Legalizing an accessory-dwelling unit got a little more straightforward and possibly cheaper for residents Tuesday night.
The Durango City Council directed staff to make ADU fees more uniform, bringing down the maximum fees from about $10,000 to $7,339. These fees can be paid back over five years.
The change applies to any unit built without the city’s knowledge from 1989 to 2013. Those built in 2014 will be subject to current fees.
Previously, the city had planned to charge about $10,000 to legalize any ADU built after 1989 that was more than 600 square feet. The cap was $7,339 for those less than 600 square feet.
All of the councilors approved the change in the fee structure.
“I support the simplicity of this,” Councilor Dean Brookie said.
The new fee structure applies to units in two historic neighborhoods. The two areas in question are established neighborhood one, which includes homes 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.
The city is asking residents of these areas to register their units before March 31.
The voluntary registration process followed months of deliberation on how the city should handle ADUs. To some, they are a nuisance, but others argued they are a source of affordable housing. The high fees for legalizing the units also have been a source of contention, and the councilors saw the new maximum fee as an appropriate solution.
“We’ve listened and tried to respond,” Mayor Sweetie Marbury said.
The fees all are aligned with the unit’s age.
Owners of units that pre-date 1941 do not owe the city anything because a building code governing secondary units was not in place. But if owners register the unit, they can receive a letter acknowledging the unit’s existence that would go with the title.
There also are no fees required for units built between 1941 and 1988 because permitting laws have changed since the unit was constructed. However, owners who register their unit can receive a letter that would allow them to rebuild the structure if it partially is destroyed.
Owners of these units also are required to sign an affidavit affirming the owner lives in one of the two units and the ADU is safe. Waivers for the owner-occupancy requirement are available.
For those who own ADUs built during or after 1989, fees can be aligned with the specific year it was built if the owner can prove the age.
The public process for determining how the city will handle ADUs in East Animas City is underway. City officials will present recommendations about regulating those ADUs to the public in January.