Imagine the City of Gunnison 50 years from now. What do you see? Are there more parks, taller buildings or businesses in different places?
These are some of the considerations currently under review by Cascadia Partners. The city has tasked Cascadia consultant Alex Joyce with reviewing its Land Development Code (LDC) — including zoning regulations, development review processes and fee structures to allow for more affordable housing.
Joyce’s review has come to a close, and an open house devoted to the report is scheduled for this coming Monday, Oct. 8 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers.
The most recently approved changes to the LDC occurred this past summer as the first phase of improvements. The changes are primarily within the Central Business District (CBD) and B1 business district — a portion of the city that includes downtown and both sides of Main Street to the north. One amendment increased the allowable maximum building height from 35 feet to 50 feet.
The report produced by Joyce built on the city’s previous work to encourage growth and development by identifying housing barriers. Joyce conducted a series of focus groups with property owners, private builders and developers, city officials and others concerned about affordable housing in the valley.
The report cites market demand for smaller housing options due to shrinking family size and escalating housing costs — a trend that is seen at both the local and national level. Within the report, Joyce outlines several methods for promoting smaller housing that’s affordable.
For example, the proposed changes offer ample opportunity for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in the R-1 Single Family Residential Zone. Other proposed measures would increase the allowable density for areas such as the Industrial Zone — where allowed density would double from seven to 14 units per acre to allow for “livework” buildings.
In the R-3 Multi-Family Residential zone — which was established to provide highdensity multi-family residential homes and mobile parks — the maximum proposed density is 80 units per acre, compared to 30 currently.
The report also outlines ways to incorporate the “missing middle” or multi-unit housing in the older neighborhoods surrounding downtown. Joyce points to restrictive permitting that took place during the 1950s and ’60s which lives on in communities today.
In an effort to re-incorporate the missing middle, Joyce makes several recommendations. The addition of ADUs, cottages and smaller, more affordable units all enable the construction of a variety of missing middle housing units in the city.
In the Residential Mixed-Use zone, allowed building size would increase from 4,260 square feet to 8,424 square feet. The number of allowed units would increase from four to 10 units.
The proposed changes to the LDC also encourage mixed use within the city’s busiest areas. For example, in the current B-1 zone along north Main Street, Joyce recommends changes that would allow for an existing one-story retail or office building to become a two-and-a-half story structure containing residences as well.
Cascadia Partners also encourages allowing for cottage clusters and more compact communities within specific neighborhoods that currently contain mobile homes.
Joyce presented several measures to make housing more affordable as well.
The report addresses the current “tap fee” schedule in Gunnison. Currently, tap fees — or fees assessed to connect to the city’s water and sewer systems — are based on the size of the structure served. The larger the water line, for example, the higher the fee. But Joyce notes the current system results in both undercharging for large homes and overcharging for small homes.
Instead, Joyce suggests a fee structure that would more accurately reflect housing type and size.
The report additionally outlines potential funding options such as low-income housing tax credits to fund the construction of affordable housing alongside leveraged bond funds.
In addition to Monday’s open house, Joyce also will present the final report to City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday.
If city leaders accept the recommendations, additional changed to the LDC are anticipated by January 2019.
(Kate Gienapp can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)