15.0 LAND DEVELOPMENT REGULATIONS
REGULATORY BACKGROUND AND AUTHORITY
- As an advisory document,
the County-Wide Policy Plan relies primarily upon the County's
system of land development regulations for its implementation.
While the County Master Plan is often considered as a source
of guidance in decisions concerning land development, it is the
regulations, such as those governing zoning and subdivision,
which have the force of law.
- Counties rely on the State
Statute for authority to regulate in the area of land use and
are specifically vested with only those powers granted to them
through statute. Among these powers are the authority to enact
and administer zoning and subdivision regulations, permit solid
waste sites and facilities and to govern in a few other areas
related to land use through the use of ordinances.
- The authority for approval
or disapproval of most land use applications ultimately rests
with the Board of County Commissioners; however, in most cases
the applications are first considered by the Planning Commission
for a more detailed review and recommendation. The Planning Commission
is a volunteer advisory board appointed by the Board of County
Commissioners pursuant to State statute. Another volunteer body,
the Board of Adjustment, is specifically responsible for hearing
requests for relief from the physical requirements of zoning
and making a final determination.
- Land Development Process
- Many of the County's land
use regulations (including those related to zoning and subdivision)
are currently contained within the El Paso County Land
Development Code. A schematic diagram which outlines
the El Paso County development process is attached as an appendix.
Although procedures vary according to individual circumstances,
with larger projects the most traditional process begins with
a Sketch Plan submitted
for the entire property. This depicts the overall mix of uses
and access in conceptual form.
- This is followed by one
or more applications for rezoning of the property, if needed.
The next step is the Preliminary Plan for subdivision. This is
where most of the review takes place and the detailed planning
is accomplished. Issues such as water, sewer, soils and geology,
drainage and erosion control and roads are thoroughly reviewed
and addressed . Preliminary plans generally encompass the entire
development to allow for a good look at the "big picture."
The final step is the Final Plat which is largely administrative
in nature, but at which point all requisite fees must be paid
and documents recorded. Included with the final plat are detailed
construction drawings for roads and drainage improvements. Administration
of building permits related to these subdivisions is the responsibility
of the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, but potential
builders must check back with the Planning Division to verify
compliance with zoning and subdivision requirements. As development
proceeds through this process, the requirements generally become
more detailed and rigorous. Two of the most fundamental elements
of the land development process are zoning and subdivision.
- Zoning is a commonly used
system of land use regulation which relies principally upon designation
of districts for which only specific categories of uses are allowed,
either as a use by right or use subject to a special review and
approval process. Zoning codes or resolutions also govern such
areas as allowable density, maximum lot area coverage, maximum
heights and minimum setbacks
from property lines or other uses, such as billboards or adult
uses. Property owners have the option of applying for a variance
of use in the event their proposed use is not consistent with
the underlying zoning; however, the standard for approval of
a variance is relatively rigorous. Zoning was first applied to
the unincorporated areas immediately surrounding Colorado Springs
in 1942. Since then, zoning has been applied progressively to
the remainder of the western and central portions of the County
but not to large eastern portions of the County. Enforcement
of zoning is accomplished primarily through the checks and balances
built into the development review process (i.e. check-offs required
prior to obtaining a building permit). Complaints from residents
and property owners are also investigated by Planning Division
enforcement staff. This process ordinarily begins with attempts
at voluntary resolution of the complaint, but occasionally the
County is required to follow up with appropriate legal action.
- Subdivision is a State-mandated
process governing most divisions of property which result in
the creation of any parcels of land that are less than thirty-five
(35) acres. The process outlines requirements for surveying of
the property, creation of lots and streets and recording of appropriate
legal documents. Additionally, the regulations stipulate the
studies necessary to document impacts in areas including geologic
hazards, drainage and flood plains and traffic. Also outlined
are procedures for review and input from interested agencies
and adjoining owners. The regulations further include detailed
standards for provision of needed on-site facilities and services
along with dedications of land and/or fees required to address
infrastructure demands potentially created by the development.
