Apr 132005
Authors: James Baetke

"Fort Collins and CSU 1st Annual Community Meeting"

April 30, 2005

City Park Pavillions

1p.m. to about 3 p.m.

Sponsored by ASCSU

Expect to see: City Council members, state legislatures, students and neighbors in the community

One CSU sophomore is welcoming the new faces to City Council by voicing his opinion on the controversial three-unrelated ordinance.

Wayne Lewis believes the university administration needs to take a stance on the issue and that all the stakeholders in the community need to rewrite the "outdated" law.

"I do think there should be an occupancy limit, but not based on familial status," said Wayne Lewis, a sophomore majoring in financial real estate.

Lewis, a former Associated Students of CSU senator, will call on local and state representatives, including those at the Capitol and with City Council, to discuss the issue at a community-wide event April 30, he said.

The three-unrelated law dates back to the 1960s and states that residences cannot have more than three-unrelated residents living in them at one time. The law has not been heavily enforced, but it has become the topic of controversy lately among citizens, partly because candidates in the April 5 municipal elections used the law as a platform issue.

Bob Brown, newly elected councilman for District 3, said he would like to see the law revised and updated. Brown described the ordinance as a dated law that was made 30 years ago, when the average home was only 1,900 square feet and living with more than three-unrelated people was seen as "unhealthy."

Some Fort Collins homeowners, especially those associated with the Rolland Moore West Neighborhood Network, have been vocal at City Council meetings in getting stronger enforcement of the law.

Tom Loran, member of the Rolland Moore network, said his group is very interested in coming together and finding compromise.

"This is not about the students. I want the whole student factor out of the picture," Loran said.

Loran said "slumlords" who rent out homes for cheap and put students' safety in danger by breaking the three-unrelated law are taking advantage of student tenants.

"The landlords are laughing all the way to the bank," Loran said.

The issue surrounding the enforcement of the three-unrelated law comes down to "an economic and business issue," Loran said.

Loran questions why the city regulates his at-home business, while just down the block a rental property violates a city mandate. In Loran's eyes, the rental property is also a business venture where the landlord is making the profit.

Theresa Ramos-Garcia, community affairs director for the Fort Collins Board of Realtors, said many of City Council's new members used the three-unrelated law in one way or another to promote their platform.

"The three-unrelated is way too big; way too emotional (to ignore)," Ramos-Garcia said.

In a meeting hosted by Lewis Thursday, he discussed ways to educate the community about the law and how he will present arguments to City Council and the public. Those in attendance consisted two board of realtors members, newly elected ASCSU President Courtney Stephens and three state Capitol interns representing a group of local lawmakers that includes Sen. Bob Bacon and Rep. Angie Paccione, both Democrats from Fort Collins, and Rep. Stephanie Takis, D-Adams County, and Rep. Bob McCluskey, a R-Fort Collins.

All those who attended the meeting support Lewis' efforts to revamp a law they feel unfairly targets students in Fort Collins.

Lewis wants the City Council to agree that occupancy limits should not be the concentration of the law.

Alec Jeffries, a Capitol intern and junior political science major, agrees with Lewis but also believes educating the public is crucial for people to understand how the law should be revamped.

"The majority of homeowners are not thinking logically," Jeffries said.

Jeffries wants the community to understand that students are generally well-behaved and respectful of their neighbors. The stereotypes homeowners carry of the majority of the CSU students is at fault for those preconceived notions, he said.

Thursday's meeting also discussed the issue of the university and CSU President Larry Penley not taking a clear position on the law. For Lewis, if Penley voiced his clear opinion to the public, then the university would better be able to help the city possibly take a second look at the law.

"We do need some leadership," Lewis said.

Ramos-Garcia said in order for this issue to be fairly looked at, the administration must play a vital part in the discussion.

"This is one key that has been missing: The administration has not taken a position," Ramos-Garcia said.

CSU administration members could not be reached for comment.

Wesley Wright, an intern for Takis and senior finance real estate major, said it is essential for students to go into their neighborhood and recognize and report people who are creating disturbances and making others look bad, in order to prove that not all students are disrespectful.

The board of realtor's role in the situation is as facilitators of discussion. The board wants all the stakeholders to discuss possible compromises. It wants to protect student rental rights but also respect the arguments of neighborhoods.

Robert Hau, board of realtors president, said the board has a vested interest in getting the law updated to "contemporary" times.

"To take pressure off of neighborhoods we need to have a master plan in place to have that high quality of housing available," Hau said.

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