Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Free, Three Credit Class on Selling Historic Fort Collins Homes - December 7, 2015

Protect Our Old Town Homes is hosting a free, 3-credit class for Realtors on December 7th from 1 - 5pm. This class will provide local Realtors with three continuing education credits with the Colorado Division of Real Estate while exploring the unique issues related to selling historic homes in Fort Collins. Particular emphasis will be given to the processes and benefits of historic landmark designation so that Realtors will be able to clearly pass this information on to potential buyers.

 Topics to be covered include:
• The purpose behind historic designation and the related economic, environmental, and social benefits of designating properties
• The financial benefits of historic designation specific to the building owner
• An overview of Fort Collins’ historic neighborhoods
• Architectural styles in Fort Collins
• The review process for historic designation
• General maintenance for historic homes
• Researching historic homes

The class is free, but space is limited. This four-hour class will be held at First Bank, 100 S. College in the downstairs meeting room. Speakers include Historic Preservation staff with the City, a local building contractor who is familiar with working on older homes, and a local historian.

Sign up for the class through Eventbrite:

Still have questions? Feel free to contact Meg Dunn at

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Is your residential neighborhood always going to be residential?

When we buy our homes we want to have some certainty that the neighborhood around us won’t be converted to incompatible uses. Since 1997 the City of Fort Collins has preserved neighborhood quality of life and residential property values through zoning rules which allow specific uses on properties within defined zone districts.
It seems straightforward enough that if the zoning is residential, your home won’t soon be surrounded by offices, bed-and-breakfast inns or other uses. But in Fort Collins there is a little-known clause in the Land Use Code which erases this certainty. The Addition of a Permitted Use (APU) was originally enacted to allow the Director of Community Development & Neighborhood Services to add appropriate new uses to entire zone districts if such uses were not already explicitly included in the Land Use Code. Examples where it was used include "non-alcoholic nightclubs", "wildlife rehabilitation centers" and most recently "music facilities."
But, in 2008 as part of the "routine" Land Use Code updates, this clause was modified to allow the Planning and Zoning Board to apply the APU to individual properties and to add land uses which are already accommodated in other zone districts. This was done without any public input but it has the potential to have profound effects on our residential neighborhoods, especially given the recent increase in development we have been seeing here in Fort Collins.
All of the recent cases (since the 2008 change) have been to add uses which are already allowed elsewhere in other zone districts and about 44% of these have been in residential zones. Two-thirds of the City’s twenty-six zone districts already allow uses such as commercial, retail and high density housing – this is mixed use development. It is not necessary to allow commercial and other non-residential uses to creep into residential neighborhoods. Nor is it necessary to allow high-density housing to infiltrate single-family neighborhoods.
No other city has a clause anything like this. It essentially enables a property owner who no longer wishes to use their home as a home to add some other use – an unearned windfall that comes at the expense of the rest of the neighborhood. Changing residential properties to commercial uses erodes the residential character of a neighborhood, it reduces the number of houses available for residential use, thus driving up housing costs and it violates the principle of equal protection under the law by granting different rights to a single property owner.
Several city residents have been working to have this clause removed from nine zone districts in order to protect neighborhoods. This proposition is a reasonable solution which would balance the protection of residential neighborhoods with the flexibility to add new uses on individual properties in non-residential zones.
We feel that the APU should be eliminated from these zone districts because they are primarily residential, are adjacent to primarily residential zones (and already allow compatible non-residential uses) or are explicitly defined as buffer zones which serve to protect residential zones from incompatible uses (and which again allow some non-residential uses):

• Neighborhood Conservation, Low Density (N-C-L)
• Neighborhood Conservation, Medium Density (N-C-M)
• Low Density Residential (R-L)
• Rural Land Use (R-U-L)
• Urban Estate (U-E)
• Residential Foothills Development (R-F)
• Low Density Mixed –Use Neighborhood (L-M-N)
• Medium Density Mixed-Use Neighborhood (M-M-N)
• Neighborhood Conservation Buffer (N-C-B).

This proposed change will come before City Council soon (it is listed on the 6-month calendar for June 2). Please plan to attend and help show support for neighborhoods and for strong protection of residential character and uses.
We will post and update when the date for the Council hearing is set.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Additional Permitted Use (APU) - an open letter to City Council

RE: Agenda Item 13 Re: Land Use Code Change Section 1.3.4 Addition of Permitted Uses

Dear Mayor Weitkunat and Council Members,
We are writing to comment on the June 3rd suggested changes to the Land Use Code.  A committee of our members reviewed the proposed changes to the Code and our comments are below.  We also sent comments on this issue to the Planning and Zoning Board in May concerning needed changes.