- While many on-site and
some off-site fiscal impacts
are addressed through the subdivision process, the County
currently does not require a formal fiscal
impact analysis as part of the development review process.
Likewise, the principle of concurrency
(ensuring that adequate facilities and services are available
at the time they are needed) provides the logical basis for many
of the Countys subdivision regulations; however, at this
time the County does not apply a distinct concurrency
management system as part of its development process.
- ISSUE 15.1 Maintain
Efficiency and Balance
- The classic paradox in
land development is how to keep things simple, cost-effective
and reasonably non-onerous while at the same time "covering
all the bases" in providing residents and tax payers with
the development-related protections they desire. The County's
responsibility to control the long-term public costs of development
also needs to be addressed directly or indirectly through the
- The unincorporated County
has grown in both population and in the complexity of its land
use issues. The County's regulatory structure has grown correspondingly.
From the publics standpoint, land development regulations
may be viewed as either too permissive where someone believes
they will be adversely impacted by a use, or too limiting where
someone would like to establish a use without the interference
of local government or neighboring property owners. Additionally,
because much of the eastern County is unzoned at this time, the
basic tool for implementation of land use planning is not available
in these large areas.
- Development in rural areas
presents land development regulation issues of particular concern.
The larger issue involves the challenge of applying a regulatory
structure to these areas when the Land
Development Code has been designed primarily to meet the
needs of more urban development. This situation is complicated
because counties have no statutory authority to address the potential
impacts of divisions of land into parcels of 35 acres or greater
through the subdivision process.
- The issue of a property
owners expectations for their land is also integrally tied
to the regulatory process. Property owners would like to rely
on prior land use approvals and maintain their "rights"
for uses which either exist or are allowable under current regulations.
The County respects this overall concept but also seeks to maintain
its flexibility to implement revised regulations in response
to changed conditions or to delete prior approvals which have
not been active for a reasonable period.
- Goal 15.1 Maintain efficiency and balance
in the adoption, application and enforcement of land development
- Policy 15.1.1
- Minimize the number
of use variances processed by discouraging most requests which
deviate from the zoning requirements or revising the Land
Development Code to fully incorporate those uses which may
not be completely addressed.
- Policy 15.1.2
- Limit the use of
conditions of approval which can reasonably be expected to result
in the need for extraordinary amounts of enforcement or administration.
- Policy 15.1.3
- Evaluate and fully
consider the county-wide fiscal
impacts of proposed development which can be demonstrated
to be reasonably related to the proposed development, recognizing
in some cases the County's regulatory authority in this area
may be limited.
- Policy 15.1.4
- Encourage the use
of pre-application conferences among applicants, Planning Division
staff, key agencies and potentially concerned or affected property
owners to identify and address significant issues early in the
- Policy 15.1.5
- Enforce zoning
and subdivision regulations in a manner which is as equitable
and non-intrusive as possible given the limitations imposed by
State statute and available staff resources.
- Policy 15.1.6
- Encourage voluntary
compliance with land use regulations, but also recognize the
need to act decisively in the public interest in situations where
there is an immediate threat to health and safety or where the
property owner has demonstrated continuing recalcitrance.
- Policy 15.1.7
- Endeavor to refine
the Land Development Code
to better address the non-residential uses which are reasonably
needed to serve rural and rural residential areas.
- Policy 15.1.8
- Encourage the State
legislature to grant counties authority to address concerns such
as access and water supply associated with the division of land
into parcels of 35 acres or larger.
- Policy 15.1.9
- Maintain efficiency
and balance between opposing constituents through the use of
objective outside mediators.
- Policy 15.1.10
- Carefully consider
the impacts that decisions to revise or implement local development
regulations may have on the options property owners currently
have for the use of their land.
- Policy 15.1.11
- Recognize vested
property rights consistent with State Statute.
- Policy 15.1.12
address, and if appropriate, delete, prior land use approvals
which are no longer viable.
