Expanding Accessory Dwelling Units in Colorado Springs

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Update 6/17/2020: On June 9, 2020, Colorado Springs City Council approved three ordinances allowing for accessory dwelling units and accessory family suites in all zone districts. The ordinances will be presented for a second reading and vote on June 23, 2020.

About ADUs

Dwelling Options in Colorado Springs

As Colorado Springs grows, its population ages and housing prices increase, our city's housing needs are rapidly changing. To help address these and a myriad of other housing issues, the City of Colorado Springs is exploring possible ways to increase its housing inventory. Accessory Dwelling Units, Accessory Family Suites, and the Accessory Dwelling Unit Overlay are being proposed to give homeowners and developers flexibility on their existing properties and within new residential development.

Since 2003, Colorado Springs has legally recognized Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) as a way to increase housing options on two-family and multi-family-zoned lots. In addition, the City is proposing a new option for single family zones in response to the concerns expressed during public meetings. This new option is being referred to as “Accessory Family Suites” (AFS) and will be allowed in all zone districts where a detached single-family home is an allowed use. The following chart maps out the differences between the current code for ADUs, the revised standards for ADUs, and Accessory Family Suites.

    What is currently allowed and what would be different?

      Current Ordinance Proposed ordinance
      Detached ADU Integrated ADU Detached ADU Accessory Family Suite
    "Two kitchen ordinance"
    Building Configuration Free standing buildings that are separate and secondary from the primary residence Must be integrated into the primary residence or home addition Free standing buildings that are separate and secondary from the primary residence Must be integrated into the primary residence or home addition
    Approved
    Zones
    Two-Family (R-2), Multi-Family (R-4, R-5, SU,
    TND, C-5)
    Single-Family Zones: Will require public notification and approval of a Conditional Use Permit through the City Planning Commission.
    Two-Family (R-2); Multi-Family (R-4, R-5, SU, TND, C-5, OR, OC): Permitted by right as a duplex

    Single-Family Zones: Not permitted.
    Two-Family (R-2); Multi-Family (R-4, R-5, SU, TND, C-5, OR, OC): Permitted with requirements

    Permitted by right in all zone districts where a detached single-family home is an allowed use including PUD (Planned Unit Development)

    Number of Families
    Living on A Property
    Two families Two families Two families

    one Family: A notarized and recorded affidavit will be required acknowledging the requirement

    Owner Occupied Not required

    Yes, Required – Single family zones. Will require a notarized and recorded covenant;

    Not Required - Two-Family (R-2); Multi-Family (R-4, R-5, SU, TND, C-5, OR, OC)"

    Not Required - Two-Family (R-2); Multi-Family (R-4, R-5, SU, TND, C-5, OR, OC)

    Not required
    Parking Allowance One off-street parking space for each unit.
    Two parking spaces
    One off-street parking space for each unit.
    Two parking spaces
    One off-street parking space for each unit.
    Two parking spaces
    One off-street parking space for each unit.
    Two parking spaces
    Architecture Not currently regulated Must be an architecturally integrated with the primary structure. Entrance on the side or rear of the primary home. Exterior staircases to a second floor must have a deck. None proposed Must be an architecturally integrated with the primary structure. Entrance on the side or rear of the primary home. Exterior staircases t a second floor must have a deck.
    ADU Height 25-foot maximum height Maximum height is the same as the maximum height allowed for the primary residence. 25-feet or 28-feet dependent on the roof pitch of the detached structure. Maximum height is the same as the maximum height allowed for the primary.
    Minimum Lot Size 6,000 square feet or 7,000 square feet dependent on the zone district Same size required for a single family home in the zone district. Same size required for a single family home in the zone district Same size required for a single family home in the zone district
    Connectivity Between Attached Units Not required Not Required N/A An interior connection is required
    Separation from Primary Home 20 feet N/A No separation requirement beyond what is required by the applicable fire codes N/A
    HOAs No mention Proposed code language states, "The provisions of this subsection do not supersede private covenants regarding accessory dwelling units." Proposed code language states, "The provisions of this subsection do not supersede private covenants regarding accessory dwelling units." Allowances do not overrule HOA covenants
    Subdivision No mention

    Single family zones- Prohibited and will require a notarized and recorded covenant acknowledging the restriction.

    Two family or multi family zones- Permitted given that all other applicable codes are met

    Permitted given that all other applicable codes are met Prohibited and will require a notarized and recorded covenant.

