Thursday, June 11, 2020

City Council approves ordinances for accessory dwelling units

Posted By on Thu, Jun 11, 2020 at 8:38 AM

click to enlarge A new ordinance allows homeowners in single-family zones to apply for a conditional use permit to build an attached unit. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • A new ordinance allows homeowners in single-family zones to apply for a conditional use permit to build an attached unit.

On first reading June 9, City Council approved a trio of ordinances aimed at increasing the city's supply of affordable housing.

The ordinances, which have been in the works for years and debated in what Councilor Andy Pico called "excruciating detail," make it easier for homeowners to add attached accessory dwelling units, or ADUs — also known as in-law units or granny flats — plus "accessory dwelling suites" to accommodate family members.

The first ordinance, which passed unanimously, defines an "accessory dwelling suite" as a unit within a main residence that has interior access to the main home as well as separate exterior access, and permits them in all zone districts (except where prohibited by homeowners' associations).

These "accessory dwelling suites" are permitted to include their own appliances such as a stove, washer and dryer, but cannot be occupied by a separate household.

This ordinance requires the property owner to occupy either the main residence or the suite in single-family zone districts. Before adding a suite, the property owner must file a declaration with the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office affirming they do intend to occupy one of the residences.

The owner-occupancy requirement may be waived for two years "upon a determination that failure to waive the requirement would create an unreasonable hardship."

Homeowners wishing to add an accessory dwelling suite must be able to provide an additional off-street parking space. Floor area can't exceed 50 percent of the main home's floor area.

The second ordinance passed on a 5-3 vote, with Councilor Yolanda Avila excused. Councilors Don Knight, Andy Pico and Tom Strand were opposed.

The ordinance allows property owners to add attached accessory dwelling units — which don't necessarily have interior access to the main residence, but share a wall — in all residential zone districts except where prohibited by homeowners associations. These ADUs could be occupied by a separate household.

Currently, city code allows ADUs only in two-family, multi-family and “special use” zone districts.

This ordinance doesn't allow detached ADUs to be built in single-family zone districts, and in existing single-family neighborhoods, the property owner will only be allowed to add an attached ADU after obtaining a conditional use permit.

Such permits are approved on a case-by-case basis by the Planning Commission. They require the property owner to notify neighbors, who have the ability to go through a City Council appeal process to stop an ADU from being built.

This ordinance includes the same requirement of owner occupancy as the ordinance governing accessory dwelling suites. It also requires an additional off-street parking space for each attached ADU, and the ADU's floor area can't exceed 50 percent of the main home's floor area.

Knight said the "subjectivity" of the conditional use approval process concerned him.

"If we had some sort of objective [criteria] that, you know, the person has to get [the approval of] 51 percent of the neighbors...then that's simple cut and dried," Knight said. Rather, the Planning Commission and City Council will be evaluating neighbors' specific concerns, not tallying neighbors who support or oppose an ADU.

The third ordinance passed on an 8-0 vote with Avila excused.

It creates an accessory dwelling unit overlay district that can be used when adding new residential neighborhoods. Homeowners in the overlay district won't have to go through the conditional use process when adding an ADU.

"I feel betrayed, angry, disappointed, as well as very sad," Mary Sue Wildman, who spoke in opposition to the ordinance, told City Council. "I feel betrayed by the ordinance being one that takes away qualities of living in the R1 zone that was guaranteed to us when we bought our houses."

"I think there is a lot of miscommunication out there," Councilor David Geislinger responded. "...This overlay zone is for new neighborhoods, so existing neighborhoods would be kept intact and not changed without significant process."

Max Kronstadt, who spoke on behalf of the Colorado Springs Pro-Housing Partnership, said his organization supported the changes.

"We are a local coalition made up of a wide array of stakeholder groups who believe that we need to ease restrictive zoning to address our affordable housing crisis," Kronstadt said, adding that ADUs represent one part of what should be a comprehensive approach to affordable housing.

Councilor Jill Gaebler, who supported all three ordinances, said she wished to eventually see more allowances for ADUs (a previous proposed ordinance would have also allowed detached units in single-family zones, for example), but said she acknowledged that "this is what this Council can bear right now."

Council will vote on the ordinances a second and final time at the meeting scheduled for June 23. If approved, all three will take effect July 3.

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