Upscale condominiums with underground garages have dominated new residential development downtown partly because city codes require on-site parking for housing.
To encourage the development of more second-story apartments above downtown businesses, city staff members have proposed an off-site parking alternative in which downtown residents could pay for a “hunting license” to look for an overnight parking space at a city lot. Mayor Doug Lyon called it a “hunting license” because the city could not guarantee a parking space every night.
Many details are still to be determined, but the concept was enthusiastically received by the City Council during an informal study session Wednesday.
“I think it’s such a creative solution,” said Councilor Christina Rinderle, who has long supported more people living downtown.
Because Durango currently has about 400 parking spaces on city-owned lots, the supply is expected to accommodate the residents of the new second-floor apartments. This is in addition to long-term plans by the city to build a parking garage downtown.
Lyon said he does not believe that proposals to allow for downtown apartments and accessory dwelling units, or mother-in-law-style apartments, will flood the market as much as the residents of East Third and Fourth avenues fear.
Mocking the language of downtown boosters, Karen Anesi, a member of the Boulevard Association, said she believes that the city is trying to build up the “vibrancy of downtown” on the backs of residents living on Third and Fourth avenues. Anesi is a freelance writer with The Durango Herald.
Third and Fourth avenue residents already complain of parking congestion, she said, adding, “You have people who cannot carry in their groceries.”
To address concerns, Lyon and Rinderle, the two most enthusiastic supporters of accessory dwelling units, supported the requirement of an on-site parking space, which is believed to be a way to limit the proliferation of mother-in-law apartments.
Rinderle, however, still is skeptical of a proposed space limitation of 550 square feet per accessory dwelling, essentially limiting them to a studio apartment.
Because lot sizes vary and some properties could accommodate much larger accessory dwellings, Rinderle said it makes more sense to have proportional limits for accessory dwellings, which are supposed to be subordinate to the main house.
To learn more about the issue, staff members proposed taking councilors on a home tour.
In other parking issues, Lyon was skeptical of lessening parking requirements for low-income housing projects because the residents there still have cars, just not as nice cars.
Because bicycling has become so popular in Durango, Lyon and Rinderle also joked that the city also needs to find a solution for the lack of bicycle parking downtown.