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The Sadler House and the Proposed New FAR Rules

Posted by on February 11, 2013

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.

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