Jan 252005
 
Authors: James Baetke

The Fort Collins City Council will wait to amend the controversial three-related law until they receive the findings of an economic study costing the city about $33,000. If passed, the law will turn into a civil offense making it more enforceable .

In what could be seen as college students matched against fed-up neighborhoods, Tuesday night's City Council Study Session was a continuation of the arguments that surround rental registration, the three-unrelated rule and other nuisance-related topics.

Council members had the opportunity to put the three-unrelated issue on next week's council agenda and ditch the economic study, but council members chose to wait as scheduled in order not to "rush" into decisions and to utilize data from the study that cost the city $33,000, according to city council staff.

The study is expected to be finished Feb. 18 and possibly will be available for a first read at a City Council session Feb. 15.

CSU students have voiced opinion against city officials that is unfair to regulate how and where students can live, calling it discriminatory.

J.J. Henville, a CSU graduate, strongly opposes the three-unrelated rule calling it "outlandish." Henville said when he ran into some money he was able to purchase a home and rent it out to a group of students. Because of complaints from "retired" neighbors, the house was in obvious violation of the rule and eventually he was forced to resell the home.

"Complaints need to be based on some sort of value and not discrimination," Henville said.

Angry neighbors, especially those belonging to the Rolland Moore West Neighborhood Network, said they have run out of patience with drunk, irresponsible and heathenistic co-eds in their community.

Many students within Fort Collins have opposed the so-called "three-unrelated law" that prohibits more than three unrelated tenants to dwell within one single-family rental residence since its origin. Many believe the law is seldom enforced.

"This law came to us because out neighborhoods are under siege," said Council member David Roy of district six.

Roy said the three-unrelated issues revolve around quality of life and not economics. Roy has been against the economic study since the beginning and insists it asks the obvious and has "done harm."

Mayor Ray Martinez and Karen Weikunat, council member of District two, called the measure discriminatory.

"I have 600 people that say they have been discriminated against," Martinez said who held up stacks of note cards of written complaints.

Martinez said the current three-unrelated law can be construed as being a disguise for "kicking kids out of neighborhoods" and that kind of behavior ended in the 1960s.

Although it is likely the amendment will be passed some still have hope the law will be abolished altogether, and others, like Martinez, think Council will be back at the drawing boards in another two years.

"I do believe it is possible to get rid of three-unrelated," said Courtney Stephens, director of community affairs for the Associated Students of CSU.

Stephens said she and ASCSU have made it clear that on behalf of CSU students, three-unrelated is an issue that will not be "compromised, period."

Besides the three-unrelated ordinance, the Council directed other actions. The first being a process for a mandatory city-wide registration program and lease amendment, and the other being to amend the Public Nuisance Ordinance.

If passed, multiple offenders of the ordinance would not only have to pay associated fines but may have their ability to rent revoked.

A rental registration database would identify rental residences within the city. It would help the city educate renters about city codes to promote health and safety, give city officials a database to better connect with rental residences and give neighbors a chance to contact property managers about issues on the residence without having to call the city.

It is hopeful the rental registration plan will be implemented by April 1 and available online by September. The database would not list tenant names, only the address of the registered unit and the contact information for the property owner.

Councilwomen Marty Tharp of District 5, questions the registration plan. She is concerned with the fact that the main purpose of the plan is to address health and safety issues, yet mandatory inspections will not be a facet in the plan.

Furthermore, Tharp is worried that the tenants who sign the rental registration may be submitting themselves to violation of the three-unrelated law because it will be obvious to city officials if more than three unrelated people sign the form.

Other council members rebutted Tharp insisting rental registration would give tenants an incentive not to break the ordinance.

Other councilors were weary of the project startup cost, including Tharp.

"A half million dollars seems huge to start a registration program," Martinez said.

He also questioned the cost of the program and requested further detailed information on his budgetary concerns.

All six council members allowed the rental restriction plan to move forward but many are cautious to totally agreeing to the budgetary costs and other measures.

"I am primary concerned with the content on personal freedoms. I am reluctant to move forward with urgency," Weikenat said.

Anthony Smith, a Fort Collins realtor, is not a fan of the rental registration, nor does he applaud the efforts of the three-unrelated rule.

"The cost is expensive" Smith said, referring to the registration plan.

Marlene Lowell, member of the Poudre Valley Lion's Club, is skeptical of the Council's registration plan and proposed requirement for property owners to amend leases to tenants.

"I do not believe the facts and figures. I am not sure what the (councilors) really want," Lowell said.

Council members also discussed the idea to make it a misdemeanor offense for those taking part in a large social gathering or party that spills from its original location onto another property. It was reported in the study session that it cost over $10,000 for the city to clean after the CSU riots that occurred in the first weeks of the 2004 school year.

It is also possible that those liable for the "nuisance gathering" to be required to cover costs for police to respond to the scene.

Smith said the RMWNN group just wants to run the students out of their neighborhood. Despite the dozens of RMWNN members present at the study session, identifiable by their neon green nametags, Smith said they are easily "recognizable by their hair color."

"There are other solutions (to the three-unrelated). It has to do with common respect," Smith said.

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