Durango City Council decided to ease the rules for some owners of accessory dwelling units Tuesday night.
Mayor Pro Tem Dean Brookie characterized the changes as a “kinder, gentler roll out of this program, that was intended to create an inventory of the existing ADUs not necessarily penalize people.”
Councilors directed city planners to extend the deadline to register units from Dec. 31 to March 31, 2015, and align fees with those in place the year the unit was built. Now, only owners of accessory units that were built during or after 1989 will be required to pay fees normally levied on new construction. Back fees, which may be up to $10,000, can be paid back over five years at 4 percent interest, planners said.
These changes impact units in established neighborhood one, the area east of East Third Avenue and north of First Street and established neighborhood two along Main Avenue from about 16th Street to about 32nd Street
“These were clearly built illegally,” said Nicol Killian, the planning manager.
If owners can prove their unit was built in a specific year after 1989 they will be required to pay only the fees that were in place that year.
“It’s really a fairness issue. It was never a revenue-driven task,” Brookie said.
If an ADU was built after 1989, but the property owner can’t prove what year, they will have to pay the current fees.
Owners of units built before 1989 will not have to pay fees because permitting laws have changed since the unit was constructed and many records needed to prove its construction date aren’t available. These units will not have to meet current safety standards, and no part of the property will have to be occupied by a owner.
These changes frustrated resident, David McHenry, with Citizens for Healthy Established Neighborhoods, who fought for those provisions.
“We’ve come full circle,” he said.
The city is offering a letter of acknowledgment to older ADU owners that will affirm the legality of the unit should they ever choose to sell. They also have the option of going through the permitting process and paying the associated fees. This would allow them to rebuild the ADU, if the building was ever destroyed, Killian said.