Proposed fees and regulations to ensure demolished housing is replaced received the Durango City Council’s preliminary backing Tuesday.
The council has been grappling with an affordable-housing shortage, and while councilors put plans to increase fair-share fees on hold Tuesday, they debated new regulations around demolition.
Councilors want to reverse a trend in which developers pay fair-share fees instead of building affordable units. The goal had been to pass changes this spring. But on Tuesday, the staff proposed bringing back changes to the fee structure in the fall, as part of a larger package of changes.
“We need to take a broader approach to amending fair share, so all the aspects of the ordinance work in greater concert,” Planner Phillip Supino said.
Instead, the council discussed housing-demolition regulations, but did not take any official action.
A city permit for a house demolition is $15, less than the permit to build a fence, which is $50.
The council supported increasing this fee, but a specific number was not discussed. The city may look at charging fees for water and sewer connections depending on the age of the structure demolished before the reconstruction.
A plan for redevelopment may also be required at the time of demolition.
Supino said a redevelopment plan would help ensure “it won’t be a vacant lot indefinitely.”
Councilors asked planners to clarify the redevelopment fee in case plans to build fall through, as many did during the Great Recession.
“We don’t want to nail somebody to a wall who is already up against it,” Councilor Dick White said.
Staff members also floated an idea to require someone who is demolishing a structure with three or more units to pay fees for units that they do not plan to replace.
“A lot of this is meant to act as a disincentive to demolish a structure,” Supino said.
It is more cost-effective for the city to retain existing workforce housing than to pursue new construction, he said.
However, both staff members and the councilors acknowledge the importance of replacing dilapidated housing with more energy-efficient homes.
Without some demolition and reconstruction, towns can fall into decay, said Councilor Dean Brookie.
Some incentives for building a secondary unit, like an apartment over the garage, along with a new home could complement other regulations, Councilor Sweetie Marbury said.
There have been 26 residential demolition projects since 2007, Planner Mark Williams said. Many of these have been followed by new development.