Protect Our Old Town homes supports the zoning of residential neighborhoods that allows for fewer land uses and more restrictions than other zones.  Residential zoning protects our homes from incompatible uses and provides predictability for changes in neighboring properties. We believe the Addition of Permitted Use (APU) rules, especially when applied in residential zoning districts, have the effect of spot re-zoning in that it allows a single property to increase its market value by upzoning to additional land uses, while likely lowering the adjacent and nearby residential market values. 

Homeowners put their life savings into purchasing their homes, which are the biggest investment most families make, and they expect their investment to be protected from incompatible uses by zoning. They also expect that new uses in their residential zone will be residential uses similar to their own (e.g. single-family homes).  The adoption of zoning regulations by local governments is intended to protect residential property values, among other purposes, and to make land use changes more predictable for land owners and developers alike.   The APU current and proposed rules allow residential properties to be upzoned to a “higher and better use”, which in turn increases the property value of that single property, and in many cases, lowers or caps the property values of adjacent or nearby homes for residential use.  In other words, a single family home next to a commercial or multi-family land use, loses value as a single family home as a secondary impact of the upzoning allowed by the APU. The APU process also causes homeowners and neighborhoods to have to maintain an undesired level of vigilance for every new development, redevelopment, and infill proposal or change of property ownership in their neighborhood.  We believe the APU negates the underlying purposes and goals of residential zoning and is unfair to residential neighborhoods. 

Protect Our Old Town Homes also believes the elimination of the applicability of the APU in residential zones would better protect our historic homes in Old Town by maintaining the residential character of the neighborhoods and by decreasing the  market pressures to upzone residential lots for higher density residential or commercial uses. Finally, this issue is not just an Old Town issue. Eliminating the applicability of Additional Permitted Uses for all residential zones would also greatly benefit other residential neighborhoods across the city.

Allowing for Additional Permitted Uses as is stated in the current and proposed amendments to the Land Use Code (LUC) negates the underlying zoning, removes the predictability of future, compatible residential land use developments, infill or redevelopment, and we believe should be removed from applicability in the residential zoning districts. 

Suggested Changes
POOTH recommends that Land Use Code Section 1.3.4. be amended to remove the following nine Districts from applicability, i.e. to apply the Addition of Permitted Uses to all zones except the following Districts:
·       Neighborhood Conservation, Low Density (N-C-L)
·       Neighborhood Conservation, Medium Density (N-C-M)
·       Low Density Residential (R-L)
·       Rural Land Use (R-U-L)
·       Urban Estate (U-E)
·       Residential Foothills Development (R-F)
·       Low Density Mixed –Use Neighborhood (L-M-N)
·       Medium Density Mixed-Use Neighborhood (M-M-N)
·       Neighborhood Conservation Buffer (N-C-B).

Finally, Protect Our Old Town Homes believes that if the Addition of Permitted Uses section is amended to remove applicability for these residential zones, that this change will protect residential property values, reduce neighborhood conflict and delays to appropriate development/redevelopment proposals, and provide more predictability for both neighborhoods and prospective property owners seeking to use a property for a particular use.

We ask that the City Council remove the Additional Permitted Uses applicability from residential districts as part of the proposed Land Use Code amendments and update.


Gina C. Janett

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Preserve the Character: Simple Roof Lines

Section 4.7(A) - Purpose 

The Neighborhood Conservation, Low Density District is intended to preserve the
character of areas that have a predominance of developed single-family dwellings and have
been given this designation in accordance with an adopted subarea plan.

There's a statement in Fort Collin's city code that requires new single family homes being built in the NCL district to keep within the overall character of the neighborhood where the house is being built. (The NCL, or Neighborhood Conservation, Low Density, district occurs only within Old Town, Fort Collins.) This raises interesting questions about character. How do you determine the overall character of a neighborhood? And does building a new house that preserves that same character mean building something identical to the houses already in the neighborhood?

There's a proposed new house on Magnolia on the west side of Old Town that's run up against these exact questions. Because one of the specific areas of concern had to do with the second story lines of the house, this post will focus specifically on the second story lines of this proposed house as well as the neighboring houses in an effort to explore these questions.

First, let's look at the houses in the neighborhood, both original houses and some houses where the owners have "popped the top" (meaning they've added a second story to a previously one story house). Each photograph has red lines drawn on them to highlight the line of the roof and any other features (windows excluded) that stand out along the outline of the house. You'll note a fairly wide variety of housing types but hopefully we'll see a pattern in the character of the lines of the houses.

