Letter to the Editor: Shocking Changes to Fort Collins City Land Use Code

PHOTO FROM SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

This Letter to the Editor is solely the opinion of its author. It does not reflect the opinion of this newspaper’s staff, ownership, or management.

By Amy Hahn

Like most residents of Fort Collins, I was shocked to hear of a massive change under consideration to the current city Land Use Codes (LUC). While these changes will affect every neighborhood in the city to some degree, most residents did not receive notice. While the LUC has been in need of an update for sure (and the objective of the proposal is supposed to create affordable housing, something we badly need), this gigantic redux was absolutely not effectively publicized, rendering public response both late and poorly prepared. Even knowledgeable folks, from realtors to former Planning & Zoning officials to former city planners and other policy hawks, stood before City Council and said, “Hey, I hadn’t even heard about this and publicity has been almost nil. Please give residents a little more time, and a lot more information, before you vote to adopt this.”

Most of the voices objecting called out not just the lack of outreach, but a gaping lack of data supporting these changes relative to the stated objective, plus no real onus (in the form of requirements) on the development community to shoulder a portion of the cost and action. Of great concern is that this new LUC shuts down the public process for input to projects in the interest of “streamlining” project approval. In other words, there is no public opportunity to affect the course of development projects before they are approved. We are now limited to “asking questions” and going through a burdensome, limited, and lengthy appeal process once a project has been approved.

With the exception of two Council members, the Council voted to adopt the new Codes despite dozens of requests for more time and opportunity for public participation.

I voted for Jeni Arndt. While I reserve any outright condemnation, I’m extremely concerned about how this was done. This reeks of impropriety and a steamrolling process behind the scenes. As pointed out by many including one of the dissenting Council members, what sort of municipality actively shuts down public participation other than one that wants to keep their machinations out of the public eye? Seriously.

While one can claim “NIMBY” forever (and there were certainly some in that camp), most of the objections on November 1 focused on lack of transparency, influence by and favorable treatment for developers and investors, and the removal of citizens from an extremely impactful (and permanent) action. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Council serenely gaslighted the elephant in the room, citing a disconnect between generations of residents. One City Council member (in the aye category) suggested that a banner be placed on the homepage of the City Council website, reminding people of workshop events offered while this plan was coming together. She fizzled when the audience began to laugh.

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