Last month, SpringsTaxpayers filed a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request to obtain email communications, to and from Colorado Springs City Council members, on the subject of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), aka, “Mother-in-law cottages.”
Colorado Springs City Council has been considering a change in zoning that would allow the majority of Colorado Springs homeowners on single-family lots to build an ADU on the same lot as their primary residence. They would then have the ability to rent the second structure out as a long-term rental property. Emails flowed in to City Council representatives, with the vast majority of citizens adamantly against the proposed ordinance. All of those emails —162 pages worth—convinced us that the citizens of Colorado Springs are overwhelmingly against ADUs in their neighborhoods. Here are just a few of the citizen comments against Accessory Dwelling Units.
Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Gaebler has advocated for ADUs, arguing that, “the ordinance was necessary for adding affordable and attainable housing across the city.”
We can only assume that Councilwoman Gaebler received similar opposition in the feedback she received from constituents, and was concerned. On June 13th, Councilwoman Gaebler wrote an email to people friendly to the issue, and encouraged them to show support for the ordinance by contacting the other City Council representatives.
You’ll find Councilwoman Gaebler’s email below:
“On Jun 13, 2019, at 11:18 AM, Gaebler, Jill
You are receiving this email because you have, at some point, told me that you support land-use changes in COS that promote the development of affordable housing, that you are concerned about rising home prices, or that you want to encourage development that reduces negative impacts on our environment. I write to ask that you to reach out to your city council members to encourage them to support land-use changes that allow the development of accessory dwelling units (ADUs).These small residential units are built inside an existing home or in a backyard, often above a garage or in a backyard, if it is a large lot. These types of housing units increase affordable housing options, allow lower-income residents to live closer to the core of the city, often closer to their job or school, allow aging parents or adult children to live independently, but alongside family on a single property, and frankly just allow home-owners added income that provides financial stability. For whatever reason you care, accessory dwelling units have made positive impacts in many other cities nationwide and have had no negative impacts. I have linked several articles below so you can learn more about ADUs and how they are working in other cities. At its most recent meeting many city council members indicated that ADUs do not belong in Colorado Springs and only support the ‘building-out’ of a basement in an existing home, to create a separate living quarter for a family member only. They do not support renting out these units, they do not support building an ADU above a garage, or building an ADU in a backyard, even when a lot is greater than 20,000 sq ft. They simply don’t support the private property rights of our homeowners. I understand people are concerned about the impacts of adding more people to a neighborhood. This concern has been made very clear. But the truth is that the average number of people living in a single-family home has been steadily declining over the past 20 years and the density in our neighborhoods is actually very low. We are not well utilizing our residential spaces, which costs taxpayers more to maintain existing infrastructure, public schools, and to provide public safety. ADUs add gentle density that reduces the overall carbon footprint in a city as more people are able to live closer to work and school and better utilize space in a neighborhood which drives down water use for landscaping. And again, gentle density adds more taxpayers into an area that has existing public infrastructure, public safety needs, neighborhood schools, and utilities, making cities better able to maintain that infrastructure and protect citizens, while reducing the sprawl that increases city costs and resident drive times. Lastly, but definitely worth mentioning, our cities are filled with lonely, depressed people, who live alone and have very little human contact. Adding gentle density encourages neighbors to get to know each other, take care of each other, and build relationships that support the overall fabric of our communities, which builds healthier and more vibrant cities. I hope we can all agree that this would be of benefit to all of us. Thank you for reading through this email and I now ask you to please reach out to your council members and share with them your support for ADUs in Colorado Springs. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send this email soon as City Council will make its decisions around ADUs at its next meeting on June 24. Please also consider forwarding this email onto anyone else you may know who supports these ideals. I am very grateful for your assistance on this important community issue. My best to each of you.
Councilwoman Gaebler not only used City resources to lobby support for the ordinance, but she also organized a support campaign, exploiting her role as an elected official. Her fellow Council members would have had no idea it was orchestrated by her, and therefore she possibly unfairly and deceptively altered others’ positions on the issue. She secretly advocated for something she was scheduled to vote on in the future.
Our CORA request even returned one response to Councilwoman Gaebler’s email, stating, “I agree that we need an amalgam of approaches and at the end of the day we just need more units. I’ll intend on sending a message to Council.”
We cry foul, Ms. Gaebler! Citizens should decide what happens in their neighborhoods. Rallying support for one side is troublesome, and indicates a public servant who has stopped listening, and only wants to implement her preferred policies against the wishes of citizens who are trying to communicate with their representative in government.
SpringsTaxpayers holds firm in the belief that the citizens should decide what their neighborhoods look like. A home is typically purchased with the understanding that the established neighborhood would maintain its general appearance throughout ownership. It is not the proper role of government for one Council member to push her agenda on the other council members through inflated support. And it’s not the proper role of government for politicians to alter neighborhoods against the wishes of the residents.
Contact your City Council members and let them know your opinion. The ADU ordinance is coming up for further discussion at the September 9th City Council work session, and no doubt they will appreciate additional input.