One story. Simple roofline with one visible gable.

Two stories. Simple roofline with one visible gable and a chimney.

One story. Bumpy but predominantly horizontal roofline. 

One story. Simple roofline with one visible gable. 

One story. Simple roofline with one visible gable. 

One story. Simple roofline. Hipped gables at either end creating a lower profile roof.
Two chimneys. Rounded piece over front door.

One story. Simple roofline with two visible gables. 

One story. Simple hipped roofline. 

Two story. Simple gabled roofline.
This house was remodeled in 1993, which is probably when the second story was added.

Two story. Simple roofline with one visible gable.
Broad expanse of second story visible.
This house was remodeled in 2006 at which point the second story was added.

You'll note that even in the houses that have had a second story added, the lines of the second story of the house are still fairly simple. Broad expanses of roof are common. In general, the houses are either one story tall or the second story is tucked into the roofline (The second photo in the series shows an example of this.), with the exception of the two houses where second stories were added later. 

It is fair to say that although the two houses with additions no longer fit into the character of the neighborhood in terms of size, they still fit in rather well in terms of simplicity of second story lines. Now lets look at the house that is being proposed at 1017 Magnolia. 

Two story. Complex rooflines. One chimney. One second story porch.

You'll note a lot more red in the proposed house plan. There is no simple, broad expanse of roof with one or two smaller additions (like a gable or a chimney). Instead there are multiple rooflines, variations in where walls start and stop, and a second story porch. The city planners have recommended that this plan be denied because it veers so substantially from the character of the surrounding houses. The administrative meeting for this build was held on Thursday, December 5th. The hearing officer has 10 days to get back to the builders with an acceptance or denial of their plans. 

The character of the houses in this neighborhood become apparent as you look at the various buildings on Magnolia, Wayne and Gordon. Though there's quite a diversity in overall style, one very clear similarity between the buildings is one or one and a half story buildings with very simple rooflines. Any new house being built in this area should seek to mimic the simple rooflines while maintaining flexibility in overall style. (There's actually a prominent series of Tudor style houses in this area as shown by the pointed gables over the doorways and the occasional rounded doors. Tudor styles are also popular in a lot of new houses on the southeast end of Fort Collins, though these newer buildings tend to go heavy on the gabling, which wouldn't fit as well into this simple roofed neighborhood.) If the builders really wanted to help maintain the character of this neighborhood, they might add some Tudor features. But really, to fit in, simplicity is important whereas the specific style of house is less important. 

Finding the overall character of a neighborhood involves taking into account not only the styles of the houses in the neighborhood (are they Victorian? Craftsman? Tudor Revival? Modern?) but also height, width, and complexity. There's still a lot of room for variation for a new house being built, but in order to keep the historic character, the new building should still retain the general characteristics of the older neighborhood. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Preserving the Buildings that Make Our Community Unique

Wayne Wood, a preservationist from Riverside, Avondale in Jackson, Florida, gives this TED talk on why preservation is important. He gives a great overview not only of what preservation is and why it's worth doing (historically, culturally, and economically), but also why it can be controversial and how preservationists can make blunders that confuse matters even more.

We highly recommend this 16 minute video, but if you don't have time for the entire thing, scroll down past the video to see a few quotes below.

If you're receiving this post via email and can't see the video, click through directly to YouTube using this link: Historical Preservation - A Radical Conservative Liberal Concept: Wayne Wood at TEDxRiversideAvondale.

- - - - - - - - - -

"Architecture is the most public of all of our arts. These buildings are out there for us to see and to enjoy every day. They're not housed in a museum or a gallery or in a theater. But we get to interact with our buildings in our community and connect to our community in that way. If a building is beautiful, it uplifts our community. And buildings are visual works of art that connect us all. If you have a building like this in your city, it gives you a sense of place, a sense of importance. And it makes our town different from all those other towns."

"An ugly building is a scar that must be endured by all of us."

"If you're gonna spend my taxpayer money and build a building in the name of my city, make it something wonderful that expresses the joy and grandeur and culture of not just now in our city, but what it will be like in the future."

"If you tear down a historic building, you've not only lost the historic value and the cultural value, but you've lost the materials it was made of and the energy that went into consuming it.  Now our society has this big penchant for recycling our household wastes. And yet if you demolish an average 2,500 square foot American home, you have totally obliterated all the environmental and economic benefits you gave by recycling one million aluminum cans -- a neighborhood's generation's worth of recycling."