Boulder County Land Use Department Rules

I was in a meeting recently with Kim Sanchez, Senior Planner, Boulder County Land Use Department. In the meeting Kim described some changes to the County’s Site Plan Review regulations and process.

I thought that this would be a good adjunct to the recent posts about the Boulder County Transferable Development Credits (TDCs) that I’ve shared with you.

Please call or email me today if you, or someone you know is thinking about buying or selling real estate in the Boulder area. We need to talk about your needs to be sure you get straight answers and great real estate representation to keep you on track with your goals.

One of the first topics Kim Sanchez covered in the meeting was the Site Plan Review Process. This includes some boulder county space regulation changes, and it applies to only unincorporated Boulder county.

The list of concerns that Boulder County officials are attempting to address include:

wildlife migration

property access

mines and mining claims patented many years ago

slopes and difficult terrain

general build-ability

New site plan review regulations were adopted in 1993 (for an 8 month interim), and in 1994 the regulations were formally adopted, approved, and extended to the plains portions of the county.

The purpose of review was to mitigate the IMPACT of development specifically focused on single family residences, and larger sized additions.

The site plan review process approves:

The bulk and massing of a structure … how large, how tall, where it’s located on a property, But don’t worry about getting the aesthetic aspect of your project through the review process, site plan reviewers don’t care about the style or design. Well, some of these individuals may care about design, but they’re not measuring your taste for design against theirs when conducting a site plan review.

Sanchez says there are several standards primarily used  to address concerns over environmental, safety, visual, and compatibility issues. These are new standards as of 8/8/8.

Sanchez went on to explain that there are some recent trends that caused the county to change the regulations. Those are:

-Trends towards bigger houses

-Changing character of neighborhoods

-Housing Stock / Affordability (the need to address the issue for size and energy consumption)

Also, comprehensive plan and Land Use Code updates were needed  since the planning commission has made building size a priority recently.

It seems the planning commission intention is to identify more predictability for what an appropriate house size is for an area:

The first step was to define what a neighborhood is or is not.

By their definition, a neighborhood is a mapped town-site, a platted subdivision with more than 7 developed lots, or area within 1500′ of the subject parcel, excluding subdivisions with more that 7 developed lots.

The presumption is that the subject property is a compatible size of home for a “neighborhood” as measured by the above criteria.

Historically limits were either 125% of median residential floor area for a defined neighborhood, OR 1500 square feet in a town-site area, and  2500 square feet everywhere else.

You’re now asking yourself “how do I overcome this?”.

It seems the county site planning regulation process trumps county building rules allowed by TDCs (sf includes basements, garages, etc.)

Exceptions to the limits imposed by the site plan regulations:

-visibility: use of topography, underground construction, distance of proposed development from priveat parcels, public roads and open spaces (tree screening isn’t enough)

-distribution of home sizes within the neighborhood; the distribution should especially take into consideration those houses that are most closely adjacent to the property

-conservation easements: house size limitation defined in a conservation easement.

(You could build what size is established per the conservation easement agreement you already have in place. For instance, if your conservation easement previously approved 7000 square feet, you could presumably build up to 7000 square feet without restriction by the site plan regulations)

Scenic Corridor Area:

Additional criteria was added for development along the peak to peak scenic corridor area.

There have been ongoing efforts to identify specific mitigation factors and give more clarity to property owners in this area including: changing location or structure orientation, height of structures, reduction or location of windows and glazing, exterior color and materials, and even lighting.

During the meeting, some people said that they thought that the pine bark beetle issue might overshadow the needs for maintaining the beauty of the Peak-to-Peak scenic corridor. While the destruction of trees by the beetle is an issue making its way to the front range, the comment was tabled as irrelevant to the topic.

Whatever your concerns may be, it’s clear that you need to review the rules for any area you are thinking about if you are going to purchase real estate in Boulder county. The Boulder County Website could be a great place to start your research.

Don’t forget, if you’re contemplating doing anything with real estate in the Boulder valley area, you need to call or email me right now. We need to be sure that you get straight, honest answers to your important questions. I’m here to help.

-Zachary Epps, full-time professional Realtor® and EcoBroker®


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