The Sadler House and the Proposed New FAR Rules


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.


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.


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.


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:


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.



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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Fort Collins’ First Junior High Formed in 1922

Fort Collins Courier - September 2, 1922.

Fort Collins Courier – September 2, 1922.

On Saturday, September 2, 1922, an announcement was made on the front page of the Fort Collins Courier regarding changes being made in the public schools. Of particular interest to me was the formation of Fort Collins very first junior high school. The summary of the article, printed just under the title, stated:


The topic of a junior high had been brought up in the paper as early as 1919. And I believe that there were junior highs already established in neighboring towns such as Wellington and Waverly. (Where is Waverly? The only one that I can find on Google Maps is in the San Juan Valley. But the early paper regularly refers to it as being a school nearby.) In grade school, students would have one teacher for the entire day. In high school, there were departments and students had different teachers for different subjects. The idea of a junior high was to prepare students for the high school format so that they would be more inclined to stay in school and attend high school rather than dropping out of school after 8th grade in order to find a job.

The newspaper article spent a fair amount of time explaining where the new junior high would be housed and how it would be organized. It states, “It has been decided to make the innovation of massing the eighth grades in the recent addition to the high school building. There will be six of those eighth grades, and this will comprise our first Junior High school.” There were also to be two 7th grades in the same annex, but for some reason they were not considered to be a part of the junior high. It’s possible that the 8th graders received instruction from various teachers while the 7th graders kept the grade school format of having only one teacher all day long. Oddly enough, there were two other 8th grade classes, one in the Laurel school (where Centennial High School is now) and one in the Remington school (built in 1891 and demolished in 1968, it was located on Remington Street between Olive and Magnolia). They were also considered to be part of the new junior high, even though they didn’t meet in the same location. No explanation is given as to why there was room for two 7th grades but the two 8th grades would have to meet elsewhere.

The first principal of Fort Collins Junior High was Miss Margaret Demmel. It looks like she had previously been the principal of the Laurel Street School (according to the Colorado School Directory, 1919-1920).

So the mystery of when Fort Collins Junior High was first started has finally been solved. Though it only consisted of the 8th grade, it would eventually expand to include 7th – 9th and fill the entire building vacated by the high schoolers when they moved to Remington Street. The school would become so crowded by the 60s that a new junior high, named after former schools superintendent David Lesher, would be built to relieve the cramped conditions in the building.

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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.


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

I’ve Found a Start Date for the Junior High!

Fort Collins High School - later Fort Collins Junior High - circa 1910

Fort Collins High School – later Fort Collins Junior High – circa 1910

I have been researching the start date of what is now Lincoln Middle School, originally Fort Collins Junior High, for just over a year now. The search has provided several speculative dates, but nothing substantial or specific. …until now. I believe that I have found the month and year that Fort Collins had its first junior high school. (And it looks like another Larimer County city beat us to the punch when it comes to having a junior high!) I’m not going to print the results until I’ve gone to the city archives and found the evidence in a format that I feel comfortable is sound. And since the archives won’t be open again until Tuesday, the earliest I’ll probably get anything posted is Tuesday night. So… I thought I’d give you all a heads up and suggest that you post your guesses in the comments as to when the school got its start. Don’t worry about guessing the month. Back then, school started in September. And I’ve already posted that the dates have been narrowed down to between 1921 and 1928. So what do you think? How old is our oldest middle years school? And here’s a bonus question: The first junior high also apparently only consisted of one grade. What grade do you think it was?

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At the Corner of Sycamore and West

holidaysSome people take holiday decorations a little more seriously than others. Just sayin’.

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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.


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Can You Describe a Neighborhood by Its Mailboxes?

I walked the dog around the Rogers Park neighborhood yesterday morning. For those of you who have never been to Rogers Park, I’m referring to the neighborhood that’s bounded by Mulberry to the north, Ponderosa (or maybe Taft?) to the east, Overland Trail to the west, and Elizabeth to the south. Most of the houses were built in the late 60’s / early 70’s, with occasional notable exceptions around the edges (of much older homes, primarily from the early 1900’s, or much newer condos on the west side). Though the area was dominated by rentals (and therefore students and loud parties) as recently as a decade ago, it seems to be undergoing a bit of a transformation as the population matures.

