Gypsum shifts from outreach to enforcement for accessory dwelling units | VailDaily.com

Gypsum shifts from outreach to enforcement for accessory dwelling units

Accessory dwelling units are defined as lock-off basement or over-garage apartments, mother-in-law units or newly popular granny pods.

GYPSUM — Up until now, the town of Gypsum has been working a voluntary compliance approach for people who have unpermitted accessory dwelling units in the community.

But with the dawn of 2018, that's changing.

For years, Gypsum has grappled with issues surrounding the presence of illegal accessory dwelling units — lock-off basement or over-garage apartments, mother-in-law units or newly popular granny pods — in neighborhoods throughout the town. Last summer, Gypsum launched a concentrated effort to address the situation by reaching out to people who own the units. Town officials announced a "low cost, limited-hassle" process to permit existing accessory units. To promote the effort, the town offered special Saturday sessions so people could come to town hall to bring their units into compliance with the town's regulations. The town charged a $250 fee to inspect and permit existing units.

When they launched the outreach effort, town officials warned owners and tenants that after the end of 2017, the town would be shifting into enforcement mode for unpermitted accessory dwelling units. That shift is now underway.

“I know for a fact that not everybody who has an accessory dwelling unit has come in (to obtain a permit).”Lana GallegosGypsum Town Planner

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"I know for a fact that not everybody who has an accessory dwelling unit has come in (to obtain a permit)," said Gypsum Town Planner Lana Gallegos.

From this point forward, Gypsum officials warn that both the people who rent out unpermitted accessory units, and the tenants who live in them, are subject to tickets, municipal court appearances and fines. If the municipal court judge rules against an accessory dwelling unit owner, then he or she will be prohibited from re-applying for as long as three years. That means the unpermitted unit cannot be rented during that time.

While the voluntary permitting outreach is over, Gallegos said the town will be more lenient with accessory dwelling unit violators who come forward without being cited for a violation.

"It would be better for those property owners to come in prior to us having to pursue it," Gallegos said. "If someone was to show up at our door to voluntarily seek a permit, I am not going to run them through the fine process."

The same holds true for tenants, Gallegos said. She urged anyone who lives in an accessory dwelling unit, and who is uncertain if the unit is permitted, to contact town officials.

Safety issue

Gallegos noted that safety concerns prompted Gypsum to take on the accessory unit issue. Because such units were previously illegal under town code, unpermitted units 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.

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 — call out accessory dwelling units as a use by right in residential neighborhoods.

"(Accessory dwelling units) serve a market need," Gallegos said. "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 said, because they provide the owners with money to offset their own mortgage payments.

Gallegos estimated as many as 100 illegal accessory units have popped up in town. As the community transitions to make the accessory units legal, Gypsum has developed regulations for their operation.

FEE INCREASE

Once an accessory dwelling unit is permitted, the town increases 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 requires a second trash pick-up container dedicated to the accessory unit.

The individual or entity that owns the primary property where the accessory dwelling unit is located must obtain the permit for the use, and permits 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.

The rules

Minimum standards for an accessory dwelling unit in Gypsum include:

• 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 are not 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 is prohibited on landscaped and yard areas.