Sunday, April 27, 2003



Boulder grapples with zoning law's definition of "family"

 

A story published today in the Boulder News reports that layers and city planners in Boulder are struggling with how to define family in response to an American Civil Liberties Union complaint that city housing occupancy limits define "family" too narrowly.

In fall 2001, the Boulder County Chapter of the ACLU complained to the City Council that Boulder regulations limiting housing occupancy treated gay couples differently than married couples.

Under existing city rules, two gay couples couldn't legally live in a house in a low-density neighborhood but two married couples could.

City attorneys have researched ways to respond. Some of the ideas floated would change occupancy limits or redefine who is a head of household.

The legal adjustments would affect other couples, as well as gay couples.

"It's not limited to a gay and lesbian issue. It's a family issue," said David Gehr, assistant city attorney working on the issue.

Boulder zoning code bars more than three or four unrelated people from living in a house, depending on the neighborhood.

For blood relatives, there is no occupancy limit. A married couple can have children and two unrelated roommates living with them and be in compliance with Boulders occupancy limits. A gay couple could not.

Boulder codes define relatives as people related by blood, adoption or marriage.

Most recently, the City Attorney's Office has suggested a solution of removing marriage from the definition of relative in the city's housing code.

That would put all couples married couples, same sex or unmarried heterosexuals on the same legal footing.

The 2000 Census counted 2,616 households headed by unmarried heterosexual and same-sex partners in Boulder.

Changes being discussed by the city also would eliminate the existing cap of three unrelated people per house in low-density residential neighborhoods, setting a new limit at four.

University Hill, long popular with University of Colorado students renting houses, has concentrations of low-density blocks where city rules currently allow only three unrelated people per home.

Terry Rogers, a neighborhood activist in the University Hill neighborhood, said that allowing one more person into homes there wouldn't be an issue.

 


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