Apr 162009
Authors: Matt Minich

In an effort to bring more transparency and to garner student input on a controversial city law that allows only three unrelated residents to live in one house, Fort Collins officials met with about 30 students Thursday to provide clarity to the confusing ordinance.

As the two-year review of the three-unrelated ordinance approaches, Fort Collins staff sought input on the mandate, commonly called U+2, providing little-known information on their way to collecting it.

For instance, anyone who spends more than 30 nights a year in a residence is officially considered a resident by the city. That means renters whose significant others frequent their homes often can be considered in violation of U+2.

The ordinance limits occupancy of houses in Fort Collins to two adults, their dependents and one other person./ Under the ordinance, groups of four or more students cannot legally live in the same home, even if the house has more than three bedrooms. Enforcement of the ordinance began in 2007, and Fort Collins City Council will evaluate the ordinance’s effectiveness in preventing noise and parking problems and its effects on the local housing market at a city council work session on October 27./

“We’re here to try to gain a better understanding from you about how this has affected you,” said Beth Sowder, the city’s Neighborhood Services manager, to the crowd of students./

Sowder said the forum was held to get the input of all students, including those who may graduate before the ordinance’s two-year review in October./ /

Housing inspector Derf Green said he had enforced instances where visits by boyfriends or girlfriends caused renters to be in violation./

The event also precedes an additional city council discussion on May 5, which will discuss possible revisions to the enforcement of the ordinance./ Currently, renters found to be in violation are given notice and 30 days to rectify the violation. /

Taylor Smoot, president of the Associated Students of CSU, said at the forum that the proposed changes to the enforcement code are a sign that the dialogue between city council and students over the last two years has gone unheard./

“Our efforts have failed,” Smoot said./

Attempts to crack down on the ordinance’s enforcement flies in the face of all efforts of outreach made by city staff and students, he said./ /

Students generally agreed the ordinance is not the proper solution for problems such as parking, noise and yard maintenance, which can be dealt with individually./ /

“Three-unrelated really isn’t addressing the root of our problem,” said David Ambrose, a freshman business major and ASCSU senator for the College of Business./

Senior business major Trevor Trout said the most adverse effects of the ordinance are not on students who could not live in groups of four, but on the situation that it established between landlords and renters who were in violation./

“What three-unrelated does is it places landlords in a leverage position over students,” Trout said./ He said students living in unsafe or poorly maintained homes had no recourse against landlords if they were living in violation./

ASCSU and city staff collected the information, which will be introduced at the city council work session reviewing the ordinance in October.

City council beat writer Matt Minich can be reached at news@collegian.com./

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