- Policy 15.1.13
- Address obsolete
zone districts through a comprehensive County-initiated rezoning
- Subdivisions are
also factored into the equation. Altogether, these processing
costs can often amount to several thousands of dollars per acre;
however, in some cases, the value of time has the greatest financial
- ISSUE 15.2 Manage Development
- From a developer's
perspective, there exist a variety of costs associated with land
development regulations or the approval process. Direct County
submittal fees are usually the least significant factor. These
fees are fairly low and typically do not approach the full cost
of processing the applications. In contrast, the costs required
for the documents, surveys and analyses and professional representation
associated with the development review process can be very substantial.
This is especially true when the fees which must be paid in association
with recording Time invested in the development process has an
associated cost, especially if money has been leveraged in the
property. In practice, most of this timing risk is associated
with the market, but a protracted or unsuccessful review process
can also be very costly. From the County's point of view justification
exits for having the review process structured to reasonably
anticipate the worst case development scenarios. Time must be
allowed to effectively obtain needed public and technical input.
Delays are also often attributable to incomplete or poor submittals.
- Goal 15.2 Ensure that applicants
are responsible for a reasonable share of costs associated with
processing applications and for the fiscal
impacts from development while balancing the desire to limit
the direct and indirect impacts of regulations on development.
- Policy 15.2.1
- Consider the development
and adoption of a fee structure that reasonably compensates the
County for the costs associated with administration of complicated
development approvals such as Planned Unit Developments.
- Policy 15.2.2
- Periodically review
and adjust subdivision exactions and related fees within the
statutory limitations to ensure they are commensurate with the
- Policy 15.2.3
- Reasonably limit
the time required to process land use applications to that amount
necessary to accommodate needed staff, agency and public review
as well as any State-mandated notice requirements.
- Policy 15.2.4
- Attempt to reasonably
limit the number and complexity of conditions attached to approval
of land use applications, especially where these may result in
future enforcement difficulties or high administrative costs.
- Policy 15.2.5
- Recognize the trade-off
between the desire for higher levels of planning services and
desire to limit public expenditures.
- Policy 15.2.6
- Fully evaluate
the fiscal and property rights impacts of all proposed changes
to land use regulations and fees.
- ISSUE 15.3 Address
Fiscal Impacts of Development
- A widely held sentiment
maintains that "growth should pay its own way"; however,
calculating the true public costs of growth in a acceptable regulatory
formula presents challenges. There are many situations where
fiscal impact analysis
is addressed through regulations or practice. Examples include
front-end utility tap fees, subdivision exactions for on-site
infrastructure, park and school lands, and per-acre drainage
- The time period
used in analyses or calculations is important. New development
ordinarily creates an immediate and often one-time need for facilities
and services, such as road and school capacity. Conversely, the
direct and indirect tax and fee revenues generated by development
are collected in small increments over time. In the case of property
taxes, there often is a lag period of up to a few years, during
which no revenues are collected.
- Components of fiscal impact analysis, including
timing, location and type of development, which have a substantial
impact on public infrastructure costs, are difficult to accurately
model and calculate due to future uncertainties. Residential
development does not directly generate the public revenues needed
to defray the cost of providing it with infrastructure
and services. Often residential infrastructure is paid for and
maintained by the relatively higher taxes and fees generated
by commercial, office and industrial businesses or other nonresidential
uses. Therefore, it may be inappropriate to burden a given residential
development with all of the net public costs it generates.
- Analyzing and calculating
off site fiscal impacts
can be a complicated and an inexact process. To begin with defensible
service level standards need to be established. Existing deficiencies
must also be addressed because their costs can not be legitimately
assessed against new development. Further complicating the process
is the potential involvement of variety of different public,
quasi-public and private entities. Improvements such as additional
road capacity, drainage channels, schools or fire stations often
need to be constructed in large expensive increments. Assessing
and distributing the cost for infrastructure is difficult because
development is market-driven and not always predictable.
