Learn What The ADU Draft Ordinance Includes and Next Steps

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In an effort to explore options to help fill the shortfall of attainable and age-friendly housing in Colorado Springs (identified in previous housing needs assessments and through the public process that resulted in the City’s new comprehensive plan – PlanCOS) the City Planning and Community Development Department recently proposed an ordinance to expand the use of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), or in-law units, to single-family zoned districts. Because the proposal has been met with some public concern City planners are slowing down the process to schedule additional City Council work sessions in order for the council and city staff to consider and respond to resident comments.

City Planning will update the draft ordinance both based on input from the public and preliminary discussion with City Council. As this work continues, we would like to provide some basic information about the draft ADU ordinance and address some of the common concerns we’ve been hearing so far.

More information and updates on the proposed ordinance as it moves forward will be posted on ColoradoSprings.gov/ADU, along with upcoming public meeting dates as they are scheduled.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an ADU?

Accessory Dwelling Units are secondary living areas on a residential lot or within the main home. ADUs are often referred to as ancillary apartments, mother-in-law suites or cottages, granny flats, or guesthouses. These residential units are smaller than the main home and include a sleeping area, bathrooms, and kitchens. Accessory dwelling units can come in a number of forms, such as:

  • Above a detached garage
  • A separate structure in the backyard
  • Attached to the main home
  • A converted basement or attic

City Planning is proposing two types of ADUs, defined as “integrated” and “detached” units for some single-family residential zones in Colorado Springs. Both types are currently allowed in “two-family” and “multi-family” zone districts.

Why is the City proposing to expand ADUs in Colorado Springs?

The City has allowed detached ADUs, in much of Colorado Spring since 2003, although only allowed in multi-family zone districts.  Because the need to provide housing to aging parents, dependent or disabled adult children or other family members should not be limited to those within the allowed zone districts, the City is proposing to expand this type of housing to additional residential zones throughout Colorado Springs. 

Expanding the use of ADUs in single-family zoned neighborhoods will give property owners in more residential zone districts the same opportunity to provide accessible, and semi-independent, housing for family members.

It could also allow property owners to add an ADU as an investment opportunity, however, the homeowner must live on the property as his/her primary residence.  Read more on that below.

Does it apply to me?

There are several different types of single-family zoned districts interspersed throughout Colorado Springs, but the ordinance will not expand to all of them. The proposed ordinance extends to R1-6, R1-9, R, OC and OR (commercial with residential use). Because properties in PUD, or Planned Use Development, have specific requirements for density that would need to be addressed before including in the ordinance they are not eligible to add this type of dwelling at this time. You can find instructions on finding your home’s zoning district in the FAQs at ColoradoSprings.gov/ADU

The proposed changes to City code do not override private covenants.  The ordinance does not override those covenants that already prohibit accessory dwellings or structures.  HOAs and neighborhoods that do not have covenants or that existing covenants do not address accessory dwellings or structures, may still opt to adopt or amend those covenants to prohibit accessory dwelling units. Please check with your HOA for more information. 

Can major hotel chains take over short-term rentals in Colorado Springs?

Although this issue relates to short-term rentals, it is important to address. If a large company or hotel-owned properties operate short term rentals (STRs), they would be subject to the same regulations as individual applicants/management companies/property owners. For example, if a large hotel chain bought a property in an R1-6000 zoning district, they would be restricted to utilize the property as single household, just as any private resident would be, and would not be permitted to run a standard, typical hotel and/or motel on said property per established zoning regulations. Though, like any property owner in the same zone district, they would be able to pull one STR permit for one short term rental.  They would also have to maintain the local 24-hour emergency contact.