There are a few notable mailboxes that I passed as we walked and I began to wonder if you could define a neighborhood by it’s mailboxes. If so, then I’d say that the Rogers Park area is filled with spirited, adventure and nature loving folks. Granted, most of the mailboxes were rather run-of-the-mill. So maybe “filled” isn’t quite the right word. But I think there’s other evidence that would still pull the neighborhood toward the spirited and nature loving side.kayakmailboxThe kayak (is that what it is? I’m not real knowledgable about water vehicle terminology.) mailbox has been around for awhile, but the bench in the background is new since I was last down this street. (Either that or I had just completely spaced seeing it before.) When I think of creative mailboxes, this is often the first box that pops into my mind. For me, it’s a Fort Collins classic.snowskimailbox

The snow board mailbox, on the other hand, is a lively new entry into the creative mailbox scene. Added within the past couple of years, I love how the colors on the board mix and match with the beautiful garden around it.


There are also a couple of different tree/mailbox combinations. It looks like this one is attached to the stump of a cut down tree that’s still rooted in the ground. I also saw a box atop a pretty thick aspen pole.

We walked past Happy Heart Farm which appears to have a new hops growing section. The scaffolding for the hops plants is impressively ginormous. This is really going to be a thing to behold once the hops really gets going. Most of the plants are only 4 or 5 feet tall at this point. They must not have been started at the beginning of the season. (I planted hops in our yard this spring and the plant has covered half of the trellis/bench that it’s next to. They’re pretty vigorous growers apparently.)happyhops

It’s hard to see the hops plants in the photo with the green on green, but if you start at the lettuce (the lighter green row) and look for lines of darker green that head straight up, that’s the hops. Once the hops has filled in the scaffolding, this will be a prime place to plant things like lettuce, chard, spinach and so on that prefer being out of the direct sunlight. Since these hops are grown at Happy Heart Farm, does that make them Happy Hops?


While walking by the water catchment (Is that what it’s called?) area, I noticed some wild asparagus along the water ditch. If you don’t know what asparagus plants look like, you might not be sure which plant in the photo to be looking at, but it’s directly in the center with the yellowish looking stalk (It’s really green, but stands out in the photo as yellowish.) and the leaves are the billowy, wispy fronds all around it.

On our walk we saw lots of other dogs, a cat, some horses and a cow. In the past we’ve also seen llamas and goats.

The Rogers Park neighborhood has an unassuming air, but it also has several little treasures hidden within it: the park itself; Happy Heart Farm; the horse paddocks in the middle(ish) and the horse properties around the edges; and the easy going, adventure loving spirit of the folks who live there.

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Bark & Bluegrass 2012

Yesterday was the 3rd annual Bark & Bluegrass fundraiser event for the Larimer Humane Society. Rob and I hung out for a bit in the afternoon while Bluegrass Delta Force played and that’s when I took these photos. We went home for dinner (ratatouille on noodles with zucchini, tomatoes and basil from our garden – onion and eggplant via Green Buffalo) then I returned to serve beer as a Larimer Humane Volunteer.

I had never served beer before and I was hoping to take orders so that I wouldn’t end up serving cups full of foam to people. But I ended up in charge of the 5 Barrel tap and I got the hang of it rather quickly. Most of my beers ended up with at most a 1/4 inch of foam, but I did serve two beers that I would call perfect pours. Woot! I was very proud of myself. There were 9 or 10 of us working together at the Odell’s tent. I’d never met any of the folks before, but I think we worked together really well.

The last two bands of the day, Turn 4 and the Emmitt-Nershi Band, were playing during my shift. (I think I caught at least one of the Turn 4 band members in the photos below. Watch for the beard with a man attached.) It’s hard to pour beer and dance at the same time, but I managed. I also learned what a 95 is. The beers we had on tap were Easy Street (a light wheat beer. Very tasty. Great in the summer.), 90 Shilling (a classic. Always drinkable.), and 5 Barrel (a pale ale. I usually avoid pale ales. Though we have hops growing in the back yard and I think the plant is lovely, as are the little flowery hops all over the vine, I’m just not a big fan of too much hops in my beer. Rob, on the other hand, likes a nice IPA.). I was the 5 Barrel gal. At one point some folks came up asking for two 95’s. If I was the kind of person that scratched their head when they’re puzzled, I would have been scratching mine. Turns out a 95 is half 90 Shilling and half 5 Barrel. I ended up trying one later (not during my shift because that would be naughty) and it was actually pretty good.

