Yellow protest signs glared at City Council members during a Tuesday night work session, where meeting rules prohibited picketers from speaking. Children and adults alike wore badges demanding their continued independence from Fort Collins. Bystanders wondered what these Larimer County residents were so heated about.
For now, the people protesting the possibility to make an area west of Interstate 25 and state Highway 392 part of Fort Collins are simply residents of unincorporated Larimer County. However, in the very near future, about 3,000 people could become part of the city of Fort Collins.
"The city becomes a community by the actions we're considering," said Mayor Doug Hutchison. "A community is that kind of growth."
Hutchison said after an enclave meets certain city requirements, the city is obligated to consider adding the piece of land to the city's boundaries within two years. However, this process can take quite some time when some residents of the area are opposed, as in this case.
"We don't want the city of Fort Collins to be looked at as an evil empire trying to take over," Hutchison said.
For residents of the area near Trilby Road, many concerns are at hand. For small business owners in the area, a future in Fort Collins would require a city sales tax.
City Manager Darin Atteberry said although he doesn't oppose the annexation, he has heard a variety of concerns.
"People are concerned we will use a different power of domain, use more land for city sidewalks, concerns about frontage-road requirements, and that they may go out of business," Atteberry said.
However, many of the fears and concerns throughout the southwestern border of the city are wild and untrue, Hutchison said.
"One person said we were going to bring in bulldozers and bulldoze the land," Hutchison said. "There are so many wild rumors and serious misconceptions, it's out of hand."
For the mayor and some of the City Council, the fact that residents of Larimer County have a strong aversion to becoming part of Fort Collins is surprising. Cameron Gloss, the current planning director, said although there would be costs to the city budget with the annexation, the idea of increasing the boundaries wouldn't really hurt those living in the area.
"I think we need to look at the map and decide if that area is never going to be part of Fort Collins," said City Councilman Ben Manvel, District 1. "I think it will someday, it's just a matter of timing."
Because of the opposition, the annexation isn't required or rushed. Some City Council members as well as Fort Collins residents have already made up their minds, but this process may require a lot more consideration than past annexations.
"We need to take a little more time as a council to hear concerns and questions," said City Councilman Kurt Kastein, District 4. "We need to ask, how real is the obligation to annex? Because if there really is a choice, then it's a whole different ballgame."
To some City Council members, the idea of putting the issue on hold for several more months or even a year is unbelievable. Some believe the city of Fort Collins expects the area to be annexed.
"I'm flabbergasted that after four and a half years we need more time to decide that this enclave should be a part of Fort Collins," said City Council member David Roy, District 6. "I see nothing in the situation to halt this."