Many more property owners may have the right to build accessory dwelling units in East Animas City thanks to a recent decision by the Durango Planning Commission.
The commissioners unanimously decided to recommend lowering the required lot size for units from 8,500 square feet to 7,500 square feet as part of approving amendments to the Land Use and Development Code.
The Durango City Council will make the final decision on the land-use code.
The smaller lot-size prerequisite opens up 75 percent of the lots in the neighborhood. The planning staff recommended required lots to be 8,500 square feet, which would have opened it up to 45 percent of the lots in the neighborhood.
“It was driven by what the neighborhood wanted,” said Vicki Vandegrift, a senior planner with the city.
Commissioner Joe Lewandowski came to the meeting believing that 8,500 was the right size but later changed his mind. He felt capping the lot size at 8,500 would be unfair to those with smaller lots.
“There is really not that much difference between a 7,500 and 8,500 square feet,” he said.
He also didn’t believe the potential increased density would overwhelm the neighborhood, and it would allow the opportunity for more people to live in town.
Dave McHenry, a spokesman for Citizens for Healthy Established Neighborhoods, a group representing some of the residents in East Animas City, and a City Council candidate, was stunned by the change.
“It’s incomprehensible to me why they are doing what they are doing,” he said.
But he was not surprised because he felt that even if the Planning Commission had recommended the 8,500 square feet, the City Council would change it to 7,500.
“Their minds are already made up,” he said.
City councilors asked planners to consider the 7,500 square-foot lot size at a recent study session.
All the other regulations for ADUs in East Animas City, including retroactive fees to legalize units, will mirror those in the historic downtown neighborhoods where ADUs already are permitted.
In those neighborhoods, 130 ADUs or duplexes, many formerly illegal, have been registered with the city, Vandegrift said.
Once the land-use code amendments for East Animas City are approved, the voluntary registration process for the neighborhood will start.
Those with ADUs that pre-date 1989 will not have to pay fees to legalize their unit.