Durango’s population is expected to grow from 18,500 to 31,500 by 2040, and so housing is a key piece of city’s comprehensive plan update.
The plan is expected to encourage dense housing within city limits and anticipates the annexation of land on the edges of town to absorb growth, city consultant Michael Lauer said.
The city does not encourage or discourage growth, rather it tries to plan well for projected growth, he said.
“It manages it so that it happens in a way so that growth is an asset, a long-term asset to the community,” he said.
The plan was presented to the public and to an advisory board Wednesday. Several more public forums are planned for it before the Durango City Council considers it for adoption in April.
The use of Ewing Mesa is one of the major changes to the plan. The site, adjacent to Horse Gulch, was supposed to absorb much of the city’s growth. Instead, it is planned to become the site for a multipurpose venue that could replace the La Plata County Fairgrounds.
The city is examining other areas for housing.
The city could grow atop Farmington Hill on Webb Ranch, which will be bisected by U.S. Highway 550 when it is rerouted.
Dense housing could be built on River Tails Ranch, in the Animas River Valley, and on the west side of Florida Road. Mixed-use housing could be built along Camino del Rio, north Main Avenue, La Posta Road and Colorado Highway 3. The city could also grow north of Three Springs, which would require the extension of utilities.
The city would not need to grow in all of these areas to accommodate the projected residents, Lauer said. But the city should consider a mix of these options.
Encouraging infill through mixed-use projects and multihousing is more sustainable than annexing property, and residents seemed to support it.
To help developers build dense housing in commercial corridors, like north Main Avenue, the city could allow buildings to have additional height and more intense uses in exchange for a certain required number of units.
The city could also require housing units to be sold below a certain price in an effort to meet certain sustainability guidelines, members of the Housing Policy Advisory Committee said.
By writing in guarantees about density into city policies, it could eliminate the need for public hearings on variances and give developers more certainty their projects would be approved, Lauer said.
The city is already working on character district plans to define the kind of redevelopment appropriate for different areas, such as Camino del Rio and north Main Avenue. Specific neighborhood plans are necessary for redevelopment efforts to succeed, Lauer said.
“Mixed use without any standards whatsoever invariable leads to blight,” he said.
The need to bring in outside developers was also highlighted by the Housing Policy Advisory Committee. More developers creates a situation in which on greater risk can be taken, and, in addition, many local developers are retiring.
“Opening the doors to helping development happen is the single most-important thing,” Karen Iverson the executive director of the La Plata HomesFund.
The comp plan will also detail how a proposed water-treatment plant at the base of Lake Nighthorse would influence growth near Three Springs.
Before the plant is built, the city will need to decide on the service boundary between the city and the La Plata Archuleta Water District. The city and the district plan to share the plant’s construction costs, and they would both use the water.
The new projects that receive water from the plant would define the development along Durango’s eastern gateway.