County's cool with casitas - Albuquerque Journal

County’s cool with casitas

Bernalillo County is ready for a new kind of tiny home.

A new county zoning code amendment has paved the way for “secondary dwelling units,” or casitas, in residential zones, a move officials say makes sense given the need to expand housing options amid current market trends.

Up to now, the county allowed casita development only in the Los Duranes micro-zone, where county Zoning Administrator Nicholas Hamm said it had worked well.

“We’ve had our eye on this (countywide amendment) for probably five years, and it felt like the context of the world was right for us to pull the trigger,” Hamm said.

He noted that the plan had garnered only supportive public comments so far.

“In my world – the zoning world – (that) is a blue moon, essentially,” he said.

The secondary units are limited in size to either 50% of the primary dwelling or 1,000 square feet, whichever is smaller. They must be connected to an appropriate wastewater disposal system, be at least 10 feet from other structures on the lot and have at least one parking space.

The amendment makes them a conditional use, meaning they require public notice and a public hearing. Considerations for approval include whether the property is large enough and whether the new unit would add undue traffic or adversely affect the neighborhood.

The County Commission unanimously approved the change, with multiple commissioners expressing enthusiasm.

Commissioner Debbie O’Malley said it harkens back to more traditional ways of life. In certain areas, she said, it was common for property owners to build additional residences to accommodate other family members.

“I’m glad to see this is happening – not only for a lot of families who want to have opportunities for extended family nearby, but also because we really do have an affordable housing crisis,” she said.

Commissioner Walt Benson agreed.

“The cost of housing is crazy and (for) families, it’s a great way to provide housing,” he said.

ABOUT THOSE BONDS: Bernalillo County voters will have their say on $40.5 million worth of bond-funded infrastructure investments when they cast ballots in November’s general election.

The funds would go toward renovating existing facilities, constructing new buildings, replacing roadwork equipment – though most of the projects that will benefit still require additional funds to complete.

Voters will decide whether the county should issue bonds to cover the spending by answering a series of six general questions. The county would pay back the bonds with property taxes, but officials say their passage would not raise taxes.

According to the county website, the bond breakdown includes:

• $12.925 million for “public safety facilities, fleet and other county buildings,” including $5 million toward upgrading Fire Station No. 36 near Osuna and Edith, $2.25 million to improve the Metropolitan Detention Center’s security systems, recreational yard and fencing; and $2 million for a planned sheriff’s office substation in the Northeast Heights.

• $11.03 million for parks and recreation, including $4 million toward a pool at the Raymond G. Sanchez Community Center and $1.975 million toward making Tom Tenorio Park a “tournament grade regional softball facility.”

• $10.225 million for transportation, including $6.8 million for “general road and sidewalk improvements” around the county, and $1.5 million to help inventory and assess existing roadway infrastructure.

• $4.395 million for storm drainage and utilities.

• $1.5 million for libraries, which will go toward purchasing books, e-books and other materials for the city/county library system.

• $425,000 for housing, which will specifically go toward Americans With Disabilities Act-related improvements and energy-efficiency measures at El Centro Familiar low-income senior apartment complex and Seybold Village housing complex.

Jessica Dyer:


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