Celebrating Lincoln In Fort Collins

LincolnStAveIt’s Presidents Day! Another chance to explore the homage paid to American presidents in Fort Collins. I covered Washington’s presence last year, so this year it’s Lincoln’s turn.

President Lincoln was well represented in Fort Collins’ city streets in the early days. North of Mountain Avenue was Lincoln Street, south of Mountain Avenue was Lincoln Avenue, and east of downtown was yet another Lincoln Avenue. This must have gotten confusing because only one of those three streets remains today. Back in the late 1800’s, the Lincoln Avenue east of Jefferson was only a short segment that connected Mountain Avenue to the river where it ran into the road to Greeley. Today the street extends all the way past Timberline and isdue for some major upgrades as both business and residential housing projects start to pop up in the area. Lincoln Street and Lincoln Avenue on the west side of the city were renamed to North and South Loomis Avenue, probably around the time that Abner Loomis created the Loomis Addition on that side of town.
LincolnParkPresident Lincoln was also memorialized by a park on the east side. In 1903, a library was built on the west side of the same block with a donation from Andrew Carnegie and before long people were referring to Library Park rather than Lincoln Park. The Carnegie Library now houses the Arts Incubator of the Rockies and Library Park now hosts the Old Town Library.

In 1919, an elementary school was built on East Elizabeth street and named Lincoln Elementary. However, in 1939 when the folks at Lincoln Junior High School decided to change their name to Lincoln Junior High, the elementary school changed it’s name to Harris, to honor former teacher and Principal Margaret “Mame” Harris. The building still stands and is now referred to as Harris Bilingual School. As I mentioned in last year’s Presidents Day post, Washington Elementary (now a CSU preschool on South Shields) and Lincoln Elementary were “twin” schools, which means that they were built with the same architectural plans.

Lincoln Junior High began in 1922 and shared a building with the senior high, but in 1925 the high school moved to a new location (on Remington Street) and the junior high was able to fill out the building that was left behind. The school was mostly razed in the mid-70s, but what remains (the gym plus a bit) is integrated into the Lincoln Center at the corner of Meldrum and Magnolia. Lincoln Junior High ended up moving out to a nearly 70 acre parcel of property located just north of West Vine Drive that was donated to the city and school district by Elliott Heidekoper.

In last year’s post I tallied up Washington’s namesakes and came up with 3 streets named after him, 1 park, 1 school, and possibly 1 bar. Lincoln, on the other hand, had 3 streets, 1 park, arguably 2 schools, and the city’s cultural center. It’s hard to tell if that makes him the “winner” though, given that the park has since been renamed, as have two of the streets and one of the schools. That would leave Lincoln with a present day presence of 1 street, 1 school, and a cultural center. From what I can tell, Fort Collins used to love Mr. Lincoln a whole lot more back in the day, but we have a marginal preference for Washington these days.

LincolnJrHighI’ve included a photo here of Lincoln Junior High back in the day. I found this image online (but didn’t keep track of where *snap*). When I was researching the start date of Lincoln Junior High, most people I talked to referred generally to the date that the high school moved out as the beginning of the junior high. But that’s only the date when the building was first called by that name. The junior high itself (meaning the teachers and the students) got their start in 1922 according to the Fort Collins Courier. You can read more about the beginnings of Fort Collins’ first junior high by clicking through to my previous post on the topic.

Categories: Local History | Leave a comment

A River Runs Through It: The Poudre Overruns Its Banks

The average yearly rainfall in Fort Collins is 15.08 inches (based on data going back to 1893). The average September rainfall is 1.27 inches. (Western Regional Climate Center Data) We live between two city rain gauges. In the past 24 hours, one has received .91 inches and the other 1.14 inches of rain. In the past 3 days, they’ve received 3.15 and 3.58 inches respectively. And in the past week the count is 3.62 and 4.21 inches. In other words, so far this week (with more rain being forecast) we have received 3 times our average September rainfall and over 25% over our yearly rainfall. As much as we need rain, getting it all at once really isn’t ideal. There are roads closed all over town where they cross the river just in case the water rises above them or they lose structural integrity, which means all over town people are stranded and can’t get home. Schools are closed. And lest you think, “at least the farmers are getting rain,” remember that there’s really only so much the ground can soak up before the rain no longer helps. It’s kind of like taking a bunch of vitamin C at once. A huge dose can do a system clean and refresh, but once that’s done, the rest just gets peed away. Once a reservoir is full, it’s full. It can’t get fuller. And it’s the full reservoirs that are leading to surges along the river that are washing away roads.

The rain has stopped for now. But this is what it looked like along the Poudre this morning. The first image is from Google Maps and shows where the river usually runs, and where it was overflowing this morning. The letters A, B, and C refer to where the following photos were taken.

PoudreOverflow
The light blue line shows the approximate route of the river overflow. It’s hard to tell if the water covered the land between the blue line and the river or if this was just a secondary channel. The part of the Poudre Trail that’s just below the letter B was submerged, so the blue line is meant more to show the general path of the water than to show the width of the overflow.

PoudreOverflowA

A: This is where the Poudre trail veers off to the left and the Hickory Trail spur veers off to the right. School groups usually sit on logs just to the left of this sign before heading off to do research on the river. The foaming water to the right is where it’s spilling off of the bike trail.

PoudreOverflowB

B: This is where the Poudre River Trail heads east towards College taken from the vantage point of the part of the trail that leads to the Martinez Park parking lot. The trees on the left surround a wetlands area that apparently used to be part of a ditch that directed water to Auntie Stone’s cabin. The ditch hasn’t been used as a water way since that time. … till now.

