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Durango residents show support for legalizing multiplexes

City seeks input on code changes
Durango residents show early support for allowing multiplexes, or single family homes with multiple units inside, in the city. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Durango residents seem ready for another style of housing: multiplexes, or family-style homes with three to five units inside.

The city of Durango says there are at least 35 and at most hundreds of multiplexes already within city limits. The multiplexes, however, are illegal in some areas of the city and unregulated in city code. City staff members are considering changing the code to legalize existing units and allow new units to be legal and regulated.

The public seems to support the idea, according to preliminary survey results and a forum on Monday.

“Generally, the takeaway from the meeting is that there is support for these units,” said Dan Armentano, a city planner. “It’s not an insurmountable goal or possibility to allow for multiplexes to exist in our neighborhoods.”

Multiplex homes typically look like single-family homes, possibly with a garage, basement and second floor, but they have been modified on the inside to include smaller, independent living areas for individuals and families.

Housing in Durango is in high demand, with prices rising and stock plummeting. The city has been looking for ways to provide more affordable housing options for residents, which is one reason the city began looking at multiplexes.

As of Thursday, more than 300 people responded to a city survey, which gauges support for the multiplex option, concerns and options for regulation. The survey closes Friday night.

More than 60% of respondents supported allowing multiplexes in their neighborhoods, Armentano said.

Multiplexes are already allowed in multifamily and mixed-use zones, but the city is considering expanding where the units can be located.

The survey asked whether multiplexes should be allowed in the downtown area, called zone EN-1; the north Main Avenue corridor, or EN-2; East Animas City, EN-3; and outside the downtown area and north Main Avenue corridor, including the Crestview and Riverview areas.

The majority of community members supported the units in each zone, according to the 100 responses that are publicly available.

The respondents were most concerned about parking and traffic impacts, noise and safety issues, and the lack of compatibility with existing land uses.

Community members echoed similar concerns, particularly about parking, during the forum on Monday, Armentano said.

They also expressed interest in finding ways to ensure the multiplexes were owned by people in the community, instead of out-of-state property owners.

City staff members might explore an owner-occupancy requirement, similar to requirements for accessory dwelling units in the city, or an incentive program, Armentano said.

“There were a fair amount of comments as to why these should be encouraged,” he said. “In the meeting, it was probably around half and half with some folks supporting the idea conceptually, while still having some concerns about issues with parking and neighborhood impact.”

After the survey closes, staff members will draft code-change suggestions and present them to the Durango Planning Commission. The commission will make a recommendation to the City Council. Both the commission and council will hold public hearings.

“We’ll be reviewing the responses in the survey,” Armentano said. “Right now, it looks like there is broad support for allowing these in the city.”

smullane@durangoherald.com

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