Trailer owners may soon build guest apartments
As part of Aspen’s continuing search for novel ways to house local workers, the city’s land use codes are about to be revised to let homeowners in the Smuggler Mobile Home Park build “accessory dwelling units” on their property.
The code amendment is part of a larger revision of the city’s “ADU” regulations, which will come up for a public hearing at the Nov. 8 City Council meeting. It was passed unanimously by the council on its first reading, on Oct. 12.
According to planner Chris Bendon, who is in charge of the revision, the idea for allowing ADUs in the city’s only mobile home park zone district came up during a discussion of the ADU program among the planning staff.
Presently, ADUs are allowed in all city zone districts except three – the R-15-B residential zone (the Eastwood neighborhood); special “affordable housing” zone districts; and the mobile home park, where residents now own the land beneath their homes.
According to Bendon, there have not been any “formal” applications from Smuggler mobile home owners to build ADUs on their property. But he has talked to some Smuggler residents who said they thought it would be good to have the option. That’s because a number of mobile homes at the park have been redeveloped as “stick-built” homes in recent years, including basements that could accommodate an ADU.
Asked how the program might work for Smuggler residents, Bendon said, “It’s probably more for stick-built stuff,” and might actually make it easier for the homeowner to redevelop because there would be extra income from the ADU renter. He also said it could be made to fit a lot with a mobile home on it if there is sufficient room.
The advantage, he said, will be for mobile home owners who want to build a bigger home on their lot, which normally would mean they must go through the GMQS allotment system and compete with other homeowners for scant development rights.
“It’s not like they’re breaking down our doors [to take advantage of the ADU program],” he said, adding, “we haven’t heard really strong feelings one way or another.”
The ADU program began as a way to give private property owners an incentive for building “mother-in-law apartments” attached to their homes and renting them to local employees. It has become a sore point for elected and appointed local officials because most of the ADUs built are not occupied.
This has happened in spite of the fact that property owners are granted significant concessions if they promise to build an ADU – they are exempted from the city’s strict “growth management quota system.” And in some cases they receive “bonus” square footage allowances for the main home.
The only other way to be exempted from the GMQS competition for development rights is to pay a “housing mitigation fee” of $42 per square foot of livable space in the home.
Of the estimated 80 to 100 ADUs that have been built under the program, officials believe only about a quarter of them are occupied by qualified local workers because the program has no “mandatory occupancy” provisions. At first reading of the revisions, the council decided against including such provisions in the updated version of the regulations.
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