PoudreOverflowC

C: This is the Poudre near the train tracks as they pass behind the Northside Aztlan Community Center. The bike trail under the train tracks were submerged.

Edit:

I just found this on the Coloradoan:

“According to the National Weather Service, the Poudre reached 14.56 feet — nearly seven times its average during the previous four days — at 8:15 a.m. Friday. At that peak, more than 420,000 gallons of water passed a stream gauge every second.”

Categories: Wildlife | Comments Off on A River Runs Through It: The Poudre Overruns Its Banks

Development Review – An Overview

Person standing on edge of cliff

A quick review of this site’s (re)development:

The (re)development of “North of Prospect” is nearly complete. Joomla is updated, the new theme has been tweaked, all of the old articles have been reuploaded, and I’ve got an email out to Intense Debate to see if I can re-hook up the old comments to the old posts. There’s still some i’s to dot and t’s to cross, but I think the site is now mostly good to go.

DevelopmentProposalBender  

Development Review in Fort Collins:

“North of Prospect” isn’t the only thing going through some developmental changes these days. The city is trying to improve it’s communication skills in terms of getting information out to, and input in from, citizens regarding neighborhood development projects. They’ve developed a “Development Review Center” that includes a “Development Proposals Under Review” page. I think this page is key as it lists all current proposals currently under scrutiny by the city. You can get a quick sense of what the projects are, where they’re taking place, and who is involved by scrolling through the entries. I’m a total noob to the whole development review deal, but even I feel like the page gives me a sense of the scope and direction of development in Fort Collins.

NorthForty News gave a really nice overview of this new online hub. I’d encourage you to go check it out. What I’d like to do is offer more of a critique – what works, what doesn’t, and what some next steps could be to keep improving this new resource.

Let me start off by saying that the city is giving citizens direct access to a whole lotta information. On the one hand, I’m utterly thrilled by this level of transparency on the part of the city. I like being able to look through drawings of proposed buildings, read descriptions of the plans, and see who’s involved in the project. On the other hand, every once in awhile I come across something that wigs me out a bit… (Or is that “whigs”? Where did that phrase come from, anyway?) … a list of citizens present at a meeting (OK with that) and their email addresses and phone numbers (What?!!!). So we’ve got a really good beginning, with some bugs that probably need to be worked out.

Transparency

The transparency this tool offers is really off the charts. Even if all of this information was available before, you probably had to go down to the city offices to view it. If it was online, it was probably a pain in the tuckus to find. Now it’s all listed in one location in a searchable table. In fact, as you enter your search terms, the site automatically starts to narrow down the list. So as long as you’ve remembered enough details (the project number, the street it’s located on, etc.) you’ll probably be able to find your project pretty quickly.

springfielddrivedrawing

This image is an example of what I like about being able to see these online docs. Sometimes a picture helps you understand what’s being proposed more quickly than a bunch of words. (I also have a problem with this particular picture. But I’ll get to that later. Just plan on scrolling back up here in a bit.)

Depth

It seems like the more I use this tool, the more I find it can do. For example, the last time I was using it I got frustrated that I couldn’t enter my address and get a listing of all of the projects within X number of miles from my house. Then I read the NorthForty News article, clicked through to the Ways to Track Development Review page that they linked to, and viola! I found out there’s a map! *Does a little happy dance* It was a pain in the butt to use the first time I tried. I use a MacBook Pro and if you use two fingers on the track pad, that usually tells the computer to move across the page. But when you happen to be hovering over the map and you do the two finger trick, you suddenly either zoom in to the level of a tick on the back of a rodent in someone’s back yard or you’re out circling the globe on a weather satellite. It was insanely frustrating. But once I got into the habit of thinking like PC instead of Mac, I learned to click more and scroll less. Then the frustration of the tool gave way to power. Now I can view all the blocks north of Prospect and know exactly what’s going on here in the north end.  … sorta. (More on the sorta part later.)

Ease of Access

This is essentially the point of the whole project — to provide ease of access. Although I’ve been frustrated by some roadblocks that I’ve hit, I do see a good effort to remove those roadblocks and make this information easily accessible. I really believe that’s the ultimate goal and that the city is making a solid effort. And although I can’t be certain, it seems like some of those roadblocks that I had been hitting before just plain aren’t there any more. So either I’ve learned something and now know how to avoid them or the problems themselves have been removed. I’m guessing it’s the latter.

developmentreviewemail

The A#1 best on ramp to this information, in my opinion, is the weekly development review emails that the city is now sending out. (You can see an example above. This is the first email I received. It’s from mid-May.) You can sign up to receive this email by going to the development review center (or any of the development review pages) and entering your email in the box near the upper right hand corner of the page. There’s also a page on the site that lists the weekly updates — This Week in Development Review. Both the email and the web page give links to more information, details about meetings that citizens can attend, and some explanation about the purpose of the different types of meetings.

Help

In addition to making all of this stuff available, substantial, and accessible, the city has given us a helping hand in the form of Sarah Burnett, the new Neighborhood Development Review Liaison. I think that for most people, there’s a pretty sizable learning curve involved here. First you have to figure out the site and the resources on it, then you have to figure out what the different types of meetings are and what role you can play in terms of giving input, and then you have to sort out what all these documents mean, what current zoning regulations are and how they interact with the proposal, what the next steps are, and so on. It’s a whole lot to learn and since most people don’t get involved until something pops up next door, by the time they get around to learning this stuff they have the added emotional stress of feeling like some stranger is going to be coming into their life and changing their neighborhood forever. Sarah is the person to turn to when you don’t know where to turn. She can explain what’s what, help you figure out what your best avenue for giving input is, and walk you through other possible next steps. My experience so far is that Sarah is very responsive.

