Accessory units hang up City Council

What size lots should have them?

Accessory dwellings will occupy only about 10 pages in the 400-page, new land-use code, but the issue of how to permit alley cottages is hanging up the City Council, which would like to approve the new standards in April.

Size seem to be the latest point of contention.

Accessory dwelling units are currently permissible as duplexes on lots of 7,500 square feet or more in the historic neighborhoods near the downtown and along Main Avenue north of downtown.

The proposal is to allow accessory dwellings on any size lot in the historic neighborhood near downtown and on lots of 7,000 square feet or more along residential streets on both sides of north Main Avenue, provided homeowners can meet other applicable standards, such as limiting total building lot coverage to 35 percent and requiring a parking spot for an accessory dwelling.

By easing size standards, Mayor Doug Lyon worries the city “might be moving too fast.”

“I think we need to be mindful of the character of the neighborhoods,” Lyon said at a recent meeting.

Lyon said there is “a distinct side of me that’s a little uneasy” about making it permissible on any size lot.

The mayor said there is an inconsistency in standards because another standard requires lots be at least 4,000 square feet before any subdivision is allowed.

“I fail to see how we can have additional units on a lot that is not even eligible for subdivision,” Lyon said. “I think we can strike a decent balance with making ADUs on lots of 5,750 square feet, which is the most common size lot in downtown Durango.”

Councilor Sweetie Marbury said she also has concerns “about going less than 5,000 square foot.”

“I’ve heard comments on alleys not being paved; what an impact it makes when you start adding onto the alleys,” Marbury said.

But Councilor Christina Rinderle argued for keeping the proposal as is, noting that “concession was (already) made on size to keep them smaller and subordinate to the (principal) structure.”

By allowing smaller lots to have accessory dwellings, many of these homeowners could then afford to build garages, Rinderle argued.

“I think this is a fantastic opportunity for someone to add a garage onto the back of a lot and offset some of the expense of creating a garage by having a legal apartment above it,” Rinderle said.

“It also creates storage. Everybody in Durango has gear, whether it’s kayaks, mountain bikes, camping gear. Right now, there are a lot of homes that don’t have a garage. We find that stuff cluttering up the neighborhoods.”

So accessory dwellings above garages are a “win-win,” Rinderle said.

The council decided to take up the size issue and any other sticking points during workshops planned for the end of the month.

The proposed standards also can be found at

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