Peter Wysocki

In an effort to explore options to help fill the shortage of affordable and age-friendly housing in Colorado Springs the City Planning and Community Development Department recently proposed an ordinance to expand the use of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to some single-family zoned areas. Because the proposal has been met with some public concern City planners are slowing down the process to schedule additional City Council work sessions and allow council and city staff to consider and respond to resident comments.

As this proposed ordinance continues to evolve, it is important to provide some basic information about what it entails and how it would be implemented, if adopted.

Accessory Dwelling Units, or in-law units, are smaller secondary living areas on a residential lot or within the main home. ADUs have long been a part of historic neighborhoods and multi-family zoned areas in Colorado Springs and already serve to provide affordable housing options and housing for multi-generational families.

ADUs are not a “silver bullet,” but are common practice in other cities and has been identified as an opportunity in Colorado Springs to assist families to help parents age in place; support dependent and disabled children; offer additional housing options; assist families with “boomerang” adult children; or provide an opportunity to earn extra income.

As predictions of continued growth for Colorado Springs take shape, expanding accessory dwelling units to more single-family neighborhoods is one tool to provide additional housing options at a variety of price points. Expanding ADUs in Colorado Springs has also received support from the community and is noted in several city plans including PlanCOS, the City’s recently adopted comprehensive plan.

We would like to address some of the concerns we’ve heard about ADUs ranging from how many would be built, lot size requirements and how the overall integrity of residential neighborhoods will be maintained.

Although difficult to predict exactly how ADUs would grow in Colorado Springs, expansion of ADUs has been modest in many cities adopting this type of housing and is expected to yield similar results in Colorado Springs. There are several types of single-family zoned districts interspersed throughout Colorado Springs, but the ordinance will not expand to all of them. The proposed ordinance extends to R1-6, R1-9, R, OC and OR. Because properties in PUD, or Planned Use Development, have specific requirements for density that would need to be addressed before including in the ordinance they would not be eligible to add this type of dwelling at this time.

Additionally, the ordinance would not override private covenants that already prohibit accessory dwellings. HOAs and neighborhoods may still opt to adopt or amend covenants to prohibit accessory dwelling units.

To maintain the architectural integrity and natural landscape of neighborhoods ADUs must maintain the design, style, appearance and character of the main home or other structures in the area. Maximum size of the ADU will be limited to 1,250 square feet for a detached ADU or 50% of the main home’s size, whichever is smaller. An integrated unit may only be 40% of the main home’s square footage. The minimum lot size is still under consideration and will be discussed in upcoming council work sessions with the intent of ensuring adequate space to accommodate a ADU.

Since the draft ordinance’s inception, there has been language which states that in the zone districts that would allow ADUs, they cannot be sold separately from the principal home, nor can the lot be subdivided unless the new lots for both the ADU and the principal home meet the minimum lot size requirements for that zoned area.

Short-term rentals are allowed in single-family zones, however, they have different permitting requirements than ADUs. The requirements are stricter for single-family properties with an ADU in that the property owner must live in either the house or the ADU. One of the topics to be reviewed by the City Council is the relationship between short-term rental and ADU regulations.

City planners will continue to work with City Council to address resident concerns in the development of this ordinance. More information and updates on the proposed ordinance are available at Updates and upcoming public meeting dates will be posted as they are scheduled.

Peter Wyscocki is Director of City Planning and Community Development Department for Colorado Springs.

Peter Wyscocki is Director of City Planning and Community Development Department for Colorado Springs.

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