Gaps, Roadblocks and Next Steps

I think that this development hub is a ginormous step on the part of the city to connect citizens with what’s going on in terms of the change and growth that seems to suddenly be running on overdrive in Fort Collins. But there are still some things that probably could use some tweaking.

Speak to the People – Having access to all of these documents is really powerful. It puts knowledge in the hands of the people.  But I feel like sometimes it doesn’t put the right knowledge out there. I like having access to the paperwork that builders and developers have to file with the city. But in some instances, what I’d really like to know is:

  • Why this? Why now? Why here? I’d like to know what the developer is thinking. It’s a given that they’re doing it for the money. It’s a job, after all. But they might have put some thought into the project that would be really helpful for the average citizen to know. I attended a variance meeting recently regarding the Stoner Subdivision in Old Town. The developer wants permission to change the layout of two lots and build a new house on Magnolia where there is currently only a back yard. According to the zoning rules, he could raze the house that is currently on that corner and fit two houses on the two lots that are already there. But it turns out he likes the house that’s there and he wants to preserve it. But in order to do that, he has to shift the lot lines from going east-west to going north-south. That will enable the old house to remain but still provide a nice sized lot for a new house. I think if folks in the neighborhood had known the why behind what this developer had in mind, they quite likely would have been championing his cause. But because Old Towners have been boondoggled before, and because there was an inconsistency in the paperwork that came out, people were convinced that the developer was up to no good and was going to pull something sneaky. This led to having to call two variance review meetings and listen to a fair bit of oratory on the neighborhood before the developer even got up to speak. Rather than wasting the time of developers and citizens, let’s add some additional info at the outset that just might help put everyone at ease.
  • What’s there now and is it historic? As I walk through my neighborhood I come across sizable parking lots and buildings from the 60’s and 70’s that I’ve grown used to. But I’ve seen photos of what was there before, or in some cases just heard stories, and I have to admit that it makes quite plain that “growth” and “progress” are not always improvements. What projects are being proposed today that our children will look back on, slap their palms to their foreheads, and exclaim, “What were they thinking?!!” Information about what will be removed to make way for what is coming in is important. Just because there’s a building there right now doesn’t mean we’re all going to run to encircle our arms around it and try to save it. The vacant buildings at the corner of Meldrum and Maple are an eyesore and they’re just crying out to be scraped and remade. But there might be a building that’s worth encircling and singing Kumbaya over. We don’t all live next door to these proposed projects, but we still feel like they’re being made in our neighborhood. Having information about what’s there now could help people emotionally sort through their thoughts on the change. (And let’s just admit that out loud right now – the information the city is giving is administrative and architectural and all that, but it affects people in their gut. Every one of these projects has an emotional component and the more we can do to address that, the smoother discussions should go.)
  • What’s this going to do to the neighbors? These new plans show beautiful new buildings surrounded by lush greenery. If we were to look at just the plans without any context, I suspect most people would think, “That’s great!” (Now’s a good time to scroll back up and glance again at the artists’s rendering of what the Springfield Drive project will look like.) But if we saw those same plans next to what’s going to be right next door once the thing is built, we might suddenly fall down in shock. A four story building can look cute and Craftsmany in a drawing. But when you see that it’s going to be standing right next door to, and across the street from, a bunch of single family Modern style residences the clash in architecture becomes more apparent as does the difference in heights between the buildings. (One of the characterizing features of Modern style housing is that it’s often very low to the ground with a roofline that is either flat or very slightly sloped. This is a common style of architecture in Fort Collins in neighborhoods that were built in the 50s and 60s.) Will the neighbors lose their sunshine? Their ability to park in front of their own house? Their quiet in the evenings? Will they now have a large trash truck careening past their bedroom windows as it goes to empty out the trash from 57 living units (whereas before there were a couple of houses and a few horses)? There are places where growth makes sense and will be low impact. There are other places where growth might still make sense, but it’s going to be much higher impact. These are the situations in which neighbor input needs to be well informed so that it can be well addressed. This goes back to that emotional piece I mentioned earlier. If I’ve been living next to a horse pasture for 30 years, I’m not going to be all fire excited about that changing into four buildings full of students with all their ruckus and activity.

It’s information like this that I don’t think the developers generally deal with, but it’s the stuff that local citizens want to know. I don’t think people are looking for gobs of information on the above items. But if there was just one additional document that touched on the builder’s reasons for the project (hopes, motivation), showed comparison photos of what’s there and what they hope to build, and included drawings that included what the new next to the old buildings would look like side by side, I think that would be well appreciated and might perhaps help calm people’s fears about some of the projects that are going in.

Educate the People – I am not a developer, nor do I ever aspire to be one. The development review hub does have a lot of explanations built into the system and I think that’s really helpful. There are probably a few more ways that it can help to educate people.

  • Who do I talk to when the problem I see is outside the scope of Development Review? With the last example that I gave (Springfield Drive, AKA Carriage House Apartments), the heart of the issue probably has more to do with zoning than with whether or not this particular project is a good one. The apartment complexes might be totally spiffy, but the question might have a lot more to do with whether they make sense in the location that they’re being put into. The developer is just doing what’s possible in the area based on the current zoning rules. Ditto when it comes to putting a microbrewery in the area designated “Downtown.” But how did these places get the designations they have in the first place? How much citizen input went into those decisions. And who do we talk to about re-thinking through those zoning decisions? How much input was given at the time? And how can input be given now for issues like this, or others that might come up, that aren’t really appropriate to address with the developer, but that are coming up as a result of the development that’s happening. When the developer is following all the rules but the neighbors are still all up in arms, then it’s the rules that are probably more the concern than the project.
  • Point me toward the documents that are going to be the most helpful. When you click through to find out more about a project, you can sometimes end up with a pretty large spreadsheet of files to look through. Each one requires clicking on it, letting the file download, opening the file, determining whether it’s got the information you’re looking for or not, and if not, going back and starting all over with the next document. It’s a frustrating process because it could conceivably take you several minutes to do what could have been done in 10 seconds if you’d only known what to click on first. (It would also be nice if the files had names that matched the project they were attached to. That way, when I’m looking over the files on my hard drive, I don’t have to click on 2111174-1373345045.pdf just to see what it’s about. If it said something like CarriageHouseApts-MasterPlan.pdf then I’d know right away whether that’s the file I’m looking for.)

