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Summit County Council Eases Moratorium on Accessory Unit Construction in Basin

Summit County

The Summit County Council continues to deliberate passing a new ordinance governing accessory buildings.


But on Wednesday, the councilors informally agreed to modify the six-month moratorium they’ve placed on the buildings so that some smaller-scale applications can proceed.


The council approved a temporary zoning ordinance (TZO) in March to block any applications for accessory structures. But the council has heard from citizens fretting that they will lose any chance to put up a side building this year.


Councilor Doug Clyde told KPCW that the lawmakers directed their planning staff to come up with an appropriate maximum for a small building. They will likely bring a proposal back to next week’s council session.


Clyde said the change will help a relative handful of applicants wanting to begin projects like 2,000 square-foot garages, not a 20,000 square-foot arena.


He said the Council passed the TZO to address accessory buildings that raise concerns because of their size and their use.


“Periodically, we get land uses for extremely large outbuildings. You’re talking anywhere from 10 to 40,000 square feet,” Clyde said. “Those outbuildings tend to have a creeping commercial component that comes with it. Whether anybody’s charged or not, pretty soon if you’ve got a building that big, you’ve got 50 people out there for an indoor soccer match or something of that nature. We don’t believe that that was ever the intent of the zoning. And therefore we want to try and limit the size of those buildings.”


He said the council also wants to address the commercial uses of those buildings. Clyde said a home office isn’t disruptive to neighbors, but a construction yard would be.


“We can’t allow this creeping commercial to go in and destroy the integrity of the neighborhood,” he said. “The neighborhood is supposed to be agrarian, supposed to be a very low-intensity land use. And what we’re trying to avoid is the opposite of that—high-intensity land use due to some sort of commercial activity.”


The councilors said they want to avoid overblown uses for accessory buildings. The staff on Wednesday mentioned a resident who wanted to create a 25-car garage to adjoin his residence.


Councilor Roger Armstrong said the Basin risks losing its authenticity and its soul. He said, for instance, a soccer arena doesn’t belong in a rural residential zone.


“If we want to make a zone that is luxury hillside exploitation, I guess we could do that,” Armstrong said. “And maybe then, 25,000-square-foot houses with 40,000-square-foot garages for car collections would be appropriate. But at the end of the day, what do we want to look like—certainly when the five of us leave this dais.” 


He said the problem is coming with new, wealthy residents.


“We’ve got people moving here with suitcases full of money now that have the ability to build as many buildings as we’ll let them build,” he said. “And I would suggest that by allowing them to do that, it fundamentally changes the character of our neighborhoods in ways that we no longer look like who we are.”


But on the other hand, Councilor Chris Robinson said the council shouldn’t go from one extreme to the other. He disagreed with setting a maximum building size of 12,500 square feet—regardless of whether the underlying property is 5 acres or 50.


“I do not believe that we need to downzone all of these large parcels,” he said. “You can say, well, this is why we preach clustering, why we want compact nodal development. Well, that may well be in a greenfield site. These are established lots, long ago entitled, and I think it’s a mistake to downzone them so dramatically.”

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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