    Ordinances

    Definitions

    Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU)

    Are secondary living areas on a residential lot or within the main home. ADUs are often referred to as ancillary apartments, mother-in-law suites or cottages, granny flats, or guest-houses. These residential units are smaller than the main home and include a sleeping area, bathroom, and kitchen. ADUs can come in a number of forms, such as:

    • Detached
      • Above a detached garage
      • A separate structure in the backyard
    • Integrated
      • Attached to the main home
      • A converted basement or attic

    Accessory Family Suites (AFS)

    Attached to the principal unit by a shared wall or a basement or upper floor,  accessory family suites are comprised of one or more rooms forming a single habitable area with a full kitchen and bathroom.

    • All utilities may be on the same system
    • Fire separation is not required
    • Door is required between the two units
    • Only one family allowed per property

    Ordinance 1.1 – Accessory Family Suites

    As proposed, accessory family suites will be permitted by right in all zone districts where a detached single-family home is an allowed use. These types of units are permitted as part of a detached single-family residence and would not be allowed as a detached structure. Currently a single-family home can be occupied by one “family” as defined in the zoning ordinance, which would continue to apply to properties which contain an accessory family suite.

    Ordinance 1.2 – Definitions & Accessory Dwelling Units

     A step beyond accessory family suites are accessory dwelling units. Accessory dwelling units would allow a second family, as defined in the zoning code, to occupy the property. Depending on the zone district, an ADU may be integrated into the primary home or be detached. City Planning is proposing to allow integrated ADUs in single-family zones through the Conditional Use process with an owner-occupancy requirement. This ordinance also expands the allowance for ADUs in two-family and multi-family zone districts and reduces restrictions in those zones.

    Ordinance 1.3 –Accessory Dwelling Unit Overlay Zone

    The purpose of the accessory dwelling unit overlay zone is to provide flexible housing options in a neighborhood while ensuring the overall character of the development is consistent with the base zone. The ADU overlay may be used in conjunction with the zoning of new residential development or a development containing a mix of residen-tial and other land uses. The intent of creating an ADU overlay zone is to provide a developer an additional avenue for allowing accessory dwelling units without zoning a development PUD (Planned Unit Development) or R-2 (Two-Family Residential).

    Frequently Asked Questions

      How do I find my home's zoning district?

      To find the zone of a particular piece of property, you may visit the SpringsView aerial mapping application. Through this application, you can search by property address or Tax Schedule Number to zoom into the property and find the zone district. Definitions for the zoning codes are below as follows:

      • A = Agricultural 
      • R = Estate single-family residential 
      • R1-9 = Single-family residential 
      • R1-6 = Single-family residential 
      • R2 = Two-family residential 
      • R4 = Multi-family residential 
      • R5 = Multi-family residential 
      • SU = Special use 
      • PUD = Planned Unit Development
      • OR = Office residential 
      • OC = Office complex 
      • PBC = Planned business center 
      • C5 = Intermediate business 
      • C6 = General business 
      • PIP1 = Planned industrial park 
      • PIP2 = Planned industrial park 
      • M1 = Light industrial 
      • M2 = Heavy industrial 

      I already have an ADU on my property. How will these changes affect me?

      Pre-existing, legal ADUs in two-family, multi-family, and commercial zone districts will not be affected.

      Can I split my ADU into its own lot and sell it?

      In the A, R, R-1 9000 and R-1 6000 zone districts, an accessory family suite or an accessory dwelling unit shall not be sold separately from the principal dwelling unit, nor shall the lot on which an accessory family suite or an accessory dwelling unit is situated be subdivided unless subdivision is permissible in accordance with all provisions of Article 3 and Article 7 of the zoning code.

      Does the new ordinance override my HOA?

      The proposed changes to City code do not override Community Covenants. HOAs may still opt to prohibit accessory dwelling units through their covenants. Please check with your HOA for more information. 

      Can I post my ADU on a house-sharing site such as AirBNB or VRBO?

      Yes, short-term rentals are allowed in single-family zoned areas and have additional permitting requirements.

      In single-family zones, homeowners can use either the house or the accessory family suite or the accessory dwelling unit for short term rental purposes, however, the owner-occupancy requirement still applies.

      Please see the short term rental webpage for information on permitting requirements.

      What kind of unit can I build on my property?

      City Planning is proposing three new unit types—the accessory family suite, integrated accessory dwelling units, and detached accessory dwelling units.  An accessory family suite is permitted in all zone districts where a single-family home is permitted, however, there is a strict limitation that the primary home and the accessory family suite may only house one “family” as defined by the zoning code. In “two-family” and “multi-family” zones, a homeowner may be able to construct a detached accessory dwelling unit unit which allows two “families” to reside on the property. In  “single-family” zone districts, an “integrated” accessory dwelling unit may be permitted if a Conditional Use Permit is approved. Please contact the City Planning Department for specific information.