The more educated the citizens, the more empowered we’ll feel. It’s when you feel trapped and don’t know where to turn that you start to feel helpless and victimized. And no matter how much we want to grow, expand, and infill as a city, we don’t want to make people feel beaten up or trodden down. That’s just not what Fort Collins is about. The opportunities are out there for us to get help, have our say, and make sure people know our thoughts. But if we don’t know the appropriate person to talk to, the crux of the issues, or the context behind decisions that are being made, we’re just going to end up either wasting our time and the city employees, or we’re going to blather on to all our friends about horrible the situation is without really getting anything accomplished nor feeling any better about the situation in the end.

I still don’t know where variances and historic reviews fall in all of this. Are they included in the data? The Stoner Subdivision required a variance, but I think what is listed in the hub is more about their plans in general. Are those things going to be linked in more closely in the future? To get answers to these and other questions, I’ll be meeting with Sarah B, Queen of development review, in just a few minutes.

I’m excited to see Fort Collins residents get more involved in talking about who we are as a city, where we’re headed, and how we’re going to get there. I think the development hub is a fantastic beginning to many of those discussions.

Categories: Neighborhoods | Leave a comment

506 S. Washington – an example

During the Eastside/Westside community discussions, people occasionally asked, “What is the problem with people building a house to fit their family?” The response was often, “Nothing. But a lot of these new houses are being built and resold immediately.” When pushed for examples of houses built to be resold, none of us had a house that popped readily to mind. Recently, as I walked past Dunn Elementary, a house for sale jumped out at me and I realized that it fits the pattern that people were referring to in our discussions.

506 S. Washington Avenue - Built in 2010

506 S. Washington Avenue – Built in 2010

The neighborhood where this house was built is a little different than most of the rest of Old Town. Instead of being made up primarily of pre-war bungalows, the houses south of Mulberry, from Grant westward, were built primarily after the war. Though the houses are similar in size to the pre-war bungalows, they’re built in a modernist (that plain box look) style. I can’t say these are the most beautiful houses in Old Town because they’re just plain not. But there’s a certain ascetic to them when you walk down the street and compare the similarities as well as the small variations from house to house. That is, until you hit a house like 506 S. Washington. This house not only doesn’t fit the size of the other houses in the neighborhood, but it doesn’t fit the style either. It might, sorta, vaguely, possibly have a chance at being called bungalow style (if you take your glasses off, shine a bright light in your face, and squint a lot). But there’s no way you could say that it matches the modernist style even remotely. The size and style difference in itself isn’t bad, but it makes the house stand out like a sore thumb when it’s viewed in context.

The house at 506 W. Washington was built in a lot that used to be the “back yard” of (OK, so really it was a side yard. But it was the equivalent of a back yard for) the house to the north (to the left in the photo). The lot was subdivided and sold in 2007 for $100,000. It looks like it was resold in 2009, again for $100K. The house was built and in August of 2010 it was sold for over $400,000. The current owners are listed as living in a suburb of Perth, Australia. They’re selling the house for an asking price just $20,000 more than they paid for the house 2 1/2 years ago.

This house is an example of what bothers many residents in Old Town. The land was purchased and built upon by someone with the sole intention of reselling the property once it was built. The purchaser doesn’t even live in the country (at least not at this point). So the house obviously wasn’t built to suit a current Old Town family that found they couldn’t live in a small older house. (The house in Perth is, ironically, a small bungalow.) And now it’s being resold again. This is a pattern that’s true of many rebuilds. This house isn’t hugely oversized. It’s not particularly ugly like some new builds are. But it wasn’t built by folks who already lived in the neighborhood and needed a little more space. It was built by someone hoping to make a buck at the expense of the neighbors who now not only have a house on their street that sticks out like a sore thumb, but who also are dealing with a rotation of neighbors.

A couple of other houses that were built to be immediately resold include 529 W. Mountain (which was bought in January 2012 for $257,900, mostly scraped, and rebuilt at a much larger size and different style and is now being sold for around $749,000 (the asking price)) and 317 Wood Street (which was bought in June 2009 for $250K, scraped, rebuilt and resold in August 2011 for $740,000 to a couple that currently live in Anchorage, Alaska and rent the house out).

When houses that fit in with the look and feel of the neighborhood are removed and replaced with houses that don’t fit and they’re bought by people who don’t even live here, and they’re housing people who come and go, then the look and feel of the neighborhood can change dramatically. It’s a change the folks who have lived in Old Town for awhile don’t want. We love welcoming new neighbors into our community. But there’s an expectation that they’ll join us, not destroy what we love.

Categories: Neighborhoods, Residential Old Town | Comments Off on 506 S. Washington – an example

Celebrating Washington In Fort Collins

WashingtonPark3Several presidents are memorialized in Fort Collins. The two most prominent are Washington and Lincoln. Since this is the first Presidents’ Day in which I’ve had the North of Prospect blog, I thought I’d start with Washington and focus on Lincoln and the rest of the bunch some future Presidents’ Day.

