The Mancos Town Board debated uses of encroachment permits and easements at its May 8 meeting.
The issue arose when a property owner sought to convert a backyard structure into an accessory dwelling unit. However, the structure encroaches into the town’s right of way by almost a foot.
Although the case involves minimal land space, Town Manager Heather Alvarez said she was bringing it to the board’s attention because she anticipates similar issues will arise.
“I have a feeling that it’s going to be coming up more and more,” she said. “I get tons of requests now for ADUs and conversions.”
Encroachment permits are issued by the town to allow another property owner to “encroach” on the town’s right of way.
“For example, the awning on a building is overhanging a park property,” Alvarez wrote in a staff report. “We have an encroachment permit because the snow falls onto town property.”
Encroachment permits are authorized by the board and can be revoked by the board. However, Alvarez said, a few issues have arisen in the last year that would require a permit be “irrevocable.”
The first one involved a property owner who wanted to deed part of the river trail to the town in exchange for an encroachment permit for a building that was in the town’s right of way.
“The project stalled because the deed FROM the property owner was permanent, but the encroachment permit TO the property owner was revocable by the Board,” Alvarez wrote.
The second issue is the one at hand. A resident who recently purchased a property wants to convert a building in the back into an accessory dwelling unit. However, the building – which was built in the 1960s – encroaches 0.9 feet into the town right of way.
Consulting company SAFEbuilt suggested moving the building or that an encroachment permit be issued. But moving the building, Alvarez said, isn’t feasible.
At the meeting, the property owner said he didn’t want to invest too much in the conversion without a guarantee that the permit wouldn’t be revoked.
Some solutions that Alvarez and Town Attorney David Liberman offered included issuing an irrevocable permit or property easement.
Alvarez emphasized that the importance of the discussion concerned setting a precedent for the future, not just about the contested 0.9 feet.
Trustees debated the different ways to deal with the situation. They noted the town needs to support housing creation, and accessory dwelling units are one way of doing so. At the same time, they expressed some unease about giving up the town’s property rights.
Alvarez said she would never recommend the board approve an easement for “something that is not permanent.”
Trustee Betsy Harrison asked about easement standards, and if a time limit could be set on an easement.
Alvarez said that could be a possibility, although town officials would want to do some further analysis, and not make it an arbitrary number.
No decision was reached, with trustees urging caution and thorough research before setting anything in stone.
“At some point we want to modernize our town and have things start meeting our codes,” said Trustee Cindy Simpson.
She added that there was a liability component as well “if we let them put their house in the street, and create an ADU out of a shed.”
Alvarez said she and Liberman would continue to research options.