accessory dwelling units granny flats adus

An accessory dwelling unit, also known as a "granny flat" being added to a home.

Denver’s entire East Colfax neighborhood may soon be rezoned to allow for accessory dwelling units, colloquially called "granny flats,” after the City Council land use committee approved the proposal Tuesday.

If passed by the full council, the measure would allow homeowners in East Colfax to build ADUs on their properties without asking the council for permission. Currently, each rezoning request costs homeowners $1,000 in filing fees, city officials said.

The rezone would apply to 2,050 properties over 476 acres, with the vast majority being single-unit residential homes.

“We recognize ADUs as a tool to help provide wealth-building opportunities and affordable housing, two items the community identified as important during the East Area Plan,” proposal co-sponsors Councilman Chris Herndon and Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer said in a statement.

An accessory dwelling unit is a small living area that shares a single-unit lot with a traditional home. This includes apartments in basements and above garages and small stand-alone structures in yards.

This rezoning effort has been over a year in the making, with public outreach on the proposal beginning in January.

A survey sent to East Colfax residents in February found that 76% of the 139 respondents supported allowing ADUs, 19% were opposed and 5% were undecided.

“I bought a house so I would not be in close proximity to people living within my space,” one anonymous survey response said. “I do not want multiple people, or multiple families, living next door to me and do not want the additional traffic, vehicles or noise in my neighborhood.”

Senior City Planner Andrew Webb said the city also received concern from the infrastructure department about the neighborhood's sewer capacity if many ADUs are added. Webb said, if the rezoning is approved, the city will monitor the sewer systems and finance improvements if needed.

Despite concerns, council members have said they receive very few complaints about ADUs and most residents do not notice when they are added to neighborhoods.

Herndon and Sawyer also emphasized the role ADUs can play in allowing families to live together.

“We would build an ADU so that my elderly mother could age at home with us,” another anonymous survey response said. “The ability to have an ADU on our property (and for others in the neighborhood) feels especially important given the shortage of affordable housing options in the city.”

This proposal comes after the Sloan’s Lake neighborhood and part of West Colfax were rezoned to allow for ADUs in August and the Chaffee Park neighborhood was rezoned to allow ADUs in November 2020 — the first neighborhood-wide rezoning in Denver's history.

Current zoning regulations allow for one ADU per lot in about 25% of the city.

The full City Council will hold two final votes on the rezoning request in the coming weeks. 

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