It is a zoning problem that will soon happen to selected families living in some of Colorado Springs’ many R-1 single-family zoned neighborhoods. Mom, Dad and the kids will wake up to find a mini-Marriott, mini-Hilton or mini-Hyatt hotel under construction in their next-door neighbor’s backyard.

If the family is really unlucky, there might be a similar small minihotel project on the other side of their home and one or two across the street as well. Under a new law under consideration by the City Council, there will be no limits on the number of small chain hotels that can be built in almost any R1 single-family zoned neighborhood in Colorado Springs.

This grim future became reality when Marriott International announced recently that it is entering the new home-sharing and home-rental business to compete with Airbnb and similar internet companies.

The council passed a law several months ago that legalized such short-term rentals (STRs) in R1 single-family zones throughout the city. The council placed no limits on the number of these commercial small hotels/motels that can be opened and operated in what were previously exclusively residential areas.

With about 1.3 million hotel rooms available each night around the world, Marriott is the globe’s largest hotel company. It will create a home-rental platform on its website and list rooms available in cities throughout the world.

Guests staying in such Marriott facilities in Colorado Springs R1 single-family zones will be able to redeem loyalty points and win free hotel stays and other valuable gifts. The points would be good at Sheraton and Ritz-Carlton hotels as well.

This means for Colorado Springs homeowners that the short-term rental unit next door will not be controlled by a supposedly friendly neighbor but by a powerful and well-funded hotel chain with vast resources for promoting and filling the rooms each night with traveling strangers.

The accessory dwelling unit (ADU) proposal under consideration by the council will mandate the conversion of R1 single-family zones into R2-two-family zones. If the backyard of a home is large enough, it can be the site of a completely new house that can be rented or subdivided and sold to a separate family or person. The new home will have to be somewhat smaller than the original home on the property.

In those cases where there is insufficient land for a separate house on the lot, the original home can be expanded by adding a second story or knocking out a wall and creating a second dwelling unit that way.

The city has stated firmly that all newly constructed ADUs can be rented or sold as short term rentals and thus would be available to Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt or any other hotel chain for their use.

The proposed ADU law sets no rules for the design or painting of these new housing units in R1 single-family zones. The way we read the new law, the new units could be built to function like minihotels rather than private residences and be painted garish colors for advertising purposes.

The theory behind the proposed ADU law is called “densification.” It seeks at final build-out to double the population density in R1 single-family neighborhoods by building new homes in backyards or in an expanded main dwelling unit. With the sharp increase in population will come an equally large increase in the number of automobiles, which ADU supporters hope will force more people to use mass transit rather than drive their own cars. The minihotels will bring additional automobiles into the neighborhood every night.

We think the combination of the proposed ADU law with the existing short term rental law will make it impossible to keep our neighborhoods free of commercial uses (minihotels) and apartment buildings. We worry that speculators will begin buying single family homes in Colorado Springs, expanding them into apartments under the ADU law, and then merchandising them as minihotels under the STR law.

R-1 single-family zoning was designed to keep traditional families — parents with children — living near the downtown areas of cities. We believe it is the neighborhoods close to downtown that will attract the most ADU and STR activity, thus driving traditional families to relocate in the more distant parts of the city.

We see Broadmoor, Ivywild, the Mesa, the Old North End, Patty Jewett and Skyway as particularly vulnerable to the development of ADUs and STRs and thus most likely to lose traditional families to the suburbs.

There is only one form of relief. Families that live in legal HOAs can have their board of directors ban both ADUs and short term rentals. Most legal HOAs are in the outskirts of Colorado Springs far from downtown.

The council has canceled a work session on the proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) law originally scheduled for Monday.

There will be a public hearing on the proposed ADU law at an unspecified date in late May. The council is scheduled to vote on the proposed ADU law in June.

City Council will hold a “work session” on the proposed accessory dwelling unit law Monday, May 13, in Council Chambers at 1 P.M. The public can come and observe this meeting but may not participate. There will be a public hearing and a vote on the ADU proposal on Tuesday, May 28th.

If you want to maintain single-family zoning in your neighborhood and keep ADUs out, you should send an e-mail to the council members to tell them that.

Colorado College political scientists Tom Cronin and Bob Loevy both live in R1 single-family zones.


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