Gypsum looks to solve illegal accessory dwelling unit rental issue

GYPSUM — For years, Gypsum has grappled with issues surrounding the presence of illegal accessory dwelling units in neighborhoods throughout the town.

Beginning in July, the town will launch a concentrated effort to solve the problem. For the people who own the units, and for the people who reside in them, Gypsum has come up with a process to legalize these accessory dwelling units — lockoff basement or over-garage apartments, mother-in-law units or newly popular granny pods. Town officials believe they have come up with a low-cost, limited-hassle process to bring these previously illegal uses back under the town’s regulations.

But why are they bothering with the issue?

Safety concerns

According to Gypsum Town Planner Lana Gallegos, the main reason to address the illegal units is simply safety. Because they were previously illegal under town code, accessory dwelling units in existence today in Gypsum have not been inspected. Additionally, without an accurate accounting of these units, emergency services may be unaware that there is more than one residence at a certain address.

Support Local Journalism

Then there is the additional issue of fees — the town and the county want to make sure they are collecting proper and fair fees and taxes for all residential units in town.

Even though accessory dwelling units have been a bit of a headache for Gypsum, Gallegos noted the town philosophically supports the use. Other communities — neighboring Eagle for example — calls out accessory dwelling units as a use by right in residential neighborhoods.

“(Accessory dwelling units) serve a market need,” said Gallegos. “With the housing crunch, (accessory dwelling units) are a more affordable option and it allows the private sector to address the need instead of the public sector.”

Homeowners also benefit from building these units, Gallegos noted, because they provide the owners with money to offset their own mortgage payments.

Throughout time, Gallegos estimates as many as 100 illegal accessory units have popped up in town. Gypsum’s solution to the issue is twofold. First, the town will launch a process to make those uses legal. Second, the town will provide guidelines for accessory dwelling units moving forward.

Getting legal

Beginning July 1, Gypsum is launching an accessory dwelling unit legalization effort. During a 65-day period, owners of existing units will be able to apply for accessory dwelling unit permits.

The fee is $250, and before an existing accessory dwelling unit will be permitted, the town will conduct an inspection. The inspection will determine if the unit meets certain health and safety standards:

• One full working kitchen, including a sink, refrigerator and a stove or other cooking appliance.

• One full working bathroom, including a sink, toilet and shower and/or bathtub.

• Emergency openings for each bedroom.

• Smoke detectors at each level of the unit, within each bedroom and at adjoining hallways leading to a bedroom.

• Carbon monoxide detectors located within 15 feet of each bedroom entrance.

• Stairs in good working order with guardrails and handrails.

The maximum allowed size for an accessory dwelling unit is 800 square feet on lots that cover at least 6,500 square feet. Accessory dwelling units will not be allowed in mobile home parks, and recreational vehicles or tiny homes do not qualify as accessory units.

Furthermore, the town’s rules say in addition to off-street parking provided for the primary residents, properties with an accessory dwelling unit must have a minimum of one dedicated off-street parking space per bedroom. Parking will be prohibited on landscaped and yard areas.

Fee increase

Once the accessory dwelling unit is permitted, the town will increase the property water services rate by $12.25 per month — to a total fixed fee of $31.25 for the first 10,000 gallons. Additionally, the town will require a second trash pick-up container dedicated to the accessory unit.

All of those requirements will also pertain to new accessory dwelling unit construction in Gypsum. The town will not increase water tap fees for residents who elect to build accessory units as part of new home construction.

Permits are only valid for the individual or entity who owns the primary property. They can be transferred to a new property owner, provided the new owner schedules and passes a reinspection by the town. The new owner must pay a $50 permit-transfer fee.

Compliance by year’s end

Gallegos said Gypsum has been divided into three zones for the purpose of accessory dwelling unit permitting:

• Properties north of Eagle Street and north of U.S. Highway 6 must submit a completed permit between July 1 and Aug. 31.

• Properties south of Eagle Street and west of Valley Road and Gypsum Creek Road must submit a completed permit between Sept. 1 and Oct. 31.

• Properties east of Valley Road and Gypsum Creek Road and south of U.S. Highway 6 must submit a complete permit between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31.

To assist owners of existing units, the town will host three accessory dwelling unit Saturday events. Between 9 a.m. and noon on July 8, Sept. 9 and Oct. 4, town staff will be available to assist with permitting.

“Anyone can come in and ask questions and get help filling out the permits,” Gallegos said.

Once 2018 dawns, the town will shift into accessory dwelling unit-enforcement mode.

“At that point, if you aren’t in compliance, we have the authority to fine not only the owner, but the tenant, as well,” Gallegos said. Violators will be sent to municipal court, and if a ruling goes against them, then they will be prohibited from re-applying for as long as three years. That’s a lot of missed rental payments.

In general, Gallegos said the town’s plan to grandfather in existing accessory dwelling units and provide regulations for construction of new ones has been well received.

“We wanted to make it as friendly as possible so people will step up and become compliant,” she said.

Support Local Journalism