Willits1894In 1894, a civil engineer from Denver, W. C. Willits, drew up a map for Fort Collins. The purpose of the map, from what I’ve been told, was to entice folks to come settle in the Choice City. (Willits appears to have drawn maps for several Colorado towns, so perhaps he was more of a marketer for the state than an engineer.)
There are several references to Washington on the map. The left most edge of the Loomis Addition, in Old Town, was a street called Washington Avenue. It stretched five blocks from LaPorte to Mulberry. To the north of Laporte, the street took a bit of a jog and became Wood Street. But one block over, there’s Washington again, although this time it’s a street instead of an avenue. You’ll note that south of Mulberry, Washington Avenue doesn’t exist at all, being called instead, Sheldon Street. If you look at these same streets today, Washington still runs along the western edge of the Loomis Addition, but it also runs south of Mulberry, taking over the street that was labeled as Sheldon on the old map. And Washington Street to the north of Laporte is now Grant Avenue (which makes sense as it’s simply a continuation of Grant Avenue from the Loomis Addition).

WashingtonPark1In Willits’ old map there’s also a Washington Park. It ran the length of a block from Laporte to Maple and from Washington Place to Howes. Washington Place no longer exists (not even as a back alley), but Washington Park is still with us, though less than half the size of what’s shown in Willits’ map. If you attended the Colorado Brewers’ Festival in June 2012 and watched any of the bands play, then you were in Washington Park. Today, City Hall is located on the south end of what used to be Washington Park and a parking lot takes up most of the middle. And during City Council meetings, the council members are sitting almost right over where Washington Place would have been.

We also have a school named after Washington. Many of the early schools had “twins,” in other words, they’d build two identical buildings in two different locations. Washington’s twin was Lincoln. I’ll write more on the Lincoln (Elementary) School in a future post. Washington Elementary is located on South Shields and was recently renovated. It’s the building that used to house the Lab School before it merged with Polaris and moved into Moore’s old building. The building is now owned by Colorado State University and is used for their Early Childhood Development program.

WashingtonPark2I count 3 streets, 1 park and 1 school in Fort Collins named after President Washington. There’s also the Washington Sports Bar & Grill (established in 1978), but I’m not so sure that’s a memorial to our former president. That’s not too shabby all told. I haven’t counted up Lincoln’s namesakes yet, but I suspect that he and Washington will be neck and neck. Every other president takes a back seat to those two.

I can’t think of a single president after the turn of the century (meaning 1900) that had anything named after them in Fort Collins. Can you? If so, please post a note in the comments section indicating which president and what was named after him.

Washington Elementary School

Washington Elementary School

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Floor Area Ratio — Examples

The following is a list of houses on the west side of Old Town, Fort Collins that were built within the last 10 years or so. I took information on each house from the county property database and entered it into each table. I then calculated how these houses fit into the current FAR (Floor Area Ratio) rules and how they would fit into the new FAR rules if they are passed by City Council. There has been a lot of debate about whether the proposed FAR restrictions would be too restrictive to new building. I only have one house here that passed both with the current FAR and the proposed FAR. I suspect most new builds would pass under both, but my goal in this study was to find the outliers – the extraordinarily large houses that have been put up recently in Old Town.

To read more about the FAR and what it all means, check out my previous post on the topic – The Sadler House and the Proposed New FAR Rules.

I’m not entirely sure I did the calculations correctly on these houses. The consultants put out a list of houses that did and didn’t pass under the proposed FAR regulations. You can see their document via Google Drive.

(This post is subject to change as I add houses, correct data, or better explain what it’s all about. :-} Please bear with the changing nature of this post. I don’t usually modify things once they’re posted, but this is one of those posts that I wanted to get out there even before it was really finished. Feel free to comment on things that don’t seem to be accurate. I’d rather have the data correct than have a glaring mistake.)

730mountain

730 W. Mountain

Lot: 5878 ft2
House: 2960 ft2
Basement: 1414 ft2
Garage: 576 ft2
N-C-L Allowed Actual
Current Method 40% or 2351 ft2 60% or 3536 ft2
*Fail*
Proposed Method 20% + 1250 ft2
or 2426 ft2 total
2960 ft2
*Fail*
Notes:Detached Garage. Basement may be more than 3 feet above ground level. The above figures do not include basement square footage. If the basement is indeed 3 feet or more above ground, then the 1414 of square footage in the basement would also need to be counted under the proposed FAR.
730mountain-aerial 730mountain-side
<– The house is on a corner lot, which is why it looks like it is jammed to the right and back of the lot.

The house has three stories and an additional full basement that extends out under the porch.

 


 

309ssherwood

309 S. Sherwood

Lot: 9500 ft2
House: 3653 ft2
Basement: 0 ft2
Garage: 575 ft2
N-C-M Allowed Actual
Current Method 50% or 4750 ft2 45% or 4228 ft2
*Pass*
Proposed Method 25% + 1000 ft2
or 3375 ft2 total
4228 ft2
*Fail*
Notes:Detached Garage. Basement may be more than 3 feet above ground level. The above figures do not include basement square footage. If the basement is indeed 3 feet or more above ground, then the 1414 of square footage in the basement would also need to be counted under the proposed FAR.
309ssherwood-aerial
309ssherwood-backside
In this photo you can see how the back of the house looms higher than the neighboring house on the right hand side.

