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Colorado Land Use Planning (1-CO-a)

Information current as of 2021
Colorado delegates land use planning for development to municipalities and counties. The developer should contact the appropriate local government to ensure that the proposed project is consistent with planning, zoning, and development regulations.



Land Use Planning Process


1-CO-a.1 – Is There a Comprehensive Plan?

A developer should check the website or with the clerk of the county or municipality in which the project is to be located for a comprehensive plan. If there is no comprehensive plan, the developer should review the applicable county and municipal zoning regulations.

Colorado delegates the authority to regional and county commissions as well as municipalities to pass comprehensive plans. Comprehensive plans in Colorado are advisory documents designed for long term planning. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 30-28-106(3)(a). Land Use Plans are required to include planning elements for:

  • The development of local water resources;
  • The location of public utilities, whether publicly or privately operated;
  • The protection of biological of biological and geological resources; and
  • Assure access to appropriate conditions for solar, wind, and other alternative energy sources

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 30-28-106(3).

In addition, land plans at the county level may include planning elements for the regulation of stream flow, specific to flood control. Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 30-30-102, 30-30-105; Colo. Code Regs. § 408-2; Colo. Code Regs. § 408-1.  

1-CO-a.2 – Review Comprehensive Plan (If Applicable)

A developer should review the comprehensive plan to ensure compliance with its provisions, and to determine the degree to which the plan will be binding on the project.

In Colorado, comprehensive plans are not required to promulgate zoning requirements and are considered advisory documents for long term planning goals. Colo. Rev. Stat §§ 29-20-104; Colo. Rev. Stat. § 30-28-106(3)(a). However, a county or municipality may make the comprehensive plan binding by specifically incorporating the relevant parts of the plan into the zoning ordinance Colo. Rev. Stat. § 30-28-106(3)(a).

If the plan is not binding, the developer should still review the comprehensive plan to ensure alignment between the plan and the project to the greatest extent possible.

1-CO-a.3 – Review Municipal and County Zoning Regulations

A developer should review the applicable county or municipal zoning regulations to ensure that the project will be compatible with the zoning regulations.

Colorado delegates authority to counties and municipalities to pass zoning regulations regulating building height, density, lot setbacks, and the use and location of buildings. The specific zoning ordinances will vary by county or municipality, though the statutes specifically single out energy conservation and the promotion of solar energy utilization as legitimate goals in promoting the general health and welfare of the community. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 30-28-111; Colo. Rev. Stat. § 31-23-302.

1-CO-a.4 to 1-CO-a.5 – Does the Project Require a Variation to a Zoning Regulation?

If a proposed project does not comply with zoning regulations, a developer may submit a petition for a variation to the zoning ordinance to the applicable municipality or county board of adjustment. The petition for variance to a zoning ordinance petition requirements and procedural process varies pending on the jurisdiction. However, the municipal or county board of adjustment may only grant a variation to a zoning ordinance when the variation will prevent practical difficulties or unnecessary hardships over the use of the land and that the modification will not injure the health or public safety of the area. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 31-28-118; Colo. Rev. Stat. § 31-23-307(4).

1-CO-a.6 to 1-CO-a.8 – Does the Project Require Rezoning?

If the proposed variation is denied, the developer may petition the board of adjustment to rezone the property to conform with the intended use of the land.

In Colorado, the land owner or the government body may initiate the rezoning process, which can be an amendment to the city or county code or simply an amendment to the zoning map. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 30-28-116; Colo. Rev. Stat. § 31-23-305. If there is a comprehensive plan, the government body must look at the plan in light of the proposed rezoning. If the proposal complies with the comprehensive plan, the local government must find the rezoning is reasonably related to the goals of the comprehensive plan. Colorado Land Planning and Development Law. However, if the proposal does not comply with the plan, the local government must make an additional finding that the existing zoning for the area was incorrectly established or that the nature and character of the area surrounding the project has changed significantly and requires a zoning change. Colorado Land Planning and Development Law.

1-CO-a.9 to 1-CO-a.10 – Does the Local Government Approve the Amendment?

The planning commission must adopt the amendment by a vote of no less than two thirds of the members of the planning commission. Following the vote, the planning commission must certify and transmit the amended document to the local government body for final approval.

Following the approval by the local government body, the plan is filed with the relevant clerk and recorder Colo. Rev. Stat. § 30-28-125.

1-CO-a.11 – Appeal Decision (Optional)

A developer may appeal a decision to the relevant Board of Adjustment. At least four members of the Board of Adjustment must concur in order to reverse the decision Colo. Rev. Stat. § 30-28-118(3); Colo. Rev. Stat. § 31-23-307. The developer may additionally appeal the decision of the Board of Adjustment to the local district court within thirty days of the Board of Adjustment’s final decision on the matter Colo. Rev. Stat. § 30-28-118(3; Colo. Rev. Stat. § 31-23-307.


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