Anticipated impact on single-family neighborhoods

Increased density

One common comment heard is that allowing ADUs in single-family residential neighborhoods will change the character of such neighborhoods.  City planners recognize that preserving the feel and character of neighborhoods is very important to residents.  It is important to note that ADUs must meet all required setbacks, lot coverage and must be architecturally consistent with the main house.  The fact remains, that the City of Colorado Springs and the Pike Peak region as a whole, is projected to grow in population.  Again, ADUs are one – albeit small – method of providing housing various housing options for our growing population.  Although it is reasonable to assume that there will be more people living in areas where ADUs are built, studies and real-life examples illustrate that even very moderate increases in residential densities have positive effects on cities by making neighborhoods more lively, increasing opportunities for neighborhoodA geographic sub-area within the city that contains but is not limited to residential land uses. The extent of a neighborhood is variable and may be defined by tradition, organizational boundaries, period of building and development, or subdivision patterns. Neighborhood boundaries may include such features as major streets or other physical elements. services such as coffee shops and markets, improve opportunities for mass transit, and reducing vehicles trips.

Architectural integrity

A part of the ADU standards for architectural compatibility states, “In the expanded zone districts an accessory dwelling unit shall be designed to maintain the architectural design, style, appearance and character of the principal structure or principal structures in the vicinity. Consistent elements may include façades, roof pitches, siding, eaves, and window treatments or a combination of other elements approved by city staff. The City does not regulate colors of homes, even in the historic preservation overlay, but may consider color as a ‘consistent element.’”

ADUs help maintain affordability and people aging in place

ADUs have long been a part of historic neighborhoods in Colorado Springs as they served to help to maintain affordable housing options in their community, facilitate multi-generational families and people aging in place. Expanding this use to single-family zones will allow those areas to take advantage of the same benefits and can provide a modest number of housing options to meet different income levels and family needs.

Homeowner must occupy one property

In single-family zones, the property owner is required to occupy either the principal home or the ADU as their primary residence. Exceptions may be made for deployments or other qualifying life events. This is different from properties zoned as “two-family” or “multi-family," which can rent out both the main house and the ADU. Additionally, City Planning proposed that ADUs maintain an internal connection with the primary home, which is not required in multi-family zones.

Although short-term rentals are allowed in single-family zones, they have different permitting requirements than ADUs. Homeowners can use the house or the ADU for short term rental purposes, however, the requirements are stricter for single-family properties with an ADU in that the property owner must live in one of the dwellings. A homeowner is allowed to rent the ADU to a “long-term” tenant and rent a bedroom or their home as a short-term rental as well.  One of the topics to be reviewed by the City Council is the relationship between short-term rental and ADU regulations. 

Off-street parking required in draft ordinance

Single-family zoning does not limit the number of vehicles in a neighborhood or per property. City Code already restricts the percentage of the lot that can be covered with impervious surfaces (such as pavement and structures) depending on zoning and number of floors of the primary residence. This would not change if the ADU ordinance were adopted. The ordinance does, however, require at least one off-street parking stall be dedicated to the ADU to help ease the impact of on-street parking availability.

Size of detached ADUs must be half the size of the primary home or 1250 square feet, whichever is smaller

A detached ADU must be no greater 1250 square feet or 50 percent of the main home’s size, whichever is smaller. An integrated unit may only be 40 percent of the main home’s square footage.

The minimum lot size is still under consideration by the planning department and will be discussed in upcoming council work sessions with the intent of ensuring adequate space to accommodate ADUs in single-family zoned districts. The total number of potential properties hosting an ADU will be limited because not every single-family lot will be large enough to accommodate an ADU and continue to meet all of the zoning requirements such as building setbacks and lot coverage.

ADUs can’t be subdivided and sold

Since the draft ordinance’s inception, there has been language which states that in the zone districts that would allow ADUs, they shall not be sold separately from the principal home, nor shall the lot on which an accessory dwelling unit is situated be subdivided unless the new lot size meets the minimum lot size requirements for each structure. For example, in a zone that requires a minimum 6,000 square-foot lot, the lot could only be subdivided if both the main home and the ADU lots maintained a minimum 6,000 square-foot lot while maintaining additional space for setbacks.


More information and updates on the proposed ordinance as it moves forward will be posted on ColoradoSprings.gov/ADU, along with upcoming public meeting dates as they are scheduled.