Shared from the 9/9/2020 Colo Spgs Gazette eEdition

Council debates new residential zoning

Concept is intended to encourage mixed types of housing as preferred by many younger adults

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THE GAZETTE FILE

Workers build a home in the Gold Hill Mesa neighborhood in July 2017. The Colorado Springs City Council debated a new zoning proposal that would govern neighborhoods based on density rather than lot size.

The Colorado Springs City Council debated a new zoning concept Tuesday supporters say could give developers flexibility, encourage housing diversity within subdivisions and might not break out single-family neighborhoods as a category.

The zoning concept, still in the early stages of development, would be based on the number of units per acre proposed in a development rather than the size of the individual lots. The proposal would allow a mix of homes in the same development such as townhouses and single family homes, a trend that is prevalent, said Peter Wysocki, the city’s director of planning and community development.

“We recognize development has evolved. ... This zoning will be able to adapt to those changes,” he said.

Flexible zoning based on density is a new concept that has not been used in many communities across the country but could create neighborhoods that would be easier to regulate long-term than the many custom housing developments, known as planned unit developments, the city is approving with varying lot sizes, Wysocki said.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, custom developments have become more popular in Colorado Springs as developers have moved from building single-family neighborhoods with homes on lots of 6,000 or 9,000 square feet, such as those found south of Woodmen Road, he said.

The new zoning could also help encourage developers to construct more affordable housing by allowing them to build at higher densities, Wysocki said. The new zoning would have no impact on existing single-family neighborhoods.

Several council members were supportive of the housing diversity the zoning could promote. Others seemed concerned it could discourage future single-family neighborhoods with uniform lots and present unforeseen challenges if homeowners wanted to subdivide their property in the future.

Councilwoman Jill Gaebler said she supported the flexible zoning because it would promote the diversity of housing that younger generations want to buy. Councilman Wayne Williams said he also supported the idea because the subdivision proposals would be driven by the market.

“This simply offers another product people can purchase,” he said.

Councilmen Don Knight and Andy Pico raised concerns the city would be moving from traditional single-family zoning.

“You are doing away with something that has been long-standing,” Pico said.

Instead of specifying the size of lots allowed in residential development, the new zoning concept could allow three levels of density.

The low density zoning could permit up to five units per acre, medium density could allow five to 12 units per acre and high density could allow 12 to 25 units per acre, according to a city presentation.

Knight said he was concerned if property was developed below its maximum density and then the owners asked to subdivide, it could be tough to determine who would have the right to subdivide and who wouldn’t, while keeping neighborhood below its density cap.

The city staff plans to refine the proposal before it goes back to the council. The zoning could be approved as part of a revision to city code in the next year to 18 months, Wysocki said.

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