Expanding Accessory Dwelling Units in Colorado Springs

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Update 3/18/20: At this time, the ADU code update hearing with the City Planning Commission has been postponed until April or May 2020.

Update Jan 14, 2020-  City Council will discuss Accessory Dwelling Units with the Planning Department during the January 27, 2020 work session (begins at 10 a.m.), however, no changes will be proposed during this session. Please note, public input is only taken during formal council sessions.

About ADUs

The City has allowed detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in much of the city since 2003, although relegated to zone districts that allow more than one dwelling unit on a property.  Because the need to provide housing to aging parents, dependent or disabled adult children or other family members should not be limited those within the allowed zone districts, the City is proposing to allow this type of housing throughout Colorado Springs. 

Expanding the use of ADUs in single-family zoned neighborhoods will give property owners in all residential zone districts the same opportunity to provide accessible, and semi-independent, housing for family members or as an investment in the property. This ordinance will also loosen some of the strict requirements currently applied to ADUs in multi-family zone districts.

While there is not a “silver bullet” solution to help fill the shortfall of attainable and age-friendly housing, the City planning department is exploring options to help Colorado Springs residents. Accessory Dwelling Units have been identified as an opportunity and tool to:

  1. Add housing stock for families in neighborhoods where new apartment complexes would be difficult to construct while maintaining manageable neighborhood density
  2. Assist families by helping parents age in place
  3. Assist families with dependent and disabled adult children or other family members in need
  4. Offer additional housing stock at a variety of price points
  5. Assist families with “boomerang children” who may return home
  6. Provide an opportunity homeowners to invest in their property

What is an ADU?

Accessory Dwelling Units 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 guesthouses. These residential units are smaller than the main home and include a sleeping area, sanitary facilities, and gas/electrical facilities for cooking. Auxiliary dwelling units can come in a number of forms, such as:

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

    What is currently allowed and what would be different?

      Current Ordinance Proposed Ordinance
    Where ADUs are allowed "Two-family" and "multi-family" zone districts as well as some commercial areas Expand to include "single-family" zone districts. HOAs may opt to prohibit ADUs.
    Detached ADUs   Allowed in two-family and multi-family zone districts, disallowed in single-family zone districts. All new ADUs in single-family zone districts must be integrated into the primary structure.
    Number of unrelated individuals allowed in one home/on one property   There will be no change to the allowance in two-family and multi-family zones–no more than 5 unrelated individuals in one dwelling unit. A property with an ADU will be allowed a total of 10 unrelated individuals in these zone districts. In single-family zones, a property will continue to be limited to no more than 5 unrelated individuals regardless of the presence of an ADU (no change to current limitation).
    Owner occupancy No requirement In single-family zones, the property owner is required to occupy either the principal home or the ADU as their primary residence. Exceptions may be made for deployments or other qualifying life events. If your property is zoned as “two-family” or “multi-family," you can rent out both the main house and the ADU.
    Parking allowance One off-street parking space No change; one off-street parking space
    Architecture Not currently regulated  An integrated unit cannot propose design modifications to the exterior of the principal structure that indicates their presence from the front of the principal structure including an exterior staircase.
    ADU Height 25-foot maximum height In two-family and multi-family zones, the building height is proposed to be raised from 25 feet to 28 feet. In single-family zones, an ADU must be integrated into the main structure and cannot exceed the maximum allowed building height in the zone district.
    Minimum lot size 6,000 square feet or 7,000 square feet dependent on the zone district To align with the minimum lot size for a single-family home
    Connectivity between attached units Integrated units currently not allowed in single-family zones In single-family zones, an interior connection between the principal home and the ADU
    Separation from primary home 20 feet In two-family and multi-family zones, there will not be a minimum separation requirement but property owners should be mindful of the different construction requirements triggered by an ADU which is closer than 10 feet from the primary structure.

    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, the accessory dwelling unit shall not be sold separately from the principal dwelling unit, nor shall the lot on which 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 ADU 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 ADU can I build on my property?

      City Planning is proposing two types of ADU—“integrated” and “detached” units. Both types are currently allowed in “two-family” and “multi-family” zone districts. With the code change, “single-family” zone districts would only be allowed to construct an “integrated” ADU.

      Can I use a tiny home, pre-fabricated, or manufactured home as an ADU?

      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. 

      Does my ADU have to have exterior access?

      No. An “integrated” ADU must provide internal access between the ADU and the main home to maintain the integrity of the one structure. However, it is not required that exterior access is provided unless otherwise required by Fire Code. All exterior accesses to an ADU 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 ordinance will not affect property owners who rent or provide living accommodations that does not meet the definition of an ADU (separate and independent sleeping room, sanitary facilities, and kitchen). However, if the living space being rented to the family member provides the aforementioned facilities and you live in a single-family zone district, you may have to apply for a permit, and complete an affidavit. assuring the homeowner is living on site.

      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 ADU?

      1. Contact the Planning and Development Department to see if your property qualifies for an ADU.
      2. Contact your HOA to confirm whether your neighborhood has any covenants which prohibit secondary apartments.
      3. Submit a pre-application meeting request to the Planning and Development Department to meet with a Planner to discuss all applicable regulations, permits, and fees.
      4. Contact the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department to learn more about building permit fees and requirements.

      How do ADUs reflect the desires of our community?

      Expanding the use of ADUs to single-family residential areas has received support and been noted in several city plans including, PlanCOS, the recently adopted comprehensive planA comprehensive plan is a guiding document that provides a framework for city policies and priorities regarding the physical development of the city. It is a long-range vision of what we want our city to become and is a tool for making decisions about how that vision should be achieved. It outlines strategic steps to make the vision a reality and provides targeted and strategic planning of the physical development of the city. for the city, 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. Additionally, the following boards and commissions have voiced their support: City Planning Commissions, Committee on Aging, Human Relations Commissions, Code Scrub Committee.

      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. 

        Expansion Timeline

        • March: Presentation to City Planning Commission for recommendation to City Council.
        • April: Presentation to City Council for consideration of the proposed ordinance (two readings of the ordinance are necessary).
        • May: Likely period when ADU Ordinance would take effect (note that City Council can opt to designate an effective date of the ordinance).
        • June: Continued citizen outreach, the creation of ADU handout and information, and creation of permit for single-family homeowners.