As the wave of accessory dwelling units continues to slowly roll through the metro area, Englewood may soon join the list of localities where the small homes can breathe some relief into an increasingly airtight housing and rental market.
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ADUs — small residential spaces located behind a house or atop a garage — could make their way into the city, after Arvada, Golden, Jefferson County and Denver passed rules allowing them in recent years.
A public hearing allowing for comment before a vote to approve the plan drew a small crowd, with 11 residents commenting before the Englewood Planning and Zoning Commission voted to approve the plan, 7-2, Sept. 6. Now, it's up to the Englewood City Council whether to make it law, and that vote is on-track to take place in November.
“I really see it increasing the diversity of our city,” said Randall Friesen, a hearing attendee. “I really see it as an opportunity for families to stay together.”
Building and renting out an ADU offers opportunities for additional income for homeowners, said John Voboril, a planner with the Englewood Community Development Department. He said allowing new ADUs could bring more patrons to the South Broadway corridor. Multiple voices mentioned potential for allowing more people to age in place — to grow older while living close to family — rather than moving to assisted living or retirement communities.
The units were popular in the nation during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, but declined in the 1950s, according to Englewood Citizen magazine, a city publication.
And Englewood residents are already living in old ADUs — more than 180 exist in total, a city document said. In 1955, a new zoning law barred residence in structures other than the main housing on a lot, Harold Stitt, an Englewood senior planner, said in June. Even after that, a handful of people have still built ADUs, largely out of already-existing structures like garages — as was common before, Stitt said.
Often called “granny flats” or “granny houses,” new ADUs would be allowed to be built or converted from other structures if the plan passes council.
The city tags the idea as going “back to the future.”
“Englewood has a long history with these developments,” Voboril said. “With the explosion of suburbia (post-World War II), housing shortages were a thing of the past. (ADUs) fell out of favor and were removed from most zoning laws in the U.S. ... we are now in a state of incredible housing shortages as well.”
The proposal would allow two types of units: garden cottages, which are detached structures, and carriage houses, which can be above or attached to a detached garage or other detached structure on the lot, according to city documents. They must stand on the same lot as a principal one-unit home.
The proposal would require owners to live at least nine months a year either in the lot's main structure or in the ADU. Boulder, Arvada, Grand Junction and Denver have similar rules, according to an Englewood city document, a Boulder city document and media coverage.
“People are concerned with landlords that don't really care about the tenants or the property,” said Daryl Kinton, chair of the city's Planning and Zoning Commission, in June. “We hope the requirement that the owners live there will prevent that.”
The requirement would make exceptions for temporary job assignments; military deployment; education and research sabbaticals; formal voluntary service for a humanitarian organization; religious missionary service; and long-term hospital, nursing home or assisted living facility stays due to medical conditions.
The Englewood proposal would allow for rental, but not ownership, of ADUs — they would only be for sale as part of a whole property. The homes would be no larger than 650 square feet of gross floor area, a city document said.
Work on the proposal, which would allow ADUs mostly in areas close to South Broadway and in some corners of the city — where most old ones stand now — started in 2014. In June, the city had received about 12 calls a week regarding ADUs in the past year and a half, Voboril said.
The plan was well-received at the hearing — only one of the 11 attendees who spoke entirely opposed it — but there were some kinks for some residents.
“Why did (the plan) exclude R-1-B and R-1-A?” said Jeff Stillwell, referring to the two residential zoning areas not permitted by the plan to house ADUs. Most of the city's residential areas, in its central and northeastern parts, are R-1-C zones, which would be ADU-friendly. Areas in the south, southeast and northwest include the other two types of residential zoning.
And not everyone was thrilled about the plan.
“I don't want these in my neighborhood. I live in a residential community on purpose,” Cynthia Searfoss said. “I don't appreciate the (recent) tremendous increase in congestion (and) traffic.”
But other residents saw it as a potential benefit for the community.
“I've lived in Englewood for four years and (I've) grown to love the community and want to live here,” said Laura Jones, who said retirement is a concern for her mother. ADUs “are a solution to both our family and neighborhood.”
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