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New FoCo development code OK’d over objections  

FORT COLLINS — The Fort Collins City Council gave final approval Tuesday night to major changes to the city’s residential land-use code — but not before hearing spirited opposition from two of its members and several citizens.

Meant to encourage a more diverse range of housing as the city grows and provide incentives for affordable housing, the code — now to be known as the land-development code — passed on a 5-2 vote. But council members Kelly Ohlson and Susan Gutowsky strongly dissented. Ohlson charged that the revised code had been formulated by “vested economic interests” through a “rigged system,” and Gutowsky pleaded with the rest of the council to put off a vote until more citizen input could be considered, repeatedly asking, “What’s the rush?”

Some residents who came to the microphones complained that they’d had no warning that these changes were in the works — although council members and city staffers who supported the revision pointed out that the changes followed five years of community engagement and more than 15 months of work by city planners.

Perhaps the biggest point of contention was the new code’s provision that Fort Collins would no longer have zones just for single-family homes in low-density neighborhoods. Opponents said they feared for their property values and increased traffic if the house next door could be “scraped” and replaced with a duplex or triplex.

The revised code, which had not been updated since 1997 when the city was half its current size and average home prices were less than current levels, had been approved on first reading at the council’s Oct. 18 meeting after about 18 amendments had been made. It includes provisions about building design, parking requirements and density.

As presented by city housing manager Meaghan Overton and senior city planner Noah Beals, the new code’s goals included increasing overall housing capacity including permission to add second dwellings on existing lots, encourage more diverse choices in housing, and make the development-review process more predictable.

Opponents protested many of those points. Ohlson, pointing out that “cost doesn’t equal price” in the marketplace, questioned whether affordability could be guaranteed given that properties would sell for the highest price the market could bear. City staff had contended that the rules in some of the previous zones — especially those that prohibited construction of secondary dwellings on lots — discouraged even attempts to provide affordable-housing options.

Complaints were also raised that much of the streamlined development-review process, including design reviews for residential projects, would eliminate the requirement for public meetings to get neighbors’ input. Overton and Beals answered that members of the public remain free to pass on their concerns to city staffers at any time.

Staffers projected that the code revisions could increase Fort Collins’ total housing capacity by 53% — and 63% along housing corridors.

The full text of the new 470-page land development code is online at

Source: BizWest