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Accessory Dwelling Units
Posted on Jan 1st, 2019

Currently, city zoning for Northgate Highlands (R1-6000), a single-family zoned neighborhood with lots of at least 6,000 square feet, prohibits both integral and detached “Accessory Dwelling Units” (ADUs). However, the city is considering a major change to its ordinances to expand the use of ADUs in single-family zoned neighborhoods. Northgate Highlands is specifically highlighted as an area for ADU expansion, as are many other neighborhoods in Colorado Springs. The proposed changes to City Code do not override community covenants. Homeowner Associations may still opt to prohibit accessory dwelling units through their covenants. 

The city’s reasoning for this change is to “give property owners in all residential zone districts the same opportunity to provide accessible, and semi-independent, housing for family members or as an investment in the property. This ordinance will also loosen some of the strict requirements currently applied to ADUs in multi-family zone districts.”

What’s an ADU? An integral ADU is part of the principle home, such as a converted basement or attic, or even an addition to the principle home. ADUs are smaller than the main home and must include a sleeping area, sanitary facilities, and gas/electrical facilities for cooking. In addition, a detached ADU could be a separate structure in the back yard with possible 5’ for setbacks from the side and rear lot lines. While the current ADU ordinance requires a 20’ separation between the principle home and a detached ADU, the proposed ordinance may eliminate this requirement, allowing 5’ of separation between the structures. In addition, the height of a separate ADU structure could be 20’ high, with a planning department granted variance of 15% or 23’, and the possibility of additional city variances could allow heights up to 28’. Also, the current proposal would require the homeowner to live in either the principle home or the ADU; exceptions may be made for deployments or other qualifying life events. Moreover, the additional ADU structure size would be a maximum of 50% of the principle home floor space or 1,500 square feet, whichever is less. Furthermore, a 30% land use requirement would remain in effect, meaning that the footprint of the principle home, sheds, decks (> 8’ in height), and other structures could not exceed 30% of the lot size. Finally, both long-term and short-term rentals, such VRBO or AirBNB, would be allowed in either the principle home or the ADU.

The last public comment meeting was February 26, 2019. This proposed ordinance is scheduled to go before the City’s Planning Commission on March 21, 2019, with the first reading to the City Council on March 26, 2019. Information above is subject to change as this issue moves forward.

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