 


 

425wood

425 Wood Street

Lot: 8602 ft2
House: 3842 ft2
Basement: 1803 ft2
Garage: 588 ft2
N-C-M Allowed Actual
Current Method 50% or 4301 ft2 45% or 3842 ft2
*Pass*
Proposed Method 25% + 1000 ft2
or 3151 ft2 total
3842 ft2
*Fail*
Notes: According to a City planner that I’ve talked to, the reason the house looks larger than it pencils out to on paper is that when a room is vaulted — two stories high — then the space taken up by that second story isn’t included in the square footage. It’s essentially free space. So the building looks bigger from the outside due the room that balloons upward, but the square footage doesn’t reflect that.
425wood-aerial
425wood-northside
425wood-firstfloorcontext
425wood-southside In the photo with the basketball hoop, The northernmost house on the block is the white with blue trim house on the left. The next house over is the maroon with green trim that can be seen behind the basketball hoop. 425 Wood is the third house down the block and is substantially larger than the houses to either side of it, as can be seen in the second photo, which shows the the houses to either side are significantly shorter than the first story of the 425 Wood house.

The photo to the left shows the south side of the house with a couple of patios as it looms over the house next to it (which is in the lower right corner in shadow in this photo).

 


 

321wood

321 Wood Street

Lot: 8529 ft2
House: 2651 ft2
Basement: 1396 ft2
Garage: 600 ft2
N-C-M Allowed Actual
Current Method 50% or 4265 ft2 38% or 3251 ft2
*Pass*
Proposed Method 25% + 1250 ft2
or 3382 ft2 total
3251 ft2
*Pass*
Notes:Detached Garage.
321wood-aerial

 


 

317wood

317 Wood Street

Lot: 8529 ft2
House: 2856 ft2
Basement: 1434 ft2
Garage: 600 ft2
N-C-M Allowed Actual
Current Method 50% or 4265 ft2 38% or 3456 ft2
*Pass*
Proposed Method 25% + 1250 ft2
or 3382 ft2 total
3456 ft2
*Fail*
Notes:Detached Garage. This house was built in 2010 and is a rental property. The owners of this house live in Alaska.
317wood-aerial

 


 

210jackson

210 Jackon Avenue

Lot: 14125 ft2
House: 3670 ft2
Basement: 1239 ft2
Garage: 480 ft2
N-C-L Allowed Actual
Current Method 40% or 5650 ft2 29% or 4150 ft2
*Pass*
Proposed Method 20% + 1250 ft2
or 4075 ft2 total
4150 ft2
*Fail*
Notes:Detached Garage.
210jackson-aerial
210jackson-northside
The last photo shows the northside of the new house as seen from the street. The house that was at the 210 Jackson address before the new building was located entirely behind the corner house. As you can see in the photo, it now stands out dramatically behind the older neighboring structure.

 


 

400jackson

400 Jackon Avenue

Lot: 10607 ft2
House: 3480 ft2
Basement: 1574 ft2
Garage: 812 ft2
N-C-L Allowed Actual
Current Method 40% or 4243 ft2 40.4% or 4292 ft2
*Marginal*
Proposed Method 20% + 1000 ft2
or 3121 ft2 total
4292 ft2
*Fail*
Notes:Attached Garage.  This house appears to be a rental. The owners are listed as living at a different address within Fort Collins.
400jackson-aerial

 


 

227nwhitcomb

227 N. Whitcomb

Lot: 6377 ft2
House: 1836 ft2+ 440 ft2 Loft Space
Basement: 0 ft2
Garage: 572 ft2
N-C-M Allowed Actual
Current Method 50% or 3189 ft2 45% or 2848 ft2
*Pass*
Proposed Method 25% + 1250 ft2
or 2844 ft2 total
2848 ft2
*Marginal*
Notes:Detached Garage.

I think this house is particularly interesting when you compare the façade of this building with the surrounding buildings, and then compare the size of this building with the surrounding buildings, particularly with the house 3 doors south of it (the long green house in the photo below). 227 N. Whitcomb stands out like a sore thumb on this block because it is so tall compared to the rest of the houses on the block. And yet it is smaller in overall living space than the building at 221 N. Whitcomb, which goes a little further back (227 also starts closer to the street by a few feet, which make 221 look even longer in comparison than it really is) and which uses the basement as a means of increasing living space. So while it’s FAR remains low, It has over 3000 square feet of living space and fits in with the neighboring houses much better.

227nwhitcomb-aerialcontext
227whitcomb-context

 

 

Categories: Residential Old Town | Leave a comment

The Sadler House and the Proposed New FAR Rules

fcordinance003

A friend of mine recently pointed out this page on Facebook. It was originally set up to fight against building code regulations that were enacted in 2011, hence the name, “Repeal Fort Collins Ordinance 003.” However, with the Eastside and Westside Neighborhoods Character Study, one of the admins of the page has started posting there again. We (the admin and myself) recently began a conversation regarding the house shown in the title photo of the page, the historic Sadler House.

ednalovesadlerwedding1903

Doctor Eldon Leonard Sadler married Edna Love in 1903. (See photo to the left of Edna Love Sadler on her wedding day.) They built their house on West Mountain in 1905. It was a large house for its time, as is evidenced by the fact that it’s taller (though not towering over) all of the other houses on the block. (See last photo in this post.)

Not too much longer after building this house on Mountain, the Sadlers built an additional house in their own back yard, 110 North Loomis. (According to the Larimer property database, the backyard house was built in 1910, but the permit to build the house, as found on the Fort Collins History Connection, puts the date at March 27th, 1924 (with an expected cost of $2800 to build this second house).)

The Sadler house is a beautiful example of what we all love about Old Town Fort Collins. This house looks much like it did when it was first built, though it has been remodeled a few times (once in 1922 and again in 1925 when a porch was added). It exemplifies Fort Collins’ early days for the fairly well to do. In 1995, the owners of the house requested that it be added to the list of historically designated houses in Fort Collins.