      What is the definition of a “family”?

      The Colorado Spring City Code established a definition of “family” in 1973. This definition lives within Chapter 7 of the City Code which is also known as the Zoning Code. The definition reads:

      FAMILY: As used in this Zoning Code, an individual, two (2) or more persons related by blood, marriage, adoption, or similar legal relationship, or a group of not more than five (5) persons who need not be so related, plus domestic staff employed for services on the premises, living together as a single housekeeping unit in one dwelling unit. The definition of "family" shall apply regardless of whether any member of such group receives outside services for mental, emotional, or physical disability.

      When the term “family” is used in the draft ordinances or in documents describing the proposed ordinances, it is referring to groups of individuals meeting the above definition.

      Can I use a tiny home, pre-fabricated, or manufactured home as a detached accessory dwelling unit?

      Yes. However, there are differences between these types of construction requiring different types of permit reviews and inspections. Please contact the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department to discuss permitting requirements. Tiny homes must be attached to a foundation and connected to utilities. A tiny home which is on a trailer cannot be used as a dwelling unit, even if the trailer is skirted; tiny homes to remain on a trailer are permitted within designated campgrounds.

      Can I use a recreational vehicle as an ADU?

      No. City Code does not permit recreational vehicles to be used as permanent residences outside of a designated campground or mobile home park. 

      May my integrated unit have to have exterior access?

      Yes. An accessory family suite or an “integrated” accessory dwelling unit may have an exterior access point, but it must be located on the side or to the rear of the home.

      Do I need to tell the City if I'm renting a room to a family member?

      The proposed ordinances will not affect property owners who rent or provide living accommodations that does not meet the definition of an accessory family suite or an accessory dwelling unit (separate and independent sleeping room, sanitary facilities, and kitchen). However, if the living space being rented to the family member provides the aforementioned facilities, please contact the City Planning Department to see if any forms will be required.

      How will you enforce this ordinance?

      The City's Neighborhood Services Division will field complaints about ADUs. If you suspect an issue during an ADU's construction, please contact the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department

      Am I required to install separate utilities for an ADU?

      A detached ADU may connect to utilities independently or tie into the primary home's utilities. Please contact Colorado Springs Utilities with specific questions. 

      What do I need to do if I want to start building or convert existing space to an accessory family suite or an accessory dwelling unit?

      The first set is to set up a “pre-application” meeting with a City Planner to discuss your proposal. This meeting can be conducted in person or over the phone, and the Planner will provide you a write up of the applicable requirements and applications (if necessary) as well as discuss a general outline of the process to accomplish your goals. This meeting has no fee, and usually can be scheduled and conducted during the same or following week.

      To schedule a pre-application meeting please visit: https://coloradosprings.gov/planning-and-development/webform/pre-application-meeting-request and complete the online form. A Planner should contact you to set up the meeting within two to three business days. You may also contact the front desk at 719-385-5905 with any questions or if assistance is needed.

      What is the goal of the code change and what plans support these changes?

      Creating flexibility for, and expanding the allowance for, additional housing units within developed areas of town is a way to serve families who may desire to live multi-generationally, may wish to provide nearby but independent living spaces for disabled adult children or seniors. These concepts are supported in several city plans including, PlanCOS, Age-friendly Colorado Springs, 2019 Community Development Action Plan, the InfillDevelopment of vacant land within previously built areas. These areas are already served by public infrastructures, such as transportation and utilities. Parks and open space are also considered infill, since they are permanent uses for vacant parcels. and Redevelopment Action Plan, and others. These concepts are also supported by the Committee on Aging and the Human Relations Commission.

      Am I required to build an ADU under this ordinance?

      No. This additional dwelling unit allowance is elective.

        Public Process

        Open Houses

        Public open houses occurred February 20, 25 and 26 of 2019 to present the revised ADU ordinance, answer questions and receive feedback from residents. 

        Timeline

        • March 2019: Initial presentation to City Planning Commission of the original ordinances.
        • April 2019 – October 2019: Presentations at City Council Work Sessions.
        • November 2019 – December 2019: City Council held two town hall meetings to discuss additional dwelling units directly with the public.
        • January 2020: City Planning staff summarizes all points of views heard and outlines what the new ordinances could contain.
        • April 30th 2020: City Planning presented the newly drafted Ordinances to the City Planning Commission on April 30th. The City Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend approval of these Ordinances, which will be presented at City Council’s May 22nd work session.
        • May 2020 – June 2020: Potential additional Work Session and formal hearing with the City Council on the proposed ordinances.
        • July 2020 – August 2020: Potential implementation.