May 052005
Authors: James Baetke

In the hopes of unifying Fort Collins, a community picnic is being hosted Saturday bringing up issues such as the city's economic stance and the three-unrelated ordinance.

Organizers said the event is expected to be an open forum, and a variety of other topics will be discussed. Free food, music and speeches will be the core of the event and all community members are encouraged to attend. The picnic will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. at City Park.

"We are finally bringing all the stakeholders together in a fun environment," said Theresa Ramos-Garcia, community affairs director for the Fort Collins Board of Realtors.

Wayne Lewis, a picnic organizer and sophomore financial real estate major, said that the city, the Associated Students of CSU and the Fort Collins Board of Realtors are on deck to sponsor the free event that will be catered by Silvermine Subs and feature live music.

Lewis said state legislators might attend the picnic.

Mayor-elect Doug Hutchinson and several City Council members will be there, as will ASCSU President-elect Courtney Stephens.

Ramos-Garcia said the Board of Realtors' main intent in co-sponsoring the event is to come to a compromise on the three-unrelated ordinance and to discuss the economic state of the city. She also said the board wants to form "partners" and "talk things through."

The three-unrelated ordinance states that no more than three unrelated people may live together in a single-family housing unit. Otherwise, residents who do not abide by the law are violating zoning parameters.

The three-unrelated ordinance dates back to the 1960s and has become the topic of controversy lately among citizens, partly because candidates in the April 5 municipal elections used the ordinance as a platform issue.

"It seems for me, with the election, the (three-unrelated) issue was really brought to the fore," Hutchinson said.

Ramos-Garcia said the Board of Realtors has a vested interest in the community picnic to help people understand that investors and others buying property in Fort Collins should not be scared away by dated laws such as the three-unrelated.

When investors are scared away and individuals have to pay more in rent because they cannot fill a house with more people, the economy is impacted, Ramos-Garcia said.

"If you have a six-bedroom house with only three people in it, it is just a waste of property," Ramos-Garcia said.

Robert Hau, Board of Realtors president, said the board considers investors' interests, but many other factors play a part in coming to a compromise on the three-unrelated issue.

"We have a very broad constituency we serve," Hau said.

Hau said he understands the opinions of the Rolland Moore West Neighborhood Network – who have voiced desire for stronger law enforcement – the city and the students calling the law discriminatory and unfair.

"We are the grease for the skids," Hau said. He said the board is the mediator in coming to a three-unrelated compromise.

However, advertisements for roommates of four, five and six bedrooms are available for rent.

Melissa Rink, a leasing agent for University House at Rams Pointe, said property managers ignore the three-unrelated law there. The housing at Rams Pointe and other student-populated dwellings carry four-bedroom units, a clear violation of the law.

"We do not enforce (the three-unrelated law)," Rink said, who added that about 83 percent of the four-bedroom units are reserved for next fall.

Another issue that will be discussed at the picnic is the economy. Hutchinson said City Council has decided on a plan to remove the expected $12 million shortfall from the 2006-07 budget.

The plan is being called an outcome-based budgeting that looks at what the people of Fort Collins want. Based on the plan, several key outcomes were formulated by citizens and outlined by City Council. Each outcome will be looked at and given funds, but each will have a cutoff point where cuts will have to be made and things will not get funded.

"This is a major change. It is the right way to do it," Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said cuts have to be made and a balanced budget must be obtained. He said it is a state law that a municipality cannot operate in the red.

The economy and three-unrelated ordinance are both complex issues, Hutchinson said. He said he is open to more ideas on both topics but wants the picnic to be "civil," with diverse adult discussions.

"We have to act," Hutchinson said.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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