No more heated garages?[ By Mark Reaman ]
It appears that those building a house in Crested Butte will soon not be able to include a heated accessory garage, office or studio as part of the construction. With the idea that disallowing such heated and plumbed accessory buildings in town will lead to more accessory dwelling units (ADUs) that could be rented to local workers, the town council on January 17 directed staff to draw up an ordinance and run it by the Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR), to prohibit such buildings.
Staff is expected to bring back such an ordinance for the council to consider at the February 6 meeting. Eventually, council hopes to come up with incentives that will also spur the construction of more ADUs.
The town implemented a moratorium on accepting applications for reviewing, approving or issuing permits for non-residential heated and plumbed accessory buildings in September of 2021. There are currently 68 such accessory buildings permitted in Crested Butte. The official goal of the town’s moratorium was to evaluate how the town’s accessory building regulations could be further modified to better promote affordable housing in Crested Butte.
Town staff presented two alternatives for the council at the January 17 meeting. The first was to make no regulatory changes in the conditional use allowing such accessory buildings. That would keep things at the status quo as before the moratorium. The second alternative was to disallow heated and plumbed accessory structures as an allowed conditional use. “With this alternative staff would anticipate more development applications for ADUs, and staff would recommend town council consider a property management/rental assistance program to support homeowners with background checks, lease guidelines and potential deposit guarantees,” a memo to council states. Staff also recommended making clear the deed restrictions that would be associated with ADUs. Council wanted to include a restriction requiring the rentals would be made to people working in the valley.
Mayor Ian Billick initially suggested that before taking any action the council wait for the results of an upcoming town “infill study” in 2024 that will analyze the remaining availability of residential construction and infill development potentials in town. He said knowing the actual numbers could lead to an appropriate goal for what would be an effective percentage of ADUs to help with workforce housing. ADUs currently make up about 7% of the town housing stock.
During the moratorium 45% of the newly constructed houses were permitted with ADUs while 55% included “cold” accessory buildings.
Generally, staff and council admitted that given the wealthier demographic of people moving to Crested Butte, financial incentives might not be enough of a motivator to encourage more ADUs with new builds that will typically cost seven figures. They figured however that working locals that currently own homes in town might be encouraged to add an ADU if provided enough financial incentives such as waiving building permit and tap fees.
Councilmember Jason MacMillan suggested that the ROAH (Resident Occupied Affordable Housing) fees associated with new building should be significantly higher. Community development director Troy Russ said the staff plans to look at the nexus of impacts of new building and adjust those fees later this year. But he was clear that the fees had to be directly connected to impacts.
Councilmember Chris Haver said he was more interested in adopting the second alternative and combining that accessory building prohibition with new incentives for ADUs.
Councilmember Gabi Prochaska asked what the real connection would be between the prohibition of heated and plumbed accessory buildings and obtaining new ADUs. “How many would really be built because the others would not be allowed?” she asked.
“It is super complicated, and we can take a best guess, but it would be a guess,” said Billick. “I prefer the first alternative until we see the infill study. I am worried we can cause a lot of problems with little benefit. But I am comfortable with either. We just need to be careful when we put the regulatory hammer down. That will take our limited goodwill out of the bank.”
“It seems ridiculous to put a moratorium in and not change anything,” countered councilmember Anna Fenerty. “It seems more ADUs were permitted during the moratorium, so I am in favor of the second alternative.”
“I also am leaning toward the second alternative but with a review of substantially higher ROAH fees if the nexus is there,” added MacMillan.
Community development director Troy Russ said given the deadline of the moratorium the hope was to have public comment taken on the alternative at the first reading of the potential ordinance on February 6. Council was amenable to that schedule.
Councilmembers made clear they were in favor of making sure that a workforce deed restriction was clear with future ADU rentals. They did not want to further restrict them with an income cap, for example. Council also wanted town staff to investigate how to better help the homeowners with rental selection assistance.
“When it is someone else’s property, we want to give them flexibility,” said Billick.
Crested Butte housing director Erin Ganser said the town has struggled at times with compliance of the ADU rentals. “There is a lot of misunderstanding out there,” she said of current deed restrictions.
Citizen Kent Cowherd suggested an incentive that might spur ADU development would be to allow property owners to have two ADUs on their lot. One, he said, could be deed restricted for rental and the other used by the owner as he or she sees fit. “I don’t like alternative two,” he said. “It is better to have some things more permissive to incentivize people.”
The draft ordinance to prohibit heated and plumbed accessory buildings went to BOZAR for review on January 31 and will be back in front of the council on February 6.