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Denver Zoning Code Amendment Passes Building ADUs is Easier - Sustainable Design Build

Building ADUs in Denver can be a challenge, homeowners have found themselves dissuaded from building an ADU for their property despite the growing interest. However, on Monday, Denver’s City Council passed an ordinance that amends the Devner Zoning Code and the Former Chapter 59 Code. This amendment should allow for more flexibility and leniency when it comes to building an ADU, but there are some caveats.

Denver still has an interest in Building ADUs

ADUs have been a growing interest between Denver homeowners and general contractors. Accessory Dwelling Units have been seen as a way to introduce ‘Gentle Density’ which can help ease the pain of housing shortages in a small capacity. Not only that but homeowners can use an ADU for a multitude of functions whether that be affordably housing a relative or renting out to another for passive income. The possibilities are there but building an ADU isn’t a simple process. It is expensive and extensive a combination which has turned away many homeowners and general contractors. And if a home isn’t zoned for an ADU but still wants to pursue building one, the process of rezoning their lot is less than straightforward.

Denver Zoning Code was a ‘One-Size Fits All’

Denver’s residential lots come in varying degrees of characteristics; some are larger than others, some are unique in shape, and some can’t even tell where the front of the house is located. With such a variety, it is surprising that Denver has maintained its standards for building an ADU. All the standard requirements for building an ADU treat all lots as if they were identical. Fortunately, the Community Planning and Development Department of Denver created a committee to look into the barriers and hurdles that hold ADU development back. The goal of the committee was to look at the construction requirements of the current zoning code like lot size and placement to determine if they were unreasonable for the majority. The solution? Creating neighborhood-specific zoning code requirements for ADU construction. 

Zoning Codes For All

Properties are divided into various neighborhood subtypes, which can be categorized into Suburban, Urban Edge, and Urban types. The names themselves offer a clue to their definitions. Suburban areas tend to exhibit lower density and so on. In these suburban areas, single-family homes are set farther back from the sidewalk, and residential properties are often situated away from major roads. On the other hand, Urban boasts higher density. Here, homes are situated closer to the street and are more likely to be found on arterial or main roads.

Customizing the construction rules for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) based on the neighborhood context can greatly enhance their compatibility with each specific neighborhood. This approach not only ensures that ADUs blend in better with their surroundings but also simplifies the construction process for homeowners. By alleviating concerns about rigid technical requirements, homeowners can enjoy a smoother experience when building ADUs.

To illustrate, Urban zoning areas often feature smaller lot sizes. If ADU size requirements remain uniform across all neighborhoods, some homeowners in these areas might be unable to construct ADUs on their lots, despite their neighborhoods being zoned for such additions.

Building ADU Amendment Doesn’t Change Everything

While this outlook on ADU construction zoning is a promising step forward, it is not automatically applied to all Denver neighborhoods. Residential homes in Denver did not receive a rezoning or an amendment by default. Instead, City Councilmembers must continue presenting entire neighborhoods for a bulk rezoning initiative – as we have already seen in recent times.

However, not everyone is interested in building ADUs or in support of building ADUs. Recently, the Montclair neighborhood of Denver had its rezoning initiative denied. There was community outreach in the early stages of the movement but due to underwhelming numbers of interest, the project was scrapped. Last year a few Barnum, Barnum West, and Villa Park all were rezoned to allow ADU construction. Therefore the newest amendment should further help any property owners looking to build an ADU.

Sustainable Design Build specializes in Building ADUs

Our team here at Sustainable Design Build has been taking on ADU construction projects specifically since 2019. Combined with our industry knowledge and expertise of over 10 years, we are familiar with the requirements needed to navigate zoning codes in Denver. If you are interested in building an ADU and need a good place to start your research, head on over to our Accessory Dwelling Unit webpage and FAQ. Afterward, feel free to reach out to us via the contact form or phone for more information about getting started. SDB uses a GC-Led design-build process that can help homeowners from the preconstruction and design phases to full construction.

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