBY.

“The YIMBY movement started with selfish, self-serving agendas to force the production of more housing that they could live in no matter the consequences to the working class communities impacted,” Dubiel said.

Due to a referendum received and certified by the city clerk, the new land use code is not yet implemented.

Reach Tyler Weatherwax at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @twwax7272.

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About the Contributor
Tyler Weatherwax
Tyler Weatherwax, News Editor
Tyler Weatherwax is a second-year attending Colorado State University. He has lived in the state of Colorado for his entire life and grew up just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. He is currently majoring in journalism and media communication and is a news editor for The Collegian and assistant news director for KCSU. Weatherwax hopes to share some of the world with people through his reporting and experiences. His goal as a journalist is to bring information to others in the hopes that it inspires and educates them in their lives. He also tries to push himself into the unknown to cause some discomfort in his life and reporting. Weatherwax has been a DJ for 90.5 FM KCSU as well as 88.3 FM KFFR. Some things Weatherwax enjoys doing are playing bass guitar, reading, collecting records, going outside and spending time with his friends and family. Weatherwax hopes to become a journalist after he graduates and to see more of the world.

Comments (1)

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    Ms. G.Jan 18, 2024 at 5:28 pm

    Great presentation of the wants and concerns of both sides Tyler! The article is succinct and hopefully can shed light on the opportunity for both sides to come together for a workable solution. A problem is never a problem if one sees this situation as an opportunity to continue to make Fort Collins as a great place to live, work and play. My hats off
    to you my dear! Sincerely ~ Your Kindergarten Teacher

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