Idea is to push people to larger buildings with ADUs
by Mark Reaman
The great debate over future heated and plumbed accessory buildings in Crested Butte ended Monday when, in a split vote, the town council voted to allow small, heated accessory buildings that could be used as a one-car garage, workshop or office space.
In an ordinance approved by a vote of 5-2, property owners can build accessory (non-dwelling) structures no larger than 250 square feet and plumbing will not be allowed. The ordinance includes increased financial incentives for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) by waiving town permit fees along with water and sewer tap fees. Proponents pointed out that if property owners want a larger, heated and plumbed building, such as a two-car garage, they would have to include a minimum 400-square-foot ADU. Such a building could be as large as 1,000 square feet, so for example, an ADU could be placed on top of a 600-square-foot garage.
A moratorium prohibiting any nonresidential heated and/or plumbed accessory buildings in Crested Butte has been in place since 2021 and expired March 7. Supporters of the ordinance said its basic purpose is to allow small, heated spaces that could be used as a workshop or keep electric vehicles warm.
The other goal would be to create incentives for people to build a larger accessory building that would include a place for workforce housing.
Town staff had recommended a similar ordinance but with a 400-square-foot maximum size. The idea was that such a structure could allow an ADU to be built on top of it in the future. All ADUs in the impacted zones would be deed restricted as long-term rentals and staff is working on updating that language.
Sopris Avenue resident Ward Baker said his hobby was refurbishing cars and 400 square feet was a tiny space for accommodating his hobby. He said he was a person that would prefer living in a small house but would love a big garage to work in.
Jim Starr liked the staff recommendation with the caveat that the town pursue help with the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority (GVRHA) to screen potential ADU tenants and help manage the units. He said the GVRHA could also help with enforcement of deed restrictions.
“I like this idea, but I speak in favor of limiting the heated garage to 250 square feet,” Starr said. “I think this might incentivize some people to build a larger structure that included an ADU. ADUs are the best way to disperse affordable housing throughout the community. It would be a bold move to limit accessory buildings to 250 square feet while allowing 1,000 square foot structures if they included an ADU.”
Starr also asked the council to consider significant, six-figure financial assistance at budget time for people to build ADUs.
Councilmember Beth Goldstone moved to go with the staff recommended ordinance allowing the structures to be up to 400 square feet. Councilperson Anna Fenerty moved to amend her motion to limit the size to 250 square feet.
“As Jim Starr suggested, the 250 square feet provided space for a workshop or a one-car garage. It could shelter an electric car,” said Fenerty.
Councilperson Mallika Magner passionately agreed with Fenerty. “Affordable housing is still our crisis. We need affordable housing dispersed throughout the community,” she said. “I firmly believe by allowing 400-square-foot structures that no one will be incentivized to build an ADU. If people want a heated garage, they can have it, but they need to contribute to help with our housing crisis.”
“I prefer 400 to 250,” countered Goldstone. “It allows for an easier conversion or inclusion of an ADU in the future. A 250-foot garage will be that forever while 400 square feet allows for potential conversion.”
“I’m not comfortable putting legislation out there with the hope that something will happen in the future,” said Fenerty. “Even a 400-square-foot structure would take a big effort to convert to an ADU. I want people to contribute to our workforce housing.”
“The 250 square feet is nothing for a workshop, office or garage,” said councilmember Chris Haver. “Most families will have two cars and to keep batteries warm in two electric vehicles, you need a minimum of 400 square feet.”
“I’ve wrestled with this a lot,” said councilmember Jason MacMillan. “I’m on the fence. I am leaning toward 250 square feet. It draws a line in the sand with our values. But to Beth’s point, houses here change hands fairly often and someone coming in that wants to be part of the community and add some housing might put an ADU on the 400-square-foot structure.”
“I see being able to go from 250 feet to 1,000 square feet as a substantial incentive,” said Magner. “Someone could get an extra 200 square feet in a garage if they build 1,000 feet and put in a 400-square-foot ADU. It would be such a shame if the town let this opportunity go.”
A vote on the proposed amendment reducing the size of the accessory buildings passed 4-3 with councilmembers Fenerty, Magner, MacMillan and Gabi Prochaska voting for it and Haver, Goldstone and mayor Ian Billick voting against. The vote for the entire ordinance was approved 5-2 with councilmember Haver and mayor Ian Billick voting against it.