Government Affairs: Boulder

June 7, 2019

Council Backs Off Home Size Caps

On May 28, Boulder’s City Council continued its discussion concerning a trend in north Boulder in which smaller homes are demolished on larger lots in order to build new, bigger homes. In essence, Council wanted to consider single-family home size restrictions and zoning possibilities for allowing more modest sized dwelling units like ADUs, cottages, tiny homes, and duplex/triplexes.

After discussing the topic multiple times, the Council had directed staff to create a plan that would require smaller homes in residential zones in support of the City’s housing affordability and climate action goals. The first phase of that plan would have incorporated a cap on the size of single-family homes in residential estate (RE) and residential rural zones (RR).

However, what seemed reasonable in theory wasn’t acceptable to most of the Council once the plan was put in writing. Councilman Bob Yates called the cap “arbitrary,” and Cindy Carlisle said it was “draconian.” The majority agreed, saying it would not create affordability.

The concept of allowing more small dwelling units was received more favorably. Staff suggested allowing more square footage if it would be used to add an ADU or to convert an existing single-family home to a duplex or triplex, providing parking requirements are met (which could be difficult to achieve).
A majority of the Council would like to see ordinances to allow two ADUs per property and the conversion of one home to a duplex or triplex. The zoning changes would be addressed in the second phase of the project.

Staff will gather more public feedback this summer, but it appears unlikely this Council will consider zoning changes to allow duplexes or triplexes in single-family zones before the next City Council election will take place in November. One can predict that the zoning revisions would be highly controversial and face strong opposition from current residents in the RR and RE zones.


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