Buried within Fort Collins city zoning code is a restriction on
the number of unrelated persons who can live under the same roof –
three. The ordinance has little support in city council.
“Why do we have an unconstitutional ordinance without sufficient
data to back it up?” said Mayor Ray Martinez.
Similar laws in other states have been both upheld and stricken
by state supreme courts, according to Bill Bertschy, district one
representative and Mayor Pro Tem.
The ordinance places many students in a position where they must
choose between living with three or more friends and violating a
rarely enforced law.
While the majority of council members agree the ordinance is
outdated, they hesitate to remove it without implementing new laws
to meet current complaints concerning the quality of living in
“If we remove (the three-unrelated ordinance), the neighbors in
all of these communities will feel abandoned,” said Marty Tharp,
district 5 council member. District 5 includes the area generally
southeast of College Avenue and Drake Road and northwest of Harmony
Road and Timberline Road.
Associated Students of CSU unanimously passed a resolution last
week stating their opposition to the “Three-Unrelated
The ASCSU resolution, endorsed by the Committee for Student
Empowerment, points out that laws are already in place to prohibit
noise and parking violations. It also emphasizes the relationship
of tenants does not determine their behavior.
ASCSU representatives presented the resolution to city council
members Tuesday night.
“There is no need for a law in Fort Collins restricting the
relationship of people that occupy a household,” said Derek Brier,
ASCSU director of community affairs. “It is very hard for us to
find someone who can give us a straight answer to the question of
‘why do we have this ordinance?’ and ‘why was this ordinance put in
place in the first place?’ It makes me really curious as to why we
have an ordinance we don’t know the history of,” he said.
The city has already begun with a Neighborhood Task Force
charged to address the problem of noise, parking and improving the
overall quality of living with new ordinances.
But the task force has yet to recommend action to specifically
replace the three-unrelated ordinance.
Daren Atteberry, head of the Neighborhood Task Force, reported
2003 statistics to the council showing that while the police
received 4,175 calls for noise complaints, only 714 citations were
It was this statistic that Tharp felt needed to be changed
before the removal of the three-unrelated ordinance.
One possibility the task force mentioned is for the city to
license renters before they are able to rent within city limits. A
rental licensing system run by the city could both ensure tenants
are living in safe housing and that they obey the law.
“Jesse and Derek and I have a big concern when they start
talking about a rental licensing because most students do rent,”
Clausen said. “And so what we’re going to get into, is they’re
going to have to put a price on someone going out there to inspect
Clausen is concerned this could lead to higher living expenses
While the ordinance still remains on the books after Tuesday
night, Breier was pleased with the meeting’s outcome.
“I’ve had a lot of conversations with the council members and
they’ve said a lot of the same things on a one on one basis,” he
said. “But it was nice to see them say the same things on record,
in a public forum, on television. I think we’re really close to
seeing this thing gone.”