The Colorado Springs Planning Commission backed a proposal Thursday that could allow more housing in single family neighborhoods across the city in the form of granny flats. 

The commission unanimously approved the three draft ordinances that would create rules to govern apartments or cottages on properties with single-family homes, called accessory dwelling units (ADU), with limited discussion. The commission took the vote after hearing from about eight residents both for and against allowing more housing in single-family neighborhoods. The proposals will now go to Colorado Springs City Council for consideration.

Commissioner Rhonda McDonald said she was pleased with the revised ADU proposal that came before city officials for consideration last year.

She described the new proposals as "a lot more organized and structured than it was previously."

The revised proposal would allow homeowners to have accessory family suites in their homes without the need for a hearing before the Planning Commission. The suites could have a kitchen and they would not need to have separate electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems, according to the proposal. 

The suites could not be stand-alone structures and the home with a suite in it would have to maintain the appearance of a single-family structure, said Hannah Van Nimwegen, a senior planner with the city.

The people living in a single-family home with an accessory family suite would have to meet the city's definition of a family, which includes people who are related to each other and up to five unrelated people, she said. 

"We are not increasing the number of families that could live on the property," Van Nimwegen said. 

However, homeowners would have to provide one off-street parking spot for a suite, she said.

The family suites would allow homeowners to provide a separate living space for their elderly parents, a renter or their adult children, Councilman Don Knight said in an earlier interview. 

Homeowners interested in building an apartment within their home for a second family, would have to apply for a conditional-use permit, which would require a hearing before the Planning Commission, Van Nimwegen said. The homeowner would also have to provide separate plumbing, electrical and mechanical and other systems for the unit, she said. 

Property owners interested in building a cottage in their backyard or an apartment above their garage for a second family would have to apply for a variance, which requires the owner to prove why a unit is good fit for the neighborhood, she said. 

The rules would also allow developers to ask the city to allow ADUs in planned neighborhoods without a permit or variance, she said.

Two advocates for additional housing spoke in favor of the new ordinance and called on the city to provide less restrictive rules in the future. 

Dutch Schultz was among the homeowners who spoke against the ordinance in part because of the city's loose definition of family. Allowing five unrelated people to live in a home and it's accessory dwelling unit is essentially allowing multifamily housing, said Shultz, president of the Old North End Neighborhood Association. 

"The intention is not what's important, it's the result," he said. 

Schultz would like to see the city require those interested in providing housing to a family member to get a permit. When the property changes hands he would like the new property owner to have to seek another permit if they are going to house a family member so that family suites don't turn into rental housing. 

Contact the writer at or (719) 429-9264.

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