Posted on Apr 03, 2024
The program for our April 3 noon meeting was presented by Fort Collins City Mayor Jeni Arndt.  In a departure from the more usual format, after some very short introductory remarks, Mayor Arndt simply proposed to respond to questions from the audience.  She commented that, in her position as representing the citizens of Fort Collins, every Wednesday afternoon she has open office hours for citizen interaction, scheduled in half-hour increments.  The city also is working toward setting up a Citizen Assembly to provide a format for interaction between city government and the citizens of the city.  
 
 
Question: Since the city is considering annexing the Mulberry Corridor, do those considerations include any mitigation for expenses that businesses in the corridor will incur as a result of the annexation? 
Answer: Mayor Arndt replied that they have significantly slowed down the whole issue.  She said that this will be the largest annexation in Colorado and, as such, will need to be done very carefully.  Questions that need to be carefully addressed are: given that taxes will be increased, what do the people in the annexed area get; and what is the purpose of the annexation?  The city staff is working on it and there will be work sessions addressing these larger questions, but the process is being taken in pieces.
 
Question: The city is proposing to register landlords.  What is the purpose of that?  What will be the impact of registration and required inspections?
Answer: Although registration/inspection have been proposed, with the cost of living here so high that the number of school-age children is decreasing so that we need to close schools (among other issues), the proposal has been reduced to just registration so that landlords are registered businesses and can be contacted in case of emergency at one of their properties. 
 
Question: What are the city’s environmental goals?
Answer: PRPA has a goal of clean energy by 2030, which looks great but was passed by board members who won’t be responsible in 2030 and it hides the complexities of shutting down our reliable coal-fired plant while trying to run the gauntlet of permitting and sourcing for clean electricity sources.  The city has developed a 54 KW solar project at Aztlan, a project that will provide some four hours of electricity in battery storage for Fort Collins. For a solar installation near Severance, there was a 234-week wait for some parts. We have the responsibility of balancing reliability, financial stewardship, and sustainability. In spite of impatience for progress on these goals, she will not risk reliability of the grid.  
 
Question: What about water in Fort Collins and in Northern Colorado in general?
Answer: It is a complicated issue with several philosophical issues to be considered. The city is progressing on permitting for increasing the volume of the Halligan reservoir.  As the city expands, who should pay for new builds to accommodate that expansion?  How can the cost be distributed equitably between new arrivals and those already here who will also benefit from those capital expenditures?  Another issue is that there are several water-related projects on-going and it would be beneficial to have them benefit from cooperation and synergies between them.  And all of this needs to be done in such a way as to maintain the character of the Poudre River.  
 
Question: What are your hopes and dreams for Fort Collins?
Answer: She hopes that we can do something about the cost of living in Fort Collins and that we can keep the distrust of government that seems so widespread in the US from becoming embedded in Fort Collins.  She talked a little about the land-use code for the city, suggesting that it has to change from what it was in the previous century.  She talked about Fort Collins as an idea where everyone is welcome, where the activities of the city are practical and open-minded and welcoming to innovators and entrepreneurs.  
 
Question: What sorts of preparations are the city taking for emerald ash borer and other “doomsday” scenarios?
Answer: It is important to step back from the sort of social-media “doomsday prediction” of the day and take a more overall view.  For the emerald ash borer, the city’s Forestry Department is on top of the issue.  In a more general sense, trees are an essential part of the infrastructure of the city.  As issues arise, the city will address them.  
 
Question: Given the number of big-box stores in Fort Collins, where dollars leave the community, what is being done to attract business to the community? 
Answer: Mayor Arndt is very intentional about attracting businesses to the community.  The city has an economic health office and a planning and development process.  There have been times when there have been roadblocks in the way of new businesses getting established and one of her efforts has been toward streamlining the process, identifying a point-person who is responsible for helping potential new businesses navigate their way through what is intentionally a rigorous process.  Basically, we need to improve access for new businesses.  
 
Question: What about affordable housing and the homeless population? 
Answer: In fact, a lot is happening. Eventually, a revised land-use code will be passed but won’t include the controversial stuff like requirements around density, parking, utilities.  The State is now passing laws that put state-wide requirements/limits around these issues and the city is watching that legislative process closely.  U+2 is going away and will probably be replaced by requirements around health and safety, which will probably free up some amount of living space. State laws/rules about ADUs (accessory dwelling units) may create some amount of additional living space.  The city continues to work with partners to create additional affordable housing (housing subsidized so that individuals/families with incomes below some percentage of the local median income).