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Pagosa Springs
Saturday, October 16, 2021

Tiny home park zoning application approved by town council

By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer

During a regular meeting on April 6, the Pagosa Springs Town Council considered a sketch planned development zoning application for a proposed tiny home park.

Located at 116 Alpha Drive, a 4.66-acre portion in the southeast corner of the property of U.S. 160 and Alpha Drive is proposed to be subdivided from the larger southwest lot and developed into a tiny home village to accommodate up to 50 tiny home lots, according to agenda documentation.

The tiny home village is proposed to be held under one ownership with the individual tiny home lots that tiny home owners can place their individual units on being available for long-term leases, agenda documentation describes.

The project is expected to include 50 or fewer tiny home lots, community gardens, fire pits, a dog park, and storage and laundry areas, among other things, agenda documentation adds.

“These tiny homes that we’re talking about are built on trailers and are built under the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association code, which does comply with the National Fire Prevention Association 1192 standards for recreational vehicles,” Planning Director James Dickhoff said.

The tiny homes are not built under the International Building Code and are technically considered recreational vehicles (RV), he noted.

On March 23, the Pagosa Springs Planning Commission approved the major sketch design review application for the development, Dickhoff noted.

Agenda documentation notes that the majority of the planned development overlay district approval criteria have been met; however, concerns have been raised with the access control plan (ACP) of the property.

According to agenda documentation, town staff is comfortable with the ACP right of way (ROW) at the time the development occurs; however, there are concerns that a potential development would not include a connection between Aspen Village Drive and Pinion Causeway.

“Thus, staff believes dedication of the ACP ROW at this time would ensure the intent of the ACP is secured for future connectivity,” agenda documentation notes.

Agenda documentation further notes that the ACP contemplates conceptual road network routes for local road networks that limit the points of access to U.S. 160.

“The applicant proposes a ROW alignment for this future ROW that enters the residential properties to the south. The current ACP conceptual alignment considers an alignment onto McCabe Street, which is a residential street and not appropriate to direct commercial traffic onto. The appropriate alignment would be through the future commercial development on the remaining 17-acre parcel, which will ultimately benefit the commercial development,” agenda documentation reads.

Additionally, the planning commission recommended the dedication of public easements for the internal road and trail networks, agenda documentation notes.

“I’m not disagreeing with the planning commission’s determination, but I think to put in perspective, this is not your typical subdivision. It’s not your typical residential subdivision, for example where the town is adopting the roadways in perpetuity as public right of way,” he said.

To him, this type of development, according to Dickhoff, would be seen more as a townhome development where public easements and access are not typically dedicated.

Dickhoff suggested that an agreement be drafted that provides flexibility based on the approval of a final development plan, and ensuring that there is connectivity through the property between Alpha Drive and Pinion Causeway.

“I’m comfortable until waiting until the future development dictates the road being constructed and dedicate it when the remainder of this parcel gets proposed for a development. My concern would be, based on some comments that the applicant made at the planning commission meeting, that since they don’t know when the development is going to be in the future they don’t want to dedicate it now,” Dickhoff said. “My concern would be that the development is proposed in a fashion that doesn’t provide side connectivity to Alpha Drive. I think there’s some reasonable consideration to get it dedicated as part of this development to ensure we do have connectivity, but in such a way that does provide the developer flexibility to align the roadway further in the future for future proposed developments in a fashion that suits their development.”

The planning commission included contingencies within its approval of the major sketch design review application that they would like to see included within the planned development agreement, Dickhoff explained.

These contingencies included prohibiting short-term rentals except for one sales and demo unit, allowing up to 46 leased lots to accommodate RV tiny homes as residential dwelling units and prohibiting the outdoor storage of personal items, among other things, Dickhoff described.

One contingency includes the dedication of public easement of internal streets and sidewalks to the town, Dickhoff noted.

Following town council’s consideration of a sketch planned development zoning application, the design and review board the final design review and application and the planning commission will consider the final planned development zoning application and will provide a recommendation to town council.

“Tiny homes kind of fit between a mobile home park, if you will, and an RV park because it’s kind of in between. Many communities have looked at these in a similar fashion as well,” Dickhoff said.

