CB council implements moratorium on new heated accessory buildings in town

Gives staff a year to look at comprehensive plan…

[ By Mark Reaman ]

In a 5-2 vote the Crested Butte town council last week put a 12-month moratorium on accepting applications, reviewing, approving or issuing permits for heated or plumbed accessory structures that would not be used for long-term rentals. In other words, people planning to build in town will not be able to apply for things like a detached heated garage. Applications already submitted to the town would not be impacted.

Town staff recommended the moratorium so they could investigate the best ways to encourage more ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) instead of building structures like heated garages or studios. They asked for the time to comprehensively analyze the issue, get copious feedback on the idea and “determine policy improvements regarding accessory structures.”

Before the moratorium, people building in town could choose to include a long-term rental as part of their accessory building, say a small apartment on top of a garage, or they could pay a fee that goes toward affordable housing. The fee typically lands between $10,000 and $15,000.

As of the end of 2020 there were 97 deed-restricted ADUs in town being used for long-term rental. There were 196 “cold garages or heated/plumbed accessory buildings in town” of which 61 were heated. Staff said the trend over the last several years is for people to choose paying the fee for a heated accessory structure instead of using the building for long-term rental or as a cold storage space.
“We think putting a pause on this is a good idea,” said town planner Mel Yemma. “We will be busy with the upcoming Community Compass (long-term planning process) so our time is very limited.”

Yemma said based on recent trends, it was estimated that 11 new heated accessory structures would be proposed and plans for two ADUs would be submitted without the moratorium. Ultimately the staff hopes to perform a comprehensive analysis of town zoning and codes pertaining to accessory structures and the fees that are allowed to bypass such rentals including ADUs.

“I hate legislating through moratorium,” said mayor Jim Schmidt. “I would rather see staff go at this very specific item that doesn’t need a moratorium. I feel we should be able to work faster on this to come up with incentives that result in more ADUs. A year timeline seems very stretched out.”

Town attorney Barbara Green noted that the council could lift the moratorium before the year timeline if they felt the issue was settled.
“I’m immediately uncomfortable with the moratorium as well,” said councilmember Jason MacMillan. “Are there carrots we can provide to incentivize people to include a long-term ADU as part of their building project?”

“That’s what I intended when we brought this up,” said Schmidt. “There are nuances, but I saw it as an opportunity to do things like allow a small increase in building height or square footage to put in ADUs.”

“After completing the Compass process we would look at incentives,” said Yemma.

“We see the potential of density incentives but want to be careful with that,” said community development director Troy Russ. “We don’t want surprise consequences. We want to do the Compass first. We have a very limited town footprint, so every building opportunity counts.”

Russ said after looking at house size limitations and design review standards in town, the staff was less concerned than it originally thought about people deciding to add an attached heated garage onto their house as a result of a moratorium.

Town manager Dara MacDonald reiterated that if someone wanted to include a detached ADU as part of their building project, they would not be restricted to do so under the moratorium.

“ADUs are very important and provide housing throughout town,” said councilmember Mallika Magner. “They are an important part of the affordable housing mix, so I would like to see this done as fast as possible.”

Citizen Beth Goldstone suggested it was easier to build a heated structure than go back and retrofit a “cold garage” for example, so she suggested such structures might be included in the moratorium as well.

Russ thought that might be a good idea to include so-called “cold garage” structures in the moratorium. Councilmember Mona Merrill also voiced support with the idea.

Jim Starr said a moratorium was appropriate and again suggested that the council consider having the town require all new buildings to include a long-term rental. “Without a moratorium I am fearful we will see a lot of applications for accessory buildings without rental units,” he said.

Schmidt again thought a year was too long and suggested a six-month moratorium, but Russ said six months did not give staff enough time to look at the issue in a comprehensive manner.

“Looking at the housing issue in a comprehensive way as a package will ultimately give us a better product,” said MacDonald.
“This is not legislating through moratorium. We are asking for a ‘pause’ to get back on track,” opined councilmember Jasmine Whelan. “We need to close any loopholes as well. The idea of a moratorium is a close call, but I am more comfortable with it knowing that current applications already in line will not be impacted.”

MacMillan asked if town could control rents in ADUs. Russ said that without exchanging and providing incentives, that would be very difficult. Green said the town would look at all options as rent control regulations in the state were changing.

“I am a huge fan of ADUs but concerned about the unintended consequences of this,” said councilmember Ian Billick. “I am nervous about adopting a moratorium. Like Jasmine said, it is not an easy decision and it is a close call that I could go either way on, but I am swayed by some of Jim’s arguments so will vote against it.”

Without returning to the idea of including the “cold garages” structures in the action council voted 5-2 to impose the 12-month moratorium with Schmidt and Billick voting against it.

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