So the upshot of the day for me was that I learned how to pour a good beer, I now know what a 95 is, I heard loads of great music, I snapped lots of photos, I ran into several people I know and I enjoyed the interactions of bunches of dogs as they spilled beers, snuck tasty bits of food from their people’s plates, sniffed each other’s rear ends, and lounged around enjoying the music. Hopefully the photos I took will give you a little flavor of what the day was like.

Bark & Bluegrass – 2012

[I haven’t been able to figure out how to make the slideshow work through WordPress. So if you click on the photo above, it should take you to the album to look through.]

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Bohemian Nights @ New West Fest – 2012

Woot! Let’s hear it for Bohemian Nights this year! Yet again I was wowed by all sorts of amazing music, entertaining performances, and that whole community feel thing you get when you keep seeing people you know everywhere you turn. Bohemian Nights is amazing (not just during New West Fest but the Thursday Night Live shows as well).  And it’s all entirely free thanks to Pat Stryker and her Bohemian Foundation. I’m not the kind of person that talks about this or that being “a blessing” but I really don’t know any other way to describe what Stryker does for Fort Collins. She blesses us in many ways (music in the schools pops immediately to mind) but the fact that anyone can come to the Bohemian Nights shows, whether they live in Fort Collins or not, without paying a penny, feels like a cup runneth over sort of blessing on our little town.

I saw too many bands to recount in one blog post, but I thought I’d share some of my photos and highlights. If you want to see more you can skim through the Google+ posts I made after each day’s entertainment: Friday,Saturday, Sunday.

BNmartyinschwagAs we walked down Oak Street towards the Library Park Stage, we ran in to two Bohemian Nights volunteers who handed us schedules for the music as well as some schwag. I don’t even know how to describe this thing except to say that it’s a tubey sort of thing that you can use a jillion different ways. My friend, Marty, tried it on his head a couple of different ways. First he tied one end into a knot and wore it as a top knot hat. In the photo to the left he folded have of the tube in on itself and pulled that over on his head for a smoother look. I ended up using mine both as a pony tie for my hair and as a head band. (Head band worked better when I was biking with a helmet on. Pony tie worked better when I was sitting in the hot sun watching a band perform.) One of the gals that gave them out to us was using hers as a purse cover.


On Friday I saw: Patti Fiasco, Muskateer Gripweed, Fierce Bad Rabbit, Eurforquestra, and Michael Franti & Spearhead.


On Saturday I saw: the Lincoln Jam Band, Steve Eulberg, the Hollyfelds, the Haunted Windchimes, Sarah Louise Pieplow, The Holler!, and a wee bit of Alison Krauss.


On Sunday I saw: Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Widows Bane, and DeVotchka.



I love being barefoot, so it was with great pleasure that I noticed one of the Haunted Windchimes played music sans shoes.



These girls were dancing while the Haunted Windchimes played.



We watched Euforquestra on the big screen.



Danielle threw t-shirts instead of eating sandwiches at the concert.



Widows Bane – Love, love, love these guys!



This guy was a member of DeVotchka. He played several different instruments and was probably the pest part of their performance. (Not that the rest wasn’t good, but he was amazing.)

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Alley Art

I enjoy the bits of art scattered about town, often in completely unexpected places. I’ve already mentioned the painted transformer boxes, as well as two local sculptures. There’s a city-wide program called Art in Public Places that overseas a lot of what turns up around town (not just the transformer boxes but also the painted pianos, murals, pavers, trash cans, and a few other little odds and ends).

"Sing-Along" by Ren Burke

“Sing-Along” by Ren Burke

But there are also quirky little bits of citizen created artwork where their property butts up against an alley. During my daily walks I’ve come across a few such art pieces that I thought I’d share. This first photo was taken in the alley bounded by Mountain, Sherwood, Oak and Whitcomb.

horseongarageNot shown in this photo is several paintings of flowers climbing up the fence to the left. (You can see one flower to the left in the pic, but there are more.) I love seeing this horse peek his head out at me as I walk by!This act of whimsy delighted me when I found it in a neighborhood near Laurel Elementary on the east side of Old Town. (This might have been in the alley between Eastdale Drive and Locust Street, but don’t hold me to that.) I wonder if they change out shoes for each season. Boots might be a little harder to hang, though.whimsywall

And though some might not call this art, I found the garden tools hanging around the outside of this garage to be a playful display that turned storage into an artform.

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