Planners continue work on accessory dwellings

One planning commissioner announced decision to move on

Norma Engelberg

There were no cases but the Woodland Park Planning Commission still had work to do at its Feb. 9 meeting. There were minutes to approve, reports to make and a work session to conduct on the ordinance that, if approved by city council in late March or early April, will allow homeowners to add accessory dwelling units to their properties either as homes for family members or rental units for up to four people.

First, however, Commissioner Stephen Yoxheimer announced that this meeting will be his last. He is taking a job with the Colorado Department of Corrections. He will train in Canon City and then be assigned to the correctional facility in Buena Vista. He said he hoped that all the commissioners would be present at this meeting so he could say goodbye but, as it was, only four other commissioners were there.

In monthly reports, Planning Director Sally Riley said Pikes Peak Regional Building Department performed 137 building inspections.

“We have a wonderful relationship with the building department,” she said, adding that she recently rode along with the department's elevator inspector. “Woodland Park had nine elevators that are inspected every year.”

Also, since the city approved an ordinance last year that allows the keeping of a limited number of domestic poultry; two chicken coops have been permitted and constructed.

On the accessory dwelling unit draft ordinance, Riley incorporated changes suggested by City Attorney Erin Smith and those requested by the commissioners at the Jan. 23 meeting. These included moving the ordinance to the municipal code chapter that covers Residential Dwelling Units because, despite being called “accessory” dwelling units, they are “bona fide” residential units.

Accessory dwelling units are “permitted by right” in suburban and urban residential zones subject to the codes contained in this ordinance, she said. Also, already existing accessory dwelling units will be “grandfathered” as legal, nonconforming units. Riley explained that this is typical when codes change after a building is constructed.

In other zones, with the exception of service commercial and heavy-services/light industrial zones where a conditional use permit is required, accessory dwelling units will be permitted conditionally.

Commissioner Tom Rollinger, who was not present, asked Commission Chair Jon DeVaux to ask the commissioners to make accessory dwelling units permitted conditionally in all zones so that the planning commission and council will always be an integral part of the approval process.

Riley explained, however, that permitted conditionally, which can be determined by the planning department, and conditional use permits, which are approved by council, are not the same thing. In this case the “condition” that would allow the construction of an accessory dwelling unit is that there is an existing single family dwelling.

Commissioners also had questions about the dwelling units matching the design of the primary structure when they are built over detached garages that don't match the primary dwelling.

“I mean if chicken coops have to pass …,” Commissioner Daniel Vogel said.

Riley said if a homeowner wished to construct a dwelling unit above a detached garage, it and the garage must be brought up to design standards. This only applies to home and accessory unit's exteriors.

With a few more questions for Smith, the ordinance will be ready for final recommendation at the Feb. 27 commissioners' meeting. City council could hear it on initial posting March 6 and the public hearing on March 20. If council needs more time, there is one more regular council meeting before the April 8 municipal election.