Candidates for Fort Collins City Council rubbed elbows with business people at the Senior Center Wednesday at their last public forum, discussing their widely differing stances on the level of city development, among other central issues in this year’s election.
At the forum, organized by Envision, a networking group for young professionals in Fort Collins, candidates moved from table to table in rapid-fire succession, and were given no more than three minutes to answer questions.
Attendees used the limited time to ask the candidates about issues that have been central to this year’s election like city growth and jobs.
Many of the candidates addressed the topic of whether the city should concentrate on infill, which focuses on developing undeveloped areas within the city, or expand with sprawl.
“We shouldn’t be in a rush to be the biggest town we can possibly be,” said Kelly Ohlson. Ohlson is the incumbent candidate for District 5, which is mostly south of Prospect Road and west of College Avenue and includes the CSU campus.
Ohlson said he did not want to see Fort Collins to see rapid growth, and that the new council should be sure not to “rubber stamp” any development project that came across their desks.
Andrew Boucher, one of two challengers for Ohlson’s seat, said growth was an important part of Fort Collins’s economic future.
Boucher said restrictions on growth in Fort Collins would ultimately drive up housing costs and drive future generations of CSU graduates to move to other cities to search for available jobs and affordable housing.
Theodore Gates, the third candidate for Ohlson’s position and a current CSU student, said the development review process in Fort Collins is overly complicated and turns potential developers off while pushing them to other communities.
“We’ve got to streamline development,” Gates said. He said he was not sure exactly what hurdles developers faced from City Council, but that local developers have told him the process is overly complicated.
Ben Manvel, the incumbent candidate for District 1, said that the city plan had already been agreed on. The city, he said, should continue to focus on infill and avoid sprawl in development. District 1 covers the area north of Drake Road and East of College Avenue.
Ken Anderson, who is running against Manvel, said the current council’s opposition to sprawl was hindering development in Fort Collins.
Anderson said that the elements of the current council foster the “elitism” he said was driving local developers to other northern Colorado communities.
Vivian Armendariz, the other candidate for the position, did not touch on development or jobs, but addressed her reasons for running for City Council.
“District 1 hasn’t been well represented,” Armendariz said. She mentioned the exterior maintenance code, which sets mandates on the appearance of residents’ yards and fences. The policy does not take into consideration lower-income residents, who cannot always afford lawn care, Armendariz said.
City Council Elections Beat Reporter Matt Minich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org