May 052009
 
Authors: Madeline Novey

City council passed an amendment Tuesday that will strengthen enforcement of the city ordinance that prohibits three unrelated people from living in one residence, despite protest from students and community members.

The amendment to the city law Three Unrelated, commonly referred to as U+2, authorizes an enforcement official to administer a citation without first serving a notice of violation. This is a change city staff said is a “tool” for better enforcement, especially against “blatant violators.”

“I’m pleased it passed,” said Fort Collins House Inspector Derf Green of the amendment, which passed 5-2 after almost two hours of debate and discussion in City Hall. “(The amendment) gives us the tools we need to enforce (the ordinance).”

Members of ASCSU said they were disappointed in the council’s decision but were not surprised.

“It broke down how I expected,” said ASCSU Intra-University senator Jordan Von Borken. “I think it was passed underhandedly because it was a matter of enforcement and not policy.”

Under the new amendment, landlords and city enforcement officers like Green are not required to give violators a notice of violation, allowing residents to correct the situation before they are issued a citation. If ticketed, violators have seven days to move out and both they and the landlords, if they were aware of the violation, must pay a $1000 fine.

Opponents of the amendment argued changing the ordinance five months before its comprehensive council review on Oct. 27 would “skew” the data –/the number of violations — that will be presented at that council meeting.

“Shifting the rules of the game in the middle of a study . is shifting the entire study in its whole right,” said Blue Hovatter, a community member who provided citizen input.

In 2005, city council decided to study the ordinance and conduct analysis of its effectiveness after being downgraded to a civil offense from a criminal classification. Originally scheduled in January, the comprehensive review was pushed back to October, a decision many stakeholders strongly opposed.

Additionally, the nine members of student government, one student at large and several community members who spoke during the citizen input period, said changing the ordinance before October’s review “flies in the faces of the stakeholders,” groups of citizens that have met over several months to give input on U+2.

Others agreed that the new enforcement gives too much discretion and disregards due process.

“This amendment will give an inspector who is unbiased too much power,” said David Ambrose, an Associated Students of CSU senator for the College of Business.

Supporters of the amendment said that the integrity of the ordinance would not change from its original intent, which was to maintain “low-density, single-family neighborhoods,” according to Kelly Ohlson, city council member for District 5.

As debate became more focused on the overarching policy than the idea of enforcement, Wade Troxell, city council member for District 4, asked if the amendment was “targeted” at students.

Ninety percent of past cases were brought against students city council staff estimated, a group comprised of individuals from Neighborhood Services and other agencies who recommended the amendment to city council.

From 2007 to 2008 there were fewer cases in which tenants were found in violation of the ordinance. In 2008, there were 59 cases, 29 of which found tenants in violation as compared with 2007, in which there were 147 occupancy cases, 67 of which were substantiated.

One community member said these numbers did not warrant an increase in enforcement.

“I thought their own data didn’t show a need for increased enforcement,” said Shane Curtiss Miller.

Assistant News Editor Madeline Novey can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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