County Zoning Plan
Brief Introduction to Zoning
prepared by El Paso County Planning Division 11/23/98
basically, zoning involves the separation of land into districts
which allow different uses. Examples of these districts include
various types of agricultural, residential, commercial and industrial
zones for which uses, densities and other criteria are specified.
The authority to zone is designated to local governments by the
State of Colorado through "enabling legislation." Its
overall purpose is to protect the health, safety and welfare of
the community by limiting incompatible, unsafe and inappropriate
uses within the same zone.
zone districts also include requirements related to the density
and bulk of the uses which are allowed within the zone. These other
requirements include minimum lot area, maximum building and structural
lot area coverage, minimum distance from property lines for buildings
and structures and maximum allowable building and structural height.
Property owners who wish to seek relief from these requirements
may petition for relief through an entity known as the Board of
Adjustment (BOA). The decisions of the BOA are not taken on to the
Board of County Commissioners. For example, if a property owner
desired to build a new structure within twenty-five (25) feet of
their property line in an A-35 (Agricultural) zone, this request
would need to be taken to the BOA for consideration at a public
Permitted, Accessory Uses, Special Uses, and Variances
zone districts ordinarily list those uses which are "principally
permitted" within that district. This is the case for the zones
which are being recommended for the unzoned eastern area. An individual
can establish a principally permitted use without having to go through
an formal land use approval process so long as the use meets all
of the zone district's development requirements (height, setbacks
etc.). Ordinarily, only one principally permitted use is allowed
on a single property. However, a use listed as principally permitted
is considered to be accessory to another permitted use in some cases.
For example, a single family house or a mobile home is considered
accessory to the operation of a dairy farm, and therefore the property
has only one principal use. Additionally, in the A-35 zone an additional
dwelling unit is allowed for either employees or immediate family
members of the property owner or tenant. By comparison, if the additional
new dwelling units do not meet the criteria outlined above, they
would be considered to be separate permitted uses, and therefore
only be allowable in the event a specific Variance of Use is approved
for the property.
alluded to above, accessory uses or buildings are generally defined
as those which are "customary and subordinate" to those
uses which are allowed as principally permitted uses. These are
allowed as appropriate along with the principal buildings and/or
use. Relevant examples for the districts recommended in this plan
would include many types of agricultural buildings, residential
garages, fences, decks and swimming pools. A "home occupation"
such as operating an office (with no outside employees) out of one's
house is also considered an accessory use.
principally permitted uses, a use listed as a Use Subject to Special
Review (Special Use) is only allowable if it is approved by the
Board of County Commissioners through a public hearing process.
The Board's decision on special uses needs to be based upon written
standards included in the County Land Development Code. The philosophy
behind special uses is that they should be allowable in the zone
district for which they are listed providing they meet the compatibility
standards outlined in the Code.
a proposed use of a property is not allowed at all within the overlying
zone district, it is possible to obtain a variance of use from the
Board of County Commissioners to allow that use. However, the standard
applied in this case is much more stringent than that for a special
use. The burden is upon the applicant to demonstrate that compliance
with the zoning would cause an exceptional hardship.
any otherwise legal use which was in existence before the imposition
of zoning (or a change in zoning) is considered legally nonconforming.
In laymen's terms this means that it is "grandfathered"
and can continue to exist even if it would no longer be legal in
the overlying zone district. The principle behind nonconforming
status is that an individual should not be deprived of the value
of his or her property through subsequent zoning actions. However,
the nonconforming principle goes on to presume that the property
should also eventually be brought into conformance. For this reason
nonconforming uses can not be substantially enlarged or extended.
For the same reason, a nonconforming use may not be resumed if it
is discontinued for a prescribed period unless the property is brought
into conformance. Nonconforming status runs with the property and
not with the landowner. Therefore, a nonconforming use may continue
on a property, even if it is sold.
example, a pre-existing restaurant would be allowed as a legally
nonconforming use in an RR-3 (Rural Residential) zone. However,
if it were closed for more than a year, in could not be reopened
without a variance of use or a change in zoning.
an area is zoned the property owner has the option of petitioning
the Board of County Commissioners to rezone the property to another
classification. The applicant must submit a Letter of Intent to
the Planning Division along with documentation and a submittal
fee. The applicant must notify all adjoining property owners of
the request. The Planning Division must post a notice on the property.
The request is then heard by the County Planning Commission which
may recommend approval or disapproval. In either case, unless withdrawn
by the applicant, the request is forwarded to the Board of County
Commissioner for final consideration. By law the Board must base
their decision to rezone on one or more of the following reasons:
the change furthers an adopted master plan.
2) there has been a material change in circumstance.
3) to correct an error made in the original zoning.
4) the change will affect the health, safety and welfare of residents.
and Building Permits
1973, the County has required building permits in all zoned areas.
Building permits are not required for agricultural structures as
defined by State statute. As noted in the currently proposed zoning
plan, provisions may be made to both extend the effective date of
compliance in all cases and significantly limit the requirement
for such permits in the case of the A-35 (Agricultural) Zone District.
A separate summary of the building permit process is available.
welcome your suggestions/ input/ questions sent to
El Paso County Planning Division
27 East Vermijo
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80903
or to firstname.lastname@example.org