City and CSU Agree to Potential Path for Hughes Stadium Property Acquisition

PHOTO BY BLAINE HOWERTON. Hughes Stadium Field in 2015.

On Friday, August 20, the City of Fort Collins, Colorado State University System (CSU) and Cottonwood Lands and Farms (a private entity that owns the Strauss Lakes Property) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that addresses the Hughes Stadium Property and the Strauss Lakes property and sets out a general outline for agreement among the parties, with various conditions and contingencies, including the need for the parties to subsequently negotiate and enter into formal agreements.

In April 2021, Fort Collins voters passed a citizen-initiated ballot measure directing the City to rezone the Hughes Stadium property to the Public Open Lands zone district and to acquire the property at fair market value. City Council unanimously voted to adopt the rezoning on May 18, 2021, and a staff team was formed to work with CSU to consider possible options for pursuing the acquisition.

The MOU is intended to compensate CSU in order to meet the fiduciary obligations noted by CSU and provide CSU an alternative parcel of land near Horsetooth and Ziegler to be used for affordable housing. With those requirements met, CSU would then sell the Hughes Stadium property to the City. The arrangement is contingent on the Cottonwood Lands and Farms property sale and development going through the City’s regular development review process which will include opportunities for community engagement and feedback.

“I’m grateful for all the creative work that has gone into developing a pathway for agreement,” said Interim City Manager Kelly DiMartino. “We are fortunate to have community partners like CSU and Cottonwood Lands and Farms owner Bill McDowell. Not only does this plan create a framework for us to honor the will of our voters to purchase and conserve the Hughes site, but it also gives CSU the opportunity to make progress on our shared affordable housing priorities in another part of the community.”

“CSU’s goal has and continues to be to find a way to provide affordable housing options for our employees – a need that only continues to grow as each day passes. We also have to ensure we are meeting our fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers of Colorado,” CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank said. “We appreciate the City’s willingness to enter into productive discussions of possible options and Bill McDowell for bringing forward a potentially workable solution.”

The key terms of the MOU are as follows:

  1. Cottonwood agrees to submit applications for the entitlements on its property, referred to as the “Strauss Lakes Property” (including annexation, zoning, approval of land plan, subdivision, approval of the formation of a metro district and vested rights) consistent with the City’s laws, regulations and policies no later than December 31, 2022, and the City agrees to take prompt action on those applications.  The applications will include development terms acceptable to CSU on the approximately 24 acres of land Cottonwood would convey to CSU for development (the “CSU Parcel”).
  2. Cottonwood and CSU intend to enter into a purchase and sale agreement pursuant to which, upon completion of all the approvals desired by Cottonwood and CSU, including obtaining entitlements for development as desired, Cottonwood would convey the “CSU Parcel” to CSU for $1 million and other agreed-upon consideration and terms.
  3. The City and CSU intend to enter into a purchase and sale agreement pursuant to which the City would pay CSU $12.5 million to acquire the Hughes Property and all associated rights and appurtenances, subject to normal requirements and due diligence, and contingent on final approval of the entitlements that Cottonwood and CSU seek through the City’s processes. The agreement would include provisions related to CSU’s temporary forbearance from processing land use applications on the Hughes Property and tolling any regulatory takings claim CSU may have while the parties are under contract, as well as any other related agreements the parties reach.
  4. The MOU allows any party to terminate if the parties are unable to finalize the contemplated actions by December 31, 2022, despite their best reasonable efforts.
  5. The City reserves its discretion in exercising its authority in its review processes and the City’s financial obligations are subject to appropriation of funds sufficient and intended to carry out those obligations.
  6. The MOU makes clear that CSU is not waiving any claims or rights to proceed with the development of Hughes if Hughes is not conveyed to the City.

To read the full MOU document, visit: fcgov.com/hughes.

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