Routt County: potential for 1,700 secondary housing units exists |

Routt County: potential for 1,700 secondary housing units exists

The Routt County Board of Commissioners will conduct a work session April 26 to discuss the potential to broaden the regulations for allowing secondary housing units to existing homes within 5 miles of municipalities in the county.

— The Routt County housing market currently has the potential to add more than 1,000 small homes in the form of secondary dwellings to existing houses on lots within 5 miles of the municipalities of Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa, according to research conducted by the county planning staff.

And the Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to discuss the possibility of broadening county regulations to accommodate secondary units on more lots during an April 26 work session.

The Commission, at the urging of Commissioner Cari Hermacinski, has been exploring, since early winter, ways to increase the stock of workforce housing in the county.

After Hermacinski's proposal to the city of Steamboat Springs to create a new neighborhood like Silver Spur or Heritage Park was rebuffed, commissioners began to look at secondary units.

The County Planning Department was tasked with studying the existing potential for secondary units, and planner Watkins Fulk-Gray has reported back that there are 760 parcels within 5 miles of Steamboat Springs that are currently allowed to have secondary units and 1,584 that cannot.

In the case of parcels in the proximity of Hayden, it's 480 parcels that can and 181 that cannot. It's 347 that can and 690 that cannot within 5 miles of Oak Creek, and 209 that can and 67 that cannot within 5 miles of Yampa.

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Add them together, and that's 1,796 parcels that are already approved for secondary units.

Realistically, some property owners would not be interested. And others might be limited by neighborhood covenants or by water and wastewater issues. County regulations require that secondary units be no greater than 800 square feet in size.

Fulk-Gray reported in a memo that the county has already discussed secondary units with officials in Hayden and Yampa, with neither body expressing strong feelings either way.

County Planning Director Chad Phillips told Planning Commission that Town of Hayden officials pointed out there are currently between 300 and 400 available lots within the town limits priced between $30,000 and $40,000 and already served by water and sewer.

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

Planning Commissioner Doug Baker said that widespread secondary units in the county would be "catastrophic." Observing that the Yampa River Basin is nearing the point of being over-appropriated — in terms of water rights — and allowing more population density could have significant impacts.

Former Planning Commission Chairman Jay Gallagher urged Planning Commission "not to disperse the problem of workforce housing into rural Routt County," adding that secondary units in rural areas are an inappropriate way to solve the problem because they would go against the central philosophy of the master plan, which directs new development to the designated growth centers.

Rural resident Steve Williams, who owns property on the edge of Stagecoach, urged the Planning Commission to consider allowing some flexibility in the secondary unit regulations to permit a case-by-case review.

Williams said when he and his wife moved to their property, they lived in a 1,000-square-foot dwelling unit that was part of an existing barn. After they built a permanent home on the property, they chose a location that was 1,200 feet away from the barn. They would like to house a ranch caretaker in the dwelling unit at the barn, but because of regulations that allow a secondary unit to be no further than 300 feet from the primary residence, they are unable to do so.

Commissioner Brian Arel said he could support a case-by-case review of applications for secondary units but could not support a "blanket overlay approach, adding that density should occur in (designated) growth centers.”

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

If you go:

What: Routt County Board of Commissioners conducts a work session to discuss the potential to broaden regulations in order to permit more secondary housing units within 5 miles of municipalities.

When: 2:30 p.m., April 26

Where: Commissioners Hearing Room, Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave.