The town of Buena Vista’s zoning map shows the commercial highway zone along U.S. 24 in maroon.

The Buena Vista Planning and Zoning Commission met Oct. 6 to hold public hearings on the town planning department’s four new strategies to improve housing affordability.

A developer, a property owner, the commissioners and staff discussed each strategy and made plans to bring policy recommendations to the board of trustees at various future dates.

The first proposal is to allow large multi-family dwellings in the highway commercial zone. This zone currently lies along U.S. 24 surrounding the highway through most of town.

“It’s a push to encourage more long term housing, more workforce housing, in the highway-commercial district,” said planning director Joseph Teipel.

In this zone under current code, residential units are only allowed above commercial operations.

Under the proposed change, large multifamily dwelling development would be contingent on none of the units being short term rentals. Further, parking requirements would be reduced if a common pet area were included in the site plan.

Teipel said that parking wasn’t related directly to pet allowances, but rather that it may be one tool to incentivize the allowances. He explained that Chaffee County Community Foundation survey data showed that pet allowances in rental units was an area of concern.

Further discussion speculated as to whether parking requirements should be relaxed unconditionally.

Jack Arbess, a Denver-based multifamily dwellings developer, expressed interest in this proposal and posed some questions about timeline. He said he’d like the opportunity to pursue multifamily dwelling development in the highway commercial zone as soon as possible.

The second proposal seeks to allow long term rentals of single rooms that don’t have a kitchen or bathroom.

The commissioners discussed limits to short term rental of a portion of the units with Linda Barbeau, a property owner who said her financial incentive to rent SRO units would be impacted directly by the STR limits.

Public hearings for both proposals were continued to Nov. 3.

The third proposal is to exempt three- and four-unit (small) multifamily dwelling developments from site plan requirements as long as infrastructure isn’t a major factor.

The fourth proposal is a new zone district definition, R-1.5.

In BV’s Unified Development Code, R-1 zones are defined as low-density residential and cover single family dwellings and duplexes. The minimum lot size is 65 feet for an SFD and 100 for a duplex.

R-2 is general residential and the minimums are 50 and 75 feet for SFDs and duplexes, respectively.

R-1 homes must be set back more than twice as far from the street as R-2 homes, and 50% farther from the rear property line.

“One of the main problems we have in getting affordable housing is our standards require so much,” said Mark Doering, principal planner.

The purpose of an R-1.5 district, according to the proposed code amendments, is “for small lots with single-family detached dwellings to increase affordability with higher residential densities along the same infrastructure needed for wider single-family lots.”

Teipel said the district would mimic R-1 but allow for more density.

“We want developers to be able to build slightly more homes if they build on single-family dwelling zoned land,” he said.

Proposals three and four were approved to go through a final language review and presentation to the board of trustees.

Teipel also said the examination into how to bring affordable housing to the two town-owned, vacant lots on Carbonate Street is nearly complete.

“I anticipate bringing that final report to the board on Oct. 26,” he said.

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