Englewood allows new accessory dwelling units

Years in the works, proposal passes for small residential spaces

Posted 1/14/19

Englewood will be the latest in a slew of Denver-area cities to allow for new accessory dwelling units, a housing option touted as both affordable and a way for homeowners to pull in additional …

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Englewood allows new accessory dwelling units

Years in the works, proposal passes for small residential spaces

Posted

Englewood will be the latest in a slew of Denver-area cities to allow for new accessory dwelling units, a housing option touted as both affordable and a way for homeowners to pull in additional income.

After more than four years in the works, the proposal to allow ADUs — small residential spaces located behind a house or attached to a garage — was approved by the Englewood City Council, after Arvada, Golden, Lakewood, Jefferson County and Denver began allowing them in recent years.

“ADUs have slowly made a comeback since the 1990s, particularly in the northwestern United States, in response to tight and expensive housing markets,” said a fact sheet from John Voboril, a planner with the city.

But the wave of new ADU rules didn't hit Englewood without resistance, and the city council approved the ordinance to allow new ADUs in most residential areas in a split vote Jan. 7 during a contentious discussion.

“I definitely want to protect District 3 and the single-family area,” said Councilmember Laurett Barrentine, referring to the middle and southeast district of town. “I think we're going to lose that, and that's sad.”

The ordinance passed over the “no” votes of Barrentine, Councilmember Dave Cuesta and Mayor Pro Tem Rita Russell.

'Culture' concerns

Some residents are concerned that ADUs would “change the culture of our single-family communities,” Barrentine said at the Nov. 19 council meeting.

ADUs can provide additional living space for an older relative to age in place, close to family, proponents have noted in previous comments to the city. The units also can provide additional income to homeowners who rent out an ADU, Voboril wrote. Or they can serve as an option for children coming back from college, an option Cuesta noted at the Jan. 7 council meeting.

But some residents have talked about “very poor relationships with homes that have neighboring ADUs,” Cuesta added. “I don’t think it takes that many to go wrong to really infect a neighborhood."

Englewood saw ADUs spring up during the 1920s, '30s and '40s in response to housing shortages, and more than 180 are still scattered throughout the older portions of Englewood, Voboril wrote. Councilmember Othoniel Sierra has argued that other cities in the area that allow ADUs haven't seen a large uptick.

“It makes me comfortable that we won't see a proliferation of these on every block,” Sierra said at the Nov. 19 meeting.

Ninety-four attendees of the city's two open-house informational sessions in 2017 expressed interest in building an ADU, according to the city.

Other fears raised

In a public hearing on ADUs at a meeting of the Englewood Planning and Zoning Commission — citizens who make development recommendations to council — most of the 11 citizens who spoke supported allowing ADUs. Only Cynthia Searfoss entirely opposed it. She brought up concerns of crime, among other issues, at that September 2017 hearing.

The city has not found evidence that shows increased crime rates as a result of ADUs, said Benny Stiemsma, city spokesman.

The possibility of Englewood seeing more short-term rentals — like those rented through Airbnb — is another issue Barrentine raised.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is working on an ordinance on short-term rentals, which are currently not legal uses under city code, Stiemsma said.

“The city was made aware of one existing ADU being rented as a short-term rental in November of 2018 and has established a formal code case number for the property,” Stiemsma said.

Russell raised concerns that tapping into water and sewer lines more for ADUs would strain city infrastructure. But city utilities were designed to accommodate a population of 60,000, Voboril wrote. Englewood's population sits at about 35,000.

Utilities Director Tom Brennan “confirmed that new ADU development will not have a significant impact on the water and wastewater delivery systems,” Voboril wrote.

Long road to approval

A bevy of public meetings and informational sessions regarding ADUs since 2014 led up to the Jan. 7 vote.

The ordinance prohibits corporations and for-profit business partnerships from building ADUs on property owned by such entities, and corporations and for-profits are also barred from renting out a new ADU as a separate unit from the main structure, Voboril wrote.

It also included a six-month moratorium, or temporary ban, on ADUs for the “neighborhood preservation” area on Grant Street roughly between Hampden and Eastman avenues, and Sherman Street from Floyd to Eastman avenues.

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