As I pointed out above, the house is unusual in two ways: it is slightly taller than the rest of the houses on the street and it has a house in its own backyard (which has since been subdivided into a separate property). Though most houses in Old Town don’t have an additional house in the back yard, it is more common on corner lots, and exceptions are more easily made for corner buildings when new permitting takes place due to the “hardship” of the smaller lot size.

sadlerincontext

The folks at Friends of Old Town Fort Collins (which appears to be associated with the Facebook page shown above) list the Sadler house as an example of a house that could not be built if the new Eastside/Westside proposals are accepted by the city council. (That’s why the Sadler house features prominently on the Facebook page.) The admin of the “Repeal 003” page states that this house “is in the NCM Zone and has an attached garage. Using this weeks latest formula this house is 667sf larger than would be allowed. If the basement wall is over 3′ above grade, and this one looks like it is from the number of steps in the photo, this house would be 1226sf larger than allowed.”

So I went over to the house today and measured how far the first floor sits above the ground. It is just over 2 feet from flower garden to brick work.

sadlerhouse2

So I’m going to focus on the 667 square foot overage number rather than the 1226 square foot number because the second wouldn’t apply unless the top of the basement stands 3 feet above ground, which it doesn’t.

This house sits in an NCM zone. (NCM = medium density, which means that multiple unit dwellings can be built in this area (up to 4 units per dwelling) and that individual houses can fill up more of the lot space (currently set at 50% of the lot)). The proposed change to the formula is that a house in the NCM that is on a lot between 4000 square feet and 10,000 square feet can have an above ground square footage of 25% plus an additional 1000 square feet. And if the house has an unattached garage, it can add an additional 250 square feet to that number. Here’s how all that looks in the actual proposal:

potentialfar

The Sandler house is currently on a 5507 square foot lot. With the current FAR rules (of 50%), the house is at 47% of the lot size with 2610 square feet of floor space. (For those who aren’t familiar with how the Floor/Area Ratio works in Fort Collins, basements don’t count at all (right now), no matter how high the ceiling of the basement is. The first and second stories both count in terms of overall square footage.) Under the new rules, the house would be allowed to have 2376.75 square foot, or 2626.75 square feet if an unattached garage is included.

The admin of the Repeal 003 Facebook page claims that the house would be over the proposed new footage rules by 667 square feet. By my calculations, however, the house would only be over by 233.25 square feet. The admin is correct on one point. If this house were torn down today and the builder wanted to recreate exactly what is there now, they wouldn’t be able to under the proposed rules. They would, however, be able to build exactly what is there if the garage were to be rebuilt as an unattached building. The new builders could also claim “hardship” due to the smaller lot size and could probably get a variance in order to build the house exactly as it is today. (The proposed new rules do not stop people from asking for variances under the same rules as are currently being used to grant variances for new building.)

I’ll concede that the Repeal folks are technically correct in saying that the Sandler house couldn’t be built under the proposed new rules, but it’s so close to being in the OK zone, and it’s so easy to get variances for situations like this (with a hardship based on lot size), that I think the Sandler house could indeed be rebuilt exactly as it is if it were to be torn down and done over. It therefore isn’t a very good example to use when complaining against the proposed Eastside/Westside changes. The group does list other houses, so I’ll take a look at one of those next. Before I do, however, I think I’ll walk the neighborhood and get some shots of houses that I’ve regularly heard neighbors complain about. I’ll compare where they stand in terms of the current FAR rules and then calculate where they’d fall under the proposed new rules. If you have a house that you’d particularly like me to include, just send me a note.

sadlerhouse

Sources

Eldon Leonard Sadler was listed as Dr. E. L. Sadler in both the Fort Collins Courier and in the Fort Collins History Connection. It wasn’t until I found this genealogical listing of him that I knew his full name. Eldon and Edna’s wedding date is listed there, but it is also listed with Edna’s photo in the Fort Collins History Connection. The listing for the permit taken out to build the backyard house can also be found through the Fort Collins History Connection.

I used the county database to get figures for the lot size and house size for the Sandler house.

Categories: Residential Old Town | Leave a comment

Crazy Dancing and Property Rights

househeightThe Eastside/Westside Neighborhoods Character Study is in its final stages. There are a few more community meetings to go before the project team present their results to the city council. For the most part, I agree with the changes that the team has come up with. They’ve found a way to allow growth in house sizes within a reasonable range while reining in the building of McMansions in our mostly “small house” community. Most remodels and new building in Old Town already fit within these new recommendations. But for the most part, those aren’t the houses that the Old Town community is in a tizzy about. The houses that won’t be able to be built any more are the gargantuan buildings that tower over the surrounding houses blocking out sunlight and reducing privacy. Although I hope to dive into the specifics of the recommended changes in later posts, what I’d really like to address first is the issue of property owner rights, because that’s at the heart of this entire debate.

The developers and a minority of residents in Old Town argue that property owners should be able to do whatever they want to do within the current rules which, they say, aren’t broken so why fix them. The property owner should have the right to build what they want on their own property. It’s a good argument and one that I mostly agree with. However, there comes a point where the exercise of my rights can infringe upon the rights of others. And that’s exactly the area that the character study is addressing.

