Value systems clashed at a meeting Monday on whether to allow accessory dwelling units in East Animas City.
It was the first meeting in a public process that will last through March 31, 2015, and end with a set of guidelines about how the units will be regulated.
The need for affordable housing was a major argument for those in favor of secondary units. This was pitted against those who want to see the neighborhood retain its character.
For many at the meeting, an ADU provided either the necessary income to buy their house or more affordable housing to allow them to live in Durango.
Some contended that secondary units had brought diversity to the neighborhood, and others said they had invested greatly into their ADU and improved the property.
Jeff Widen rebuilt his garage and improved every aspect of his property, and rent from his secondary unit made it possible to stay in Durango.
“We upgraded the character of this lot,” he said.
Others were concerned that by allowing the new construction of ADUs, it would create greater housing density, and Animas City would lose its rural flavor.
The need for infrastructure upgrades also was raised as concern that some felt should be addressed before opening the neighborhood to more growth.
“You might be pushing it past its limits,” Chris Wilbur said of the infrastructure.
Existing ADUs that were built illegally raised different issues about fairness. Some residents felt that those with existing ADUs should pay fees to the city for services.
“Everybody is subsidizing these illegal ADUs,” said Chris Paulson, a Animas City resident.
The city already has gone through this process for the neighborhood east of downtown and the avenue neighborhood along north Main.
In these areas, the city is asking residents to voluntary register their units before systematic enforcement begins March 31.
As an issue of fairness, the Durango City Council decided to assess fees based on the year units were built.
So major fees up to $10,000 will be levied only on units built during or after 1989. If an owner chooses to register their unit with the city, the back fees can be paid back over five years. A fee structure has not been presented for Animas City.
In the two historic neighborhoods with ADU rules, the council decided to enforce an owner-occupancy stipulation, which requires the owner to live in one unit if an ADU is on the property.
Resident Alma Evans recommended this provision because it could help prevent drawing investors into the neighborhood.
“It supports home ownership in your neighborhood,” she said.
The next step will be a survey, and city officials will present their recommendations to the public in January.