Several residents asked questions about the city of Durango’s plans to enforce accessory dwelling units and proposed fees to register units at a public meeting Wednesday.
An ADU is an apartment in a single-family home or a lot. It is either attached to the principal residence or in a separate structure on the same property.
The discussion centered on existing, unpermitted accessory dwellings. Many of the residents who attended questioned the amount of money some property owners may have to pay to legalize the second unit.
The city plans give the owners of unpermitted accessory dwellings a five-month grace period, from August 1 to Dec. 31, to register with the city, get a limited-use permit and pay any mandatory fees. Applicants could get certain incentives for voluntarily registering, including no ticket for the illegal unit and payment plans for fees. It also means owners could get some requirements waived, such as lot size, unit size and parking requirements. The city also may allow existing utilities to remain connected to the primary residence.
“We know that through time, people have been able to convert spaces on property they own into dwelling units, and we haven’t been made aware of it,” Community Development Director Greg Hoch said. “We’ve been aware of this pressure through the years for us to be more proactive of our enforcement rather than what we call complaint-driven.”
As units are registered, city staff will slot them into five categories, including East Animas City and other zones. ADUs in single-family zones that are outside the two oldest established neighbors are currently illegal.
Resident Elizabeth Marsh said she bought a century-old property in the established neighborhood along West Second and Third avenues and East Second Avenue north of the Durango Community Recreation Center, that has a detached apartment. She said she was concerned about the fees, but if she can prove her ADU was built before 1941, she won’t have to pay anything. She must make any basic life or safety improvements, but won’t need a permit or have to meet ADU requirements, such as unit or lot size, parking, owner occupancy or pay fees.
“It just seems like these fees should be prorated down,” Marsh said. “The uncertainty scares me.”
Durango resident J Burnite has an ADU in the downtown established neighborhood he thought was legal, dated between 1941 and 1989. Planning Manager Nicol Killian said his lot, which is 6,900 square feet, is too small to have a legal second unit on the property for that neighborhood, and if it was approved, it shouldn’t have. She said the city will work with those who register in the grace period.
He may have to pay $550 for a limited-use permit, a $5,582 water plant investment fee and a $1,520 sewer plant investment fee. The water fee is dropped to $2,791 if the unit is 600 square feet or less or attached to the primary residence. The sewer fee drops to $830 if the unit is attached.
“Shouldn’t there be a sliding scale established for those older units?” Burnite asked, saying his unit was built in 1951. “Maybe they’re not in compliance with that 1941 time period and before that, but certainly they’re very close to that time period.”
Killian said City Manager Ron LeBlanc is talking to local banks about offering payment plans as an incentive to get owners to register in the grace period, and the city will consider a sliding scale.
Units built after 1989 in downtown or avenue neighborhoods have to pay the permit fee, a $1,923 major street impact fee, a $300 park fee, a $945 school fee, and the water and sewer plant investment fees.
All units will have life and safety inspections. Units that are unacceptably unsafe must make immediate repairs or shut down within 30 days.