When a developer comes in and builds a new house next to mine that reduces the amount of sun that falls upon my house, or puts a large second story back patio so that it’s looming over my back yard, then the property owner (or developer) is exercising his rights to the the point that mine have been violated. That’s why this character study was called for by the city council. The team gathered copious amounts of input from all sides. Their goal has been to allow the developer or home owner the ability to exercise their own rights, but to find that sweet spot where the exercise of those rights will have the least amount of negative impact upon the neighborhood.

househeights2

Consider this analogy. Let’s say there’s a guy named Freddie who likes to dance. He particularly likes to put in his earphones, listen to his iPod, and do a rather wild and crazy dance with his eyes closed. I think that most people would agree that Freddie has every right to use earphones, shut his eyes, and dance. In fact, if every morning at 8 am Freddie went out to the middle of Old Town Plaza and did his crazy dance, he might even become an internet sensation and tourists would soon be stumbling out of their hotels in the early morning just to take in the crazy dancing guy of Fort Collins. But if Freddie decided that the best place to do his dance was in the middle of Old Town Plaza on a Friday afternoon when the place is packed full of people, and his earphone listening, eyes closed, crazy dancing meant he kept bumping into people right and left, suddenly the picture changes. People would probably ask Freddie to dance with his eyes open so he could see where he was going. Or if it was really too crowded to be dancing safely, they might ask him to go dance somewhere else. It’s not that what Freddie wants to do is something horrible or illegal. It’s not. The problem is the condition of the location that he picked to do his dancing in. It’s too crowded. It’s not an appropriate location for Freddie’s crazy dancing.

I have heard developers repeatedly state that people want houses with large vaulted ceilings. They use this as one of their key arguments against changes being made to the city building code. And there’s nothing wrong with people wanting or having large vaulted ceilings. But when you move into a neighborhood with medium to smaller sized houses and you put in a house next door that’s much higher, not only because you’ve added a second story, but because you really want that high vaulted ceiling, and the added height on the houses blocks the neighbors’ sun access and reduces their privacy, then you’re being Freddie in the middle of Old Town Plaza on a crowded Friday afternoon. There’s nothing wrong with a vaulted ceiling in a house that’s build in a place where vaulted ceilings don’t reduce the neighbors’ rights. Sometimes it can be done in Old Town and the house fits right in with the surrounding houses, just like sometimes Freddie can go to Old Town plaza and dance without bumping into anyone because the plaza is fairly empty. But when the house is so much taller than its neighbors because of the ceiling height, then the house really should be built somewhere else in Fort Collins where the height isn’t going to be a problem.

We already accept the fact that if you’re going to live in Old Town, you’re not going to be living on a horse property. We don’t even think twice about it. If you go online to search for horse properties, then you’re expecting to find something on the fringes of town. If you go online to search for a house in Old Town, you’re not expecting the listing to also say, “Wonderful opportunity to live close to downtown and keep your horses with you.” In fact, I know people that are moving out of Old Town next month specifically because they want to stop boarding their horses and move them to a property where they can all be together. We accept that living in Old Town comes with certain rules and restrictions based solely upon the location. The concept is not new to us. What’s new is that we’re looking at areas of infringement that haven’t been adequately addressed under the current rules and the change in these rules may negatively impact the ability of developers in Old Town to make as much money as they’ve been making.

There are people who have lived in Old Town for decades. They are property owners and have certain rights that they expect won’t be violated. In fact, having lived here for as long as they have, they’ve grown used to the fact that those rights are theirs to keep. But people who are new to the neighborhood or who are flipping or scraping and rebuilding a house specifically to make a profit on the house and not because they want to live in it and become an integral part of the neighborhood community, are waking the Old Town neighborhood up to the fact that some property rights, like solar access and privacy, among others, are not adequately protected under the current provisions.

The goal of the proposed new building codes in Old Town is not to stop Freddie from dancing. It’s to stop Freddie from dancing on other people’s toes.

Categories: Residential Old Town | Leave a comment

Another Old Car – and the Elks Lodge Coming Down

I had to laugh when I was walking the dog yesterday and saw this old car, since I’d just posted about an old car the day before. I suppose old cars have become a mini theme for the week.anotheroldcar

I also finally figured out why the parking lot at Oak has been shut down. They’re tearing down the Elks Lodge!ElksLodge

Though part of the building was pretty old, it had been entirely remodeled at one point and therefore was no longer elegible for historic designation. So they’re apparently trying to take it apart sustainably (which I believe means they’re going to try to recycle stuff, though you wouldn’t know it from the way they just smashed stuff up to bits). It’s all explained on a large sign on the Remington Street side of the building.

revitalizingElks

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Dance Formation Damaged

On June 10th I snapped this photo of a sculpture in Martinez Park.

danceformation1

It’s often struck me as an almost forgotten piece, always watching over the comings and goings of the nearby bike trail.

Recently, the statue has suffered misfortune. A month after taking that first photo, I passed by to find that one of the dancers had been decapitated.

danceformation2

I don’t know if it was vandalism or if the recent rain and wind has taken its toll. But the feel of the piece is definitely a bit more on the macabre side now. The dancer on the right seems to be leaning slightly away from her decapitated friend.

I searched online to see if anyone had posted information on this sculpture and was delighted to find a old Lost Fort Collins post that I’d never read before. It’s interesting to note that even 4 years ago, Cat referred to the statue as dying art. The statue was carved by Richard Scorpio from a tree that had died in front of City Hall back in 1984. The sculpture was moved from its former location to this out of the way little spot in Martinez Park in 2004.

whiterunningguy

I also had to laugh when I saw Cat’s post with its suggestion of which present day statue should be moved from its current location. She had photoshopped “Transcend” onto the train tracks on Mason Street. The statue had been sculpted in Old Town Plaza by Collen Nyanhongo with the intention that it would remain in that location. The opportunity to watch an artist in action was a draw, but the art piece itself wasn’t particularly well received. “Transcend” (I’ve always referred to the statue as “the white running guy.”) was later moved, at great expense, to its current location at the corner of Maple and Mason, right across the street from the newly renovated/repaired Penny Flats and right by the same train tracks that Cat had placed the statue on in her post.

Categories: Artwork, Community | Leave a comment