CB looking to end another moratorium and push for more ADUs

The next Compass driven decision 

[  by Mark Reaman  ]

Learning from past experiences with the recent vacation rental and RV dump station discussion and processes, the Crested Bute town council wants the community development team to run a simpler, more open-ended discussion and process over the next major topic: the ending of the current moratorium on accepting applications for residents wanting a permit for heated and plumbed accessory buildings.

The council made it clear that coming out of the moratorium, they would like a plan that results in more affordable housing whether that comes through things like offering incentives for people to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs) instead of heated garages or charging more money for Resident Occupied Affordable Housing (ROAH) fees for the privilege of building such a garage instead of a deed-restricted unit that could be rented to local workers.

Using the Community Compass decision-making framework, the staff on Monday presented the council with a definition of the challenge, a proposed goal statement and a commitment to a community engagement strategy. Council felt the inclusion of climate mitigation goals to reduce or mitigate the carbon footprint of heated and plumbed accessory dwelling units along with the focus on promoting further construction of ADUs gummed up the message.

“Why are the carbon footprint elements in there?” asked councilmember Chris Haver. “We are going after that anyway. The primary goal is more affordable housing.”

“Our mechanisms and building regulations are good with climate mitigation and apply to all new building, so I agree with you,” said mayor Ian Billick.

Crested Butte planner Nick Catmur said one thought was to discuss climate ramifications of even allowing new heated garages in the future. “The goal statement was derived from the Compass that had major elements for both housing and climate mitigation,” he said.

Billick said he preferred to address that through the building code perspective. “It feels ad hoc to pull out one particular kind of space like that,” he said. “If the goal is housing, why get people riled up right away? There needs to be a meaningful link between carbon and the housing aspects otherwise I think it undercuts the message and creates confusion. I didn’t see such a link in this packet. There might be one, and I’m open to it, but it wasn’t presented here tonight.”

“I agree. Adding the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission element muddies the water,” said councilmember Jason MacMillan. “Maybe we think about a higher ROAH fee if a structure is heated and plumbed but not used as a dwelling. I like the idea of using both carrots and sticks.”

“I also felt the STR (short-term rental) discussion started too strong with its goal statement before getting public feedback,” said Billick. “So maybe this starts with softer proposed language and we adjust it based on the public feedback. For me, the moratorium was about housing and not climate. Including both in the initial goal statement can be confusing to the public. We can obviously address issues and change things in the code as they come up, and that might include some climate elements, but the initial focus was housing.”

Town manager Dara MacDonald said the staff can adapt the public presentations to make it clear the goal statement is an evolving document and will change based on public feedback.

“I think that would be good not just for this particular issue but for all the upcoming decision-making processes,” said Billick.

“How this fits into the climate action plan can be part of the discussion but not necessarily part of the initial goal statement,” agreed councilmember Gabi Prochaska.

“We intend to view everything through a climate action lens,” added councilmember Mallika Magner. “The goal is construction of affordable housing, not just ADUs, however it is accomplished.”

Billick summarized that a “shorter, simpler goal statement focused on housing” is the council ideal.

Crested Butte long-range planner Mel Yemma said there were 58 vacant lots left in town that could build an accessory building as part of a single-family house. Catmur said 68 buildings were currently permitted for non-heated accessory buildings like a garage and owners might consider retrofitting them to include an ADU in the future. There are also current single-family homes on lots that have space for a new accessory building. Those numbers are expected to be analyzed further during a future “infill study” of Crested Butte.

“So, there is real opportunity to perhaps get significant deed-restricted affordable units,” said Billick. “I think a lot of our opportunity with housing is through offering incentives.”

“Part of the public outreach is to see what sort of incentives would be impactful and make a difference,” said Catmur.

That public outreach will start this week with an online survey for the public on the town’s website. The poll will run through Christmas. 

“I want the survey to be a lot simpler than the one on the vacation rentals,” said councilmember Beth Goldstone. “It was confusing to me and I was part of the process.”

“We are learning from the vacation rental and RV Dump station discussions,” said Yemma.

“How much emotion is out there and how much participation will we have over this issue?” Billick asked his fellow council members.

“I think for people who have yet to build, there could be a lot of emotion depending on the proposed regulations,” said MacMillan.

“I look at this as a lot narrower group than the vacation rental participants,” said Haver. “One of my hopes is to get information from people who have built recently and see why they did what they did.”

“I’ve heard feedback that indicates it could be emotional,” said Magner. “From what I’ve heard, people buying houses in town these days don’t want an ADU or need the income generated from an ADU. I think we’ll get strong pushback. I feel it will be a hot button issue and that’s why coming up with incentives will help cool the temperature.”

Magner relayed that she heard from Jim Starr of the Valley Housing Fund and he suggested the town offer strong incentives such as paying people $200,000 to build an ADU. He noted that would be cheaper than the cost of the town building a deed-restricted unit on its own.

“I think the issue is rather targeted,” said Prochaska. “I don’t think it will be very hot, but I could be wrong. People get mad if the town restricts or takes something away from them and we aren’t doing that.”

Time will tell. Following the online survey, focus groups will be convened to dig into details and that would be followed by public meetings that include proposed “success measures” with the idea to have an ordinance before the council in February. 

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