Along with possibly raising our taxes, mishandling the city budget and persecuting the homeless, the city now wants to further alienate the public trust by eliminating the lot sizes required for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in all areas of the city including EN1 and EN2, the older neighborhoods east and west of downtown, and EN3, Animas City.
There will be a public “Neighborhood Meeting” at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 21 at the Durango Public Library to hear public comments, as the city must bring this to the public in order to change the existing land-use and development code. Then the Planning Commission will vote on it, probably on Monday, March 18. It goes for the final City Council vote in April, just before Mayor Sweetie Marbury’s and Councilor Dick White’s terms are up.
There is a great possibility of this being passed.
If it does, it only results in cramming more people closer together in town and results in more parking problems, noise, fire danger and infrastructure overload, and less space.
All this creates stress, let alone loss of privacy and sun. Remember the rats-in-cages experiments from Psych. 101? What is happening to the quality of life here? Is it fair to build more at the expense of long-time citizens?
Many of us in these old neighborhoods have worked hard and given lots back to this community in order to live here. We worked with the city for many years to come to a compromise to allow ADUs in these areas. The city and the citizens both won, as the new codes took effect in July of 2014. Now, the city wants to change all that and allow all lots anywhere to build these accessory units to close-in what is already tight quarters for many of us.
This seems unfair and unjust. We make decisions about where we want to live, purchase real estate based on the codes for protection and create gardens, outdoor living spaces and solar exposure to comply with them. Now, four years later, the city wants to compromise the space around our dwellings, our privacy, our sun and the quality of our lives.
We rely on the codes. We rely on the regulations in place.
The infrastructure is already fragile. There is not enough parking on the streets – did you notice that during the recent snowstorms? The city complains of deteriorating roads and structural demise.
And what about the water? Where is all this water coming from that will be required for all these new people?
The city says only 28 ADUs have been built since the new code allowed this in 2014, but there are 300 registered ADUs in the city now, and who knows how many unregistered. I can see seven just down the alley in my block alone. Why do we want more?
We have many different neighborhoods in Durango, all with different characteristics and different needs. In fact, one of the city’s Goals and Objectives is to maintain the community’s unique character and sense of identity, by “Creating districts in the community that embrace the unique character of that area.” These need to be honored.
Councilor White believes infill results in more sustainability, and I admire his thinking in general. However, no matter how close people are to downtown, everyone has a car or two, plus trailers and other vehicles. Overloading infrastructure and using more water is not sustainability. There will never be enough housing in town.
If affordability is the goal, then affordable for whom, the homeowner or the renter?If affordability for homeownership, that would only be for the owner who builds the ADU, since at resale the price would be reflective of income from a rental unit. This would not be affordable for future homeowners.If affordability for the renter, I would want to see a survey of the rents charged for our new ADUs versus the pre-existing “legalized” ADUs. I would predict they are not comparable.Also, what has the cost been for the ADUs built since the code was passed five years ago? What are the rents? What is the payback for these units? Over-leveraged homeowners will charge as much as possible for their units.This is and has been a complex issue and must be given the time for proper analysis and then informing every neighborhood in Durango what it would mean for them. A two-month time line is not a fair treatment for the magnitude of this change to the code.
Our older neighborhoods are jewels that shouldn’t be harmed.
There are personal and conflict-of-interest motivations also. Mayor Marbury’s family may stand to benefit by enacting this. Councilors Chris Bettin and Dean Brookie stand to gain as they are both in real estate and development. It seems to me and many others that the developers and real estate factions run this town. Wouldn’t it be wonderful and ethical if these people recused themselves from the Council vote?
No wonder the Council has betrayed public confidence and respect. So much goes on behind closed doors. Perhaps this next Council will be more transparent and represent community citizens more.
If you care about our classic old neighborhoods and the quality of life here, please voice your thoughts on Feb. 21, write letters to the Council and be at the council meeting in April!
Martha McClellan is a 25-plus-year resident of Established Neighborhood 2 in Durango and has been an educator for many years and writes the Authentic Aging column for the Herald. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.