In its meeting on Tuesday, the Cortez planning and zoning commission discussed a possible land use code change that could give residents more affordable housing options.
Right now the city code allows an “accessory dwelling unit,” defined as an addition to a house with its own entrance, kitchen, sleeping area and bathroom, to be built in some residential districts. But the code also limits the size of these additions to 20 percent of the house’s existing size, so that a 2,000-square-foot house could only have a 400-square-foot addition. At the meeting, city planner Tracie Hughes asked the commission members for their advice on whether to expand that size limitation in the land use code update, which she and her department are still working to complete.
ADUs are popular options in the Cortez area for homeowners wanting to temporarily house relatives who are elderly or just need a cheap place to stay, she said.
“Less restrictions would allow for more flexibility in housing, for more affordable housing for individuals, couples or family members,” she said.
She said many people have tried to get permission from the city to add an ADU, only to find that the small size of their houses would make it impossible. Board chairman Danny Giannone said he believes the majority of Cortez’s residential buildings are less than 2,000 square feet. He said he would support increasing the size limit. Vice chairwoman Rebecca Levy suggested the code specify a maximum square footage, rather than a percentage.
After a lengthy discussion, the commission members asked Hughes to research the feasibility of changing the limit for ADUs to 50 percent of the existing house’s area or 550 square feet, whichever is smaller.
Giannone said the city should encourage residents to find more affordable housing options, like ADUs.
“It’s going to be a big need,” he said. “I think we should try to do whatever we can to accommodate and assist that.”
Mayor Karen Sheek, who attended the meeting, cautioned the commission members to limit how many additions can be built onto existing residential property under the new code.
“My only concern, listening to this conversation, is putting so much stuff on a piece of property that it’s just nothing but buildings and concrete,” she said.
Hughes and the commission members said they would take that into consideration. Levy added that she would prefer the city to provide incentives for people to limit their ADU use, rather than penalties for failing to do so.
A draft of the new ADU section of the land use code would require only one additional parking space for an ADU, instead of the current two, and it would remove the current requirement that the main house be occupied by the property owner. Commission members said they agreed with those changes.
Other actionDuring the meeting, the commission also discussed a proposed land use code amendment that would allow a school to be built in the “open” zoning district where the old Montezuma County Justice Building is located. The board members were mostly in favor of the change, saying that area doesn’t have many approved uses under the current code. Hughes said the amendment could bring in more potential buyers for the Justice Building, which the county hopes to sell.
The commission also voted unanimously to appoint Robert Rime, a former city council member, to the board as a replacement for Ken Brengle, who resigned in December. Rime’s appointment will go before the city council for final approval at an upcoming meeting.