Many of those communities have allowed tiny home parks in a village or park type of development, he explained further.

“The intent of these planned unit developments is really, certainly, to provide a public benefit and they all, both our code and statutes, address accommodating housing needs and the statutes do include a growing demand of all housing types and design,” he said. “We believe that this proposal does generally comply with the intent of Colorado Revised Statutes and our planned development standards in our code.”

According to Dickhoff, the development proposal has also been submitted to the Colorado Department of Transportation for comments.

Council and developer thoughts

Brad DeYoung of Legacy Alliance Holdings explained during the meeting that the dedication of the roadway is “not something we’re particularly in favor of.”

According to DeYoung, in his experience, there could be a “change of heart” if there were ever a change in leadership at the town level in regard to the dedication of the roadway.

“We certainly want this road to go through, but since I’m going to be the one paying for it and not the city, I really would prefer to hold off on doing that once I know where it’s actually going to be,” he said. “This is not the hill I’m going to die on. If that’s what we have to do, that’s what we have to do. But, please, give it a little bit of thought.”

Additionally, DeYoung raised concern on the dedication of private streets and sidewalks to a public easement.

“The issue that I have there is that this housing type, and it is now a housing type, being so new attracts a lot of curious people. While I would certainly hope that everyone satisfies their curiosity and is on their best behavior, if someone is on the property and isn’t exercising good judgment, I feel like it makes it a little bit more challenging for me to get them out of there if the city is giving them the right to be there,” DeYoung said. “I don’t want that to sound any more harsh than it is intended, it’s just is a means to control what happens within our borders.”

Planning Commission Chair Peter Hurley noted that he agreed with some of DeYoung’s sentiments in regard to the dedication of a roadway.

“As long as we have the right, no matter what regime is in charge of it, to have that connectivity, I think we’re fine,” he said.

In regard to the dedication of private streets and sidewalks to a public easement, Hurley explained the planning commission was simply trying to follow the town’s comprehensive plan and what the community wants.

“We didn’t want to basically say this is a gated community, per se,” he said. “We’re basically just trying to make it an inviting community.”

Council member Shari Pierce asked about a zero-foot setback on one side of the tiny home, raising concern about how access would be allowed to the side of a unit as well as snow coming off of the unit’s roof to an adjacent lot.

“We’re comfortable with it. Our setbacks are 5 foot on the side to ensure to that there are 5 feet on both sides of the common property owner to achieve the required building code 10-foot fire separation between structures,” Dickhoff said. “I think the intent the applicant proposed was to make sure they can get two side-by-side vehicles next to the tiny home versus a tandem situation if this was placed in the middle of the lot.”

 The reason behind this setback is because of parking, DeYoung clarified, adding that there will be common easement and access provisions in the leases for the units.

“We certainly are thinking that these will be year-round occupants. Whether they are or whether they aren’t, they will certainly be tied to a long-term lease and there will be regulations and requirements within their lease with regard to maintenance and upkeep for the property, the lot, the home, the materials,” DeYoung said.

Council member Rory Burnett explained that the town has had a bad habit of “capitalizing on opportunities out of fear.”

“We have this opportunity to ask these people for something, then we need to do it now and not really think about the long-term planning or the impact on the individuals that are bringing these projects,” he said. 

Burnett also noted that he agreed with DeYoung’s assessment of keeping the sidewalks and streets private.

“I would prefer that the roads and sidewalks were a public right of way, the way that most developments are, but I’m also not going to die on the sword with that,” council member Nicole Pitcher said.

Council member Madeline Bergon was in favor of, at some point, ensuring the dedication of the ACP ROW and making sure that the ROW is dedicated with a location to be determined.

“I think we all want to support these types of projects where it’s feasible. We’ve got a developer who’s willing to work with us and I think we should be willing to work with him as just a general principle,” Mayor Don Volger said.

Following more discussion, a motion was made by council member Matt deGraaf to approve the sketch planned development zoning application for the tiny home park located at 116 Alpha Drive.

Within deGraaf’s motion, he cited wanting to remain “open and flexible” to dedicating the ACP ROW west of Alpha Drive and added he did not want to dedicate the road and trail easements within the development to the public.

deGraaf’s motion was approved via a unanimous vote by town council.

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