City officials are slowly walking out a controversial proposal that would allow the construction of accessory dwelling units in more residentially zoned lots.

For some, the proposed ordinance represents a chance to infill a city known for its sprawl; for others, it’s an immediate and unwanted change to the character of many of Colorado Springs’ neighborhoods.

In their most common forms, accessory dwelling units — or ADUs — are essentially second homes built on a property where a home exists. They can be built as individual buildings, attached to an existing structure or sometimes above garages.

ADUs are allowed in lots zoned for two or multiple families, special use and intermediate businesses, R-2, R-4, R-5, SU and C-5, respectively. But an early version of the ordinance proposed that ADUs also be permitted in lots zoned for single-families.

About 68,000 additional lots in town could be eligible for the construction of an ADU.

The City Council discussed the proposed ordinance during a work session in March and disagreements quickly emerged, with several members asking for clarification on what was being proposed.

Councilman Andy Pico asked how the city’s understaffed and underfunded code enforcement officers would ensure building standards in thousands of new structures when the existing load is too much to handle. Since then, he’s often repeated a story about a ramshackle structure in his district covering eastern Colorado Springs, which has sat untouched for years. If code enforcement can’t tend to that building despite years of complaints, adding more to their plate would make it worse, he said.

Councilman Don Knight asked how the proposal might jibe with existing rules set by homeowners associations, many of which might ban such structures or not mention them.

City Council President Richard Skorman, however, said expanding the number of lots where ADUs are allowed could reduce the shortage of affordable housing in the city.

Then-Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler said the proposal could benefit old and young city residents and would support the city’s comprehensive plan. Increasing the city’s density will be less expensive for city and fire services than continued sprawl, she said.

Others expressed concerns at how fast such a substantial proposal is moving through the city’s legislative process.

Some on the council have sought additional information on the topic, others have asked that the proposal be tweaked by city staff. The council will discuss the ordinance Monday during a work session, when city staff offers more information about the proposal.

The proposal might come before the council in yet another work session, city spokesman Ted Skroback said. And council members, individually or as a group, might also host town halls so residents can comment before a final vote is taken on whether to approve the ordinance.

Load comments