Routt County commissioners intent on learning how other counties handle secondary housing units |

Routt County commissioners intent on learning how other counties handle secondary housing units

County commissioners keen to learn how other counties handle secondary housing units

The scarcity of homes, including small condos, listed for sale below $200,000 in Routt County in the spring of 2018 suggests that they may be an endangered species.

— The Routt County Board of Commissioners tasked staff planner Watkins Fulk-Gray on Tuesday with researching the policies of other Colorado mountain communities regarding the allowance of secondary dwelling units that permit, in addition to a primary dwelling, another smaller home on large rural lots.

The commissioners are interested in pursuing more liberal policies on secondary units in rural areas close to existing municipalities as a way of bolstering workforce housing in the region. They intend to present Fulk-Gray's findings to the County Planning commission during a May 12 joint meeting on the subject. Commissioner Doug Monger told Fulk-Gray he's particularly interested in knowing the extent to which secondary homes are actually built where allowable in counties such as Gunnison, Pitkin and Eagle.

"In those other counties," Commissioner Tim Corrigan said he wants to know, "what has their experience been in permitting additional (water) wells for those secondary units?"

And Commissioner Cari Hermacinski asked Fulk-Gray to ask each county if they apply limits to the sizes of secondary housing units.

Planning Commission is already on record as being opposed to changing existing regulations concerning secondary units following an April 7 hearing at which the commissioners concluded doing so would not conform with the county master plan.

Former County Commissioner Ben Beall urged the BOC to let its new housing committee do its diligence before acting on secondary units.

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"Your planning commission was dead set against what you are proposing," Beall said. "It wasn't just a little bit. This isn't where our housing should go. It should go in growth centers. We should stick with that."

Architect Katherine Kiefer, of West Elevation Architects, told the BOC that, as her client base has grown older, she's seen increasing interest in secondary units. For some elderly couples, she said, having a secondary unit where they could house a nurse practitioner or aide allows them remain in their homes without the need to transition to assisted living.

"That is a very viable trend in housing markets all over the country," Kiefer said. "I don't think our current master plan allows for that."

Secondary units also appeal to multi-generational families and second-homeowners who would feel more secure if a tenant occupied a secondary unit on their property, she said.

Land use planning professional Peter Patten called secondary units, "the easiest, simplest form of affordable housing there is."

"It doesn't cost you anything," Patten told the BOC. "The person building the house puts the apartment in and rents it. You just allow them to provide affordable housing for the community."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1