COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- In a close 4-3 vote Thursday, the Colorado Springs Planning Commission approved changes to the city ordinance regulating carports, bringing the controversial issue one step closer to a final resolution.
"Several of the citizens are having either physical disabilities, are senior citizens or had financial problems during the pandemic that made it difficult for them to comply with removing the carports," said Commissioner John Almy, who voted against the proposed changes and expressed his concern.
The matter now goes before the City Council next month for final action. Earlier this year, the council sent the matter back to the commission, after several carport owners appealed the commission's initial approval of an amendment to the existing ordinance.
The amendment would allow existing carports within a 25-foot setback area between a home and a public sidewalk or curb, to remain as long as they are at least five feet from the sidewalk or curb, to avoid creating safety issues that would block views of passing traffic or approaching pedestrians.
Nearly 90 homeowners were cited for violating the carport ordinance and faced the possibility of removing the structures -- which led to the public outcry against the proposed changes.
The city's Neighborhood Services office, which drafted the amendment after meeting with carport owners, said it will work with the cited owners to see that the structures meet city requirements.
"This is a much more complicated issue than it initially appears," said director Mitch Hammes. "In trying to balance architectural and safety issues with costs to construct these, it's a difficult situation."
Under the proposed amendment, new carports would have to meet the same requirements and in some cases may require a permit or inspection.
The amendment also would, for the first time, allow carports to exist at homes with two-door garages.
According to Neighborhood Services, if the council approves the changes, Colorado Springs would join the few cities across the country that legally allow carports.
At next week's meeting, the council expects to extend a 60-day moratorium on citing violators and installing new carports, allowing council members enough time to consider and vote on the issue.
Colette Cook, a neighborhood activist and carport owner, said Thursday that the council's approval would mean many carports would have to be shortened or otherwise altered to meet the new requirements.
"I'm considering a metal cutter so that I can shorten my carport myself," she said. "Some people would have to hire someone to do it. I'm not sure how many people can afford it. Some people would have to remove their carports if they can't meet the requirements. But I think that most carport owners are in favor of the changes because they'll still get to keep their carports, and they've invested a lot of money in them."
Carports are commonly used by homeowners who don't have room in their garages to park vehicles; to protect vehicles from hail damage and other extreme weather; and to provide shelter for elderly and disabled residents getting in and out of vehicles.
Critics said that carports can be eyesores inconsistent with the look of a house or a neighborhood. The city enforces its carport ordinance only after receiving complaints from neighbors, so it's unclear whether the proposed carport amendment would change that trend.