- Finally, some costs/benefits
are not entirely tangible. For example, it is difficult to put
an exact price tag on visual impacts, open space, air quality,
a recreation center, a professional sports team or a major cultural
- Goal 15.3 Maintain a regulatory structure which
fairly and equitably distributes the costs associated with development
and which ensures that adequate public facilities and services
will be available when and where they are needed.
- Policy 15.3.1
- Identify and consider
the major off-site fiscal
impacts of development proposals as a part of their evaluation
and review process.
- Policy 15.3.2
- Consider the adoption
of a more formalized fiscal
impact analysis requirement provided that it is clearly defined,
equitable, does not unreasonably burden the development review
and approval process and is used as only one of the considerations
in the land use decision process.
- Policy 15.3.3
- Encourage innovative
approaches to the problem of financing solutions to the off-site
fiscal impacts of development.
- Policy 15.3.4
- Support equitable
approaches to the provision of public services and facilities
- Policy 15.3.5
- Address existing
deficiencies and community-wide facility and service needs in
a manner which does not place an unreasonable financial burden
on new development.
- Policy 15.3.6
- Recognize the community-wide
responsibility for addressing the facility and service needs
of existing and previously approved development in the implementation
of any concurrency management
- Policy 15.3.7
- Promote the adoption
and use of comprehensive, equitable and reasonably flexible concurrency management as
a means of managing rather than fully controlling or stopping
growth and development.
- ISSUE 15.4 Continue
to Refine Regulations
- The El Paso County
Land Development Code
has undergone a fairly continuous process of revision over the
past several years. Separate supporting criteria and additional
ordinances have also been developed and adopted. Over time, the
Code has become quite extensive and difficult to follow in places.
Also, a number of areas within the regulations could benefit
from additional attention. Finally, with its current regulatory
structure, the County is limited in its ability to address certain
uses such as public utilities.
- Goal 15.4 Continue to refine the County's
system of land development regulations to keep them current,
clear, effective, equitable and enforceable.
- Policy 15.4.1
- Develop and approve limited
H.B. 1041 regulations that address those public utility and related
projects for which the County's current authority is limited.
- Policy 15.4.2
- Develop and adopt general
standards for consideration of C.R.S. 30-28-110 approvals of
location for public utilities.
- Policy 15.4.3
- Develop and adopt standards
which address County-initiated rezoning.
- Policy 15.4.4
- Consider the impact proposed
regulations will have on the ability of property owners to implement
innovative and aesthetically pleasing site planning and building
- ISSUE 15.5 Maintain
a User-friendly and Publicly Open Process
- Participating in the land
development review process can be a daunting and frustrating
experience for both the applicant and concerned residents. In
some cases, the period from initial submittal to final Board
of County Commissioners determination can run several months
even without extraordinary delays. Because the regulations can
be inherently complex and subject to a variety of legal constraints,
it may be difficult for participants to fully understand how
and why the process has to work the way it does.
- Although maintaining an
open and public process is understood to be a critical component
of the regulatory structure, accomplishing this charge can be
a challenge in practice. Maintaining full public input requires
a commitment of staff resources which is not always available.
Often, it also requires a balancing of the rights of neighbors
with those of the project applicant.
- Goal 15.5 Ensure a public review process that provides
adequate and equable opportunity for informed consideration of
development proposals by all interested parties.
- Policy 15.5.1
- Make the Land
Development Code more user friendly through a combination
of reformatting, reorganization, use of tables and diagrams and
- Policy 15.5.2
- Continue to support and
facilitate public involvement in the planning and land development
processes through effective and timely notice to potentially
impacted property owners and representative community groups.
- Policy 15.5.3
- Encourage preapplication
information meetings between the applicant, affected property
owners and homeowners groups prior to submission to the County
for large properties and/or properties in sensitive locations.
- Policy 15.5.4
- Use innovative communication
methods, such as the Internet, to increase the publics
access to information covered in the Land
Development Code, other related documents, regulations and