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City Council abolishes occupancy limits following removal of housing ordinances statewide

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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, 2023.

Fort Collins City Council passed a measure officially abolishing housing occupancy limits by way of a 5-2 vote, following the implementation of HB24-1007, a bill signed by Gov. Jared Polis that officially prohibits counties, cities and municipalities from limiting the number of unrelated people who can live in a single dwelling.

The occupancy limit ordinance in Fort Collins, widely known as U+2, was effectively overturned by HB24-1007 without requiring a decision from Fort Collins City Council. Polis signed the bill at a ceremony April 15, and it officially went into effect statewide on July 1. The July 2 City Council meeting was the second and final reading regarding the abolishment of all housing occupancy ordinances in the City of Fort Collins.

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The vote was largely procedural, as the statewide bill eliminated discussion around occupancy limits at the city level. The two items on the agenda relating to the new state guidelines were a second reading of Ordinance No. 081, “Amending the Land Use Code of the City of Fort Collins to Remove Residential Occupancy Limitations” and Ordinance No. 082, “Amending the Code of the City of Fort Collins to Conform with the Removal of Residential Occupancy Limitations from the Land Use Code,” according to the agenda.

Upon first reading the ordinances, council passed by way of a 5-1 vote, with Councilmember Kelly Ohlson voting against and Mayor Jeni Arndt being absent.

Ohlson has been a longstanding critic of removing occupancy ordinances. During council discussion of the ordinances, he voiced disapproval that they had been passed and expressed belief that housing occupancy ordinances would face further discussion at the city level down the line.

“It is what it is because of the state’s action,” Arndt said during council discussion. “I believe that we’re all committed to the quality of life in Fort Collins and the preservation of neighborhood, especially quality of life. And we did pass a public nuisance ordinance, which is in effect, and I want to take that very seriously.”

Passed in 2022, the public nuisance ordinance defines and acts against both public nuisances and chronic nuisance properties.

“Public policy kind of comes and goes,” Arndt said in her comment. “And it’s an iterative process. I don’t disagree that we might be back discussing this either as a city or as a state at some point to make sure that we are being permissive in our housing policies to be inclusive. And also, we’re making sure that people have safe and healthy and peaceful neighborhoods.”

Councilmember Susan Gutowsky echoed Ohlson’s concerns about governmental overreach in terms of control of the occupancy limits.

“What the occupancy ordinance represents for me, along with a number of other things that happened at the state level, is a government overreach,” Gutowsky said in her statement during council discussion. “We had every intention of looking at our occupancy code and dealing with it as a council, reflecting our values within our community. And, and I think we do that really well, and it’s called local control. And so it’s extremely disappointing that it came up from state as a cookie cutter solution for occupancy.”

HB24-1007’s implementation on July 1 officially allowed more than three unrelated people to sign a lease on a residential dwelling for the first time since 2017, when U+2 was introduced.

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“It took away our opportunity as a council to deal with our problems in our way,” Gutowsky said. “So you know, I worry a lot when things like this happen because I see our local control being nibbled away gradually, and I think we need to be extremely vigilant of that. I’m just sorry that we lost the opportunity to take care of it ourselves.”

The two ordinances passed by way of a 5-2 vote, with Ohlson and Gutowsky voting in opposition. 

“My hope is that after tonight for those — we estimate 1,500 households — that may be breaking this ordinance because they have no other choice,” said Councilmember Julie Pignataro before the vote. “This is just how they have to live and that they can sleep a little better tonight knowing that they are not breaking a law just to have a roof over their heads.”

Reach Allie Seibel at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @allie_seibel_

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About the Contributors
Allie Seibel
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.
Lucy Morantz
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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