Garlick spices up debate over accessory dwellings

Dear Actionline: What should we do? – Ron LeBlanc, City Manager (Sent from my Motorola ATRIX™ 4G on AT&T)

This is curiously reminiscent of a Batman episode – when Commissioner Gordon calls the Caped Crusader on the special red Bat-Phone.

But that’s where the similarities to Batman end.

As much as Action Line prides himself on being inclusive and open-minded, there are no plans for a boy-wonder sidekick dressed in tights.

A secret cave and a rocket-propelled car, however, would be cool. So would having a butler named Alfred. But that’s beside the point.

The issue vexing our fair city is “The Case of the Phone Call ADU Switcheroo.”

First, some background. For 2˝ years, the city has been trying to revise, update and rewrite the Land Use and Development Code. The rules now in effect are from 1989 and have been amended 160 times.

The new code is promised to be “reflective of community plans and values.”

One of the proposed changes is to legalize ADUs, or accessory dwelling units. It’s basically a new rule allowing landowners in certain neighborhoods to turn their garage into an apartment or build an addition to rent out.

That has longtime resident Bruce Garlick upset. We’re talking ballistic upset.

Bruce lives on West Second Avenue, one of the neighborhoods where ADUs would be allowed.

He doesn’t like ADUs because he already has one nearby, complete with loud parties, three barking dogs, parking problems, trash and other quality-of-life issues.

“I purchased my house more than 30 years ago specifically for the neighborhood. The new code could double the density around me,” Bruce said.

“I didn’t buy my house to be in a crowded neighborhood.”

What galls Bruce is that few residents are outraged that the city is plowing ahead with something that would “create 500 new building lots” in the city.

So he decided to do something sneaky. He called The Durango Herald classified ad department and placed this hoax online ad one Thursday:

“ABSOLUTELY FREE BUILDING LOTS IN DURANGO – absolutely free building lots in Durango Colorado for up to 500 lucky people. Call 970-375-4850 to see if you could be a winner.”

The phone number was the direct line for the city’s Planning and Community Development offices.

By Monday, the office received 25 calls, planning director Greg Hoch wrote in an email to Ron LeBlanc and the city attorney seeking guidance.

Ron did what any good city manager would do: He whipped out his cellphone and sent Action Line a text message.

So Action Line called Bruce Garlick. In a pleasant and thoughtful conversation, he said his scheme was to “get people involved and draw attention to something that’s a big deal, but no one seems to care about.”

It got the city’s attention all right. And now it has yours.

Should the city accommodate landowners who want an income stream and provide more apartments that presumably would be affordable? Or are ADUs a misguided step toward garage-dwelling sharecroppers? Some think so, including online commenter Carl Rand who defined ADUs as “Sweetie-villes of poorly made student misery cells above camping gear and kayaks.”

Some people think ADUs are A-OK. Others react to ADUs with OMG or WTF.

Whatever three initials reflect your opinion, we all need to be informed and involved. The code is scheduled for adoption April 23. It’s not too late for your voice to be heard, pro or con.

Info on the proposed code is at www.durangocodeupdate.com along with dates for near-future meetings.

And regarding free stuff in the classified, know that it’s pretty much limited to kittens, puppies, roosters and an occasional “free, you haul” waterbed.

Maybe that used waterbed could be a lovely accessory for your ADU.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you knew the proposed land-use and development code requires ‘sexually oriented theater/dancing establishments’ to have one parking space per 50 square feet of floor area.

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