The Mancos Town Board continued its discussion on the use of encroachment permits and issued a revocable permit for a local resident at its meeting last week.
The permit for Brent Schoradt allows him to begin construction on a backyard structure – which slightly encroaches on town property – and convert it into an accessory dwelling unit to be rented out. Town board members in favor of the proposal said that such permits would help the town meet its housing needs, and that many residents are looking into the possibility of ADUs.
“Regardless of the situation, it’s going to come up a lot,” said board member Brent McWhirter.
The vote was 4-1, with trustee Cindy Simpson dissenting. Mayor Queenie Barz and board member Craig Benally were absent.
The vote followed a discussion about the pros and cons of encroachment permits, and their expected prevalence in the future. Although Schoradt’s situation involved only 0.9 feet of town property, the debate was seen by staff and trustees as setting a precedent.
“I have a feeling that it’s going to be coming up more and more,” said Town Administrator Heather Alvarez at the town’s May 8 board meeting. “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 town has issued an encroachment permit to one property owner because their building’s awning hangs over some park land, and snow falls from the awning onto town property.
After Town Attorney David Liberman and Alvarez conducted some research, Alvarez said it appeared an encroachment permit would be the best solution.
Such a permit would be revocable and come with some conditions, which she laid out in a staff report. A new dwelling unit would need to be created, and if 60% of the building is destroyed – or whatever percentage is stipulated by the land-use code at the time – the encroachment must be removed before any rebuilding happens, and the structure would need to meet current building standards.
If the town needs to conduct capital improvements such as road or sidewalk repairs, and the encroachment hinders these projects, the permit could be revoked.
And the final condition, Alvarez wrote: “If the building is removed for any reason, the encroachment permit is automatically revoked.”
At the May 8 meeting, Schoradt had said that he wanted a more permanent reassurance for the permit, noting that he didn’t want to invest in the remodel if the permit could just be revoked.
In her recent staff report, Alvarez pointed to some other municipalities that had offered a “fixed” encroachment permit, referring to encroachment by a structure that cannot be moved without tools or machinery. The board could still revoke the permit, though.
No action was taken on the overall issue of establishing encroachment permits – Alvarez said that it would take further research and staff just wanted board direction at this point. After receiving feedback, she and Liberman would draft an ordinance, Alvarez said.
Trustee Cindy Simpson opposed the idea of encroachment permits or easements. She thought that putting a dwelling unit in the town right of way could create safety and liability issues, and pointed to existing variances and exceptions as already stretching the limits of town regulations.
“We have a code, at some point we have to enforce a code,” she said.
However, others were more open to the proposal, as long as safety and liability concerns were addressed.
“One of the requirements prior to issuance will be a public hearing before the board of trustees, which I feel is very fair,” Alvarez said.
Schoradt, meanwhile, was applying for a revocable permit because he hoped to get started on his remodeling work this summer – potentially before the town reaches a final conclusion on the encroachment issue.
He recently purchased a home at 404 Bauer Ave.
Now that the board approved the encroachment permit for Schoradt, he will be able to begin renovations. If and when the town adopts a new policy on fixed encroachments, Schoradt’s permit would also need to be transferred to the new type of permit.