Discussions are underway to update the Unified Land Use Code, or ULUC, a regulatory document Littleton approved in 2021.
“When we originally adopted the ULUC, we did say it was going to be a living document and we were not going to wait 42 years to rip it open, and it would be an annual event for us,” said Community Development Director Jennifer Henninger.
Since the first round of code updates in 2022, the city has found repetitions, contradictions and unclear sections of the code when using it with active applications, Henninger said.
The main goal of the proposed changes is to make clarifications, eliminate repetitions and add definitions.
The first round of public comment on the proposed changes is open until June 5 and available at https://online.encodeplus.com/regs/littleton-co-cc/rfc.aspx?secid=3002#secid-3002. After taking feedback from this period into account, the city will open a second public comment period on June 21, with public open houses and hearings to follow.
Proposed updates fall into seven main categories: zoning, adaptive reuse, cottage court communities, accessory dwelling units, also known as ADUs, temporary signs, major and minor plan amendments and master development plan review criteria.
Other ancillary code updates aim to consolidate and clarify sections of the code that are repetitive or unclear.
Zoning, adaptive reuse and ADUs
The proposed zoning changes will adjust zoning boundaries to be more accurate. One example is an area zoned for open space that city staff and consultants mistakenly drew to include a residential lot.
The adaptive reuse and ADU proposed changes should simplify the processes to get these types of projects approved. Adaptive reuse is the practice of retaining and converting buildings for new uses, such as turning an old flour mill into office space.
In the current code, Henninger said it is unclear which adaptive reuse projects have to go through an administrative review process versus a planning commission review process. The proposed changes simplify the situation by declaring that adaptive reuse plans will go through an administrative review, she said.
For ADUs, she said the proposed changes also simplify the process by eliminating conditional use approval and making these proposals go through administrative review.
“Most of what we're proposing are trying to eliminate some of the potential impediments or things that would drag out the process a little more for people who are interested in ADUs,” a planning commission member said at the group's May 22 meeting.
The updates also propose to allow two-story ADUs if the principal structure is two or more stories tall. They also propose allowing garage doors to be left on ADUs as long as they meet the building code.
Cottage court communities
The proposed code updates also include changes to cottage court communities, to preserve the intent of these communities. The ULUC says a cottage court community is an infill development that transitions single-family detached and attached dwellings into a multi-family complex.
“Our intent on (cottage court communities) was to offer a different type of housing to potentially purchase that was at a lower price point,” Henninger said. “But the code didn't have enough parameters to guide that.”
The code updates propose increasing the density requirements of these communities and specifying the maximum square footage of their homes to preserve the original intent.
Outside of housing, the proposed changes also update the code’s section on temporary signs. The proposed updates specify that small temporary signs (post and stake sign no larger than six square feet large and four feet tall) are allowed for up to 90 days without a permit.
This change aims to address the confusion that arose from inconsistencies in the code during the weeks leading up to the March 7 special election and prevent similar situations in the future.
At its May 23 study session, the city council also discussed looking at Senate Bill 23-213 for potential changes in future slates of updates. Some aspects of the housing bill, Henninger said, are already incorporated into the city’s land use code and proposed updates.
“Before Senate Bill 213 was even a thing, we were already starting to address, like how do we make ADUs a little bit easier?” Henninger said. “There were a couple of things from that bill that we already had in our slate of changes, or we already had it in our existing code.”
Moving forward to future slates of changes, Henninger said the city will consider how they can keep moving towards affordable housing goals, with inspiration from the bill.
“Maybe we can be the role model of ‘This is what you can do on a local level,’ and also showing the importance of having your communities buy into what you're doing,” she said.