Land Use Code revision project

The land use code revision project is continuing as a County led effort that draws on internal resources, reviews of land use codes from similar counties in Colorado, and existing work products to craft a code that works for La Plata County.

Planning staff and the Board of County Commissioners values public input, and has crafted a process that will seek public input to help inform the Board of County Commissioners as they give staff direction on how to address specific policy issues in the land use code.

There are a number of outstanding policy issues that the Board of County Commissioners will give staff direction on how to address in the code revision process. The Board of County commissioners will be considering these policy questions and providing staff direction after seeking public input on each of the issues, as well as considering best practices from a staff review of land use regulations in seven other Colorado counties.

Policy topics
The Board of County Commissioners will consider and provide policy direction after seeking public and staff input on the following topics (tentatively in the following order):

Portable storage
Special events
Background Documents     

  1. Euclidean Zoning Policy Considerations (memo)
  2. Zoning Comparison Exercise
  3. Comparative Zoning Model
  4. Potential Problems with Euclidean Zoning (memo)
  5. Policy Consideration for Non-Conformities (memo)
  6. Legal Overview of Zoning's Purpose & Implementation (memo)
  7. Zoning Classification Implications on Tax Assessment (memo)
  8. Agriculture Plus (AG+) Zone District Model (memo)        
  9. Overlay Zones (memo)
  10. View survey results  

Areas & activities of state interest
Overview presentation
Background & Recommendations
Sensitive lands

Site-specific compatibility considerations
Modifications to existing Transitional Area Development Standards (TADS)
Additional policies to encourage growth in desired areas
Affordable housing
Short-term rentals

Public Input
Once drafted, the memos and a public input tool will be posted to the County Planning website, distributed to newsletter subscribers, and to other community contact lists. The public input period will be open for approximately two weeks. Staff will then compile this input as well as the feedback we received during the comment period from the first draft code release to include in a final memo to the Board of County Commissioners.
Work sessions
The Board of County Commissioners will have a series of work sessions with staff to review and discuss the memos with the commissioners providing staff direction on how to address the relevant policy topic when drafting the land use code.

Work in progress
Simultaneously, La Plata County planning staff is right now addressing technical elements in the code, focusing on:


  • Crafting clear and concise code language
  • Organizing structure to flow more logically
  • Developing a detailed Table of Contents so that it is clear what is in the code and where to find it


Concurrently, the La Plata County Planning Commission is working with citizens to update the District (Area) Plans - advisory documents based on the Comprehensive Plan that serve to inform growth and development in the county's 12 distinct planning areas. Find out more about and get involved in these updates.

Land Use Code Goals

The goal of this project is to create a Land Use & Development Code that is responsive, functional and flexible to the varied needs and character of the community. This foundational regulation will build upon the updated La Plata County Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan establishes goals and a policy framework for land use planning in La Plata County; the Land Use Code is the regulatory tool for implementing that plan.  

At the outset of the land use code revision effort in 2016, the Board of County Commissioners established these goals for the project:


  • Reconcile and clarify the county’s plans, policies, and practices;

  • Combine & integrate the many overlapping land uses and standards into a unified land use system;

  • Reward compliant applications which are consistent with County plans;

  • Provide for predictability and improved certainty of the process and outcomes;

  • Create multiple paths to “yes” – what can (rather than what can’t) be done;

  • Use the carrot vs. the stick via incentives such as bonuses and procedural short-cuts;

  • Infuse best practice provisions (e.g. clustering, resource protection, and preservation);

  • Eliminate unnecessary process (e.g. more administrative approvals subject to clear standards);

  • Articulate clear development standards and expectations;

  • Streamline the development process; and

  • Protect and preserve the county’s most valued assets.


As La Plata County revises the Land Use Code, hearing from you on the current code, and the development-related opportunities and challenges in La Plata County is instrumental. Stakeholders with wide-ranging experience using the existing Land Use Code provide us with critical input from the outset and we invite you to provide us with your thoughts.

The process

Since the project began in October 2016, there have been two rounds of meetings with stakeholders and several sessions with the Board of County Commissioners to identify the issues, concerns, priorities and policy directions to shape the revised code going forward. 

November 2016 sessions

In November, Planning staff and consultants held sessions with five stakeholder groups to hear the priorities, concerns and experiences of community members from a wide range of sectors including agricultural interest, business & economic development, code users (architects, developers, planning agents, etc.), community interests and area planning groups. 

The broader community was invited to participate in this information-gathering effort. The results of this first round of outreach can be found below.

Summary of November 2016 stakeholder session feedback

Survey responses 

January 2017 sessions

The Board of County Commissioners met in January 2017 to discuss the process, outline points of consensus, discuss regulatory strategies and alternatives, and to initiate the process of determining policy directions to guide the Land Use Code revision. 

BOCC policies, principles & direction discussion outline 

The discussion began by introducing the focus points and discussing demographic and socioeconomic trends and forecasts; changing economies and demands; the importance of stakeholders and their interests, views, and desires; the history of planning and evolving perspectives as the county evolves and grows; and the values of natural and scenic resources. 

These factors and others will help frame the approach taken for the Land Use Code regarding open space and resource management, together with rural development, agricultural preservation, infrastructure provision, and business creation. 
Below is a summary of the points for which there was broad consensus, along with guiding principles for progressing with the rewrite process:


  1. Land use

  2. Growth management and coordination

  3. Infrastructure (particularly water and roads)

  4. Affordable housing

  5. Economic development

  6. Agricultural preservation

  7. Resource protection


From these broad categories, the BOCC, staff and the consultants expanded the discussion to more detailed levels, and conducted an exercise to identify consensus points on which areas to pursue in the revised Land Use Code. 

The stakeholder groups went through the same exercise, and we invited you to participate as well to help refine the policy framework for the revised code.

Stay informed & involved

Thank you for your interest in the La Plata County Land Use & Development Code revision process. Your input and participation is crucial to the effort. We will keep you informed of upcoming steps in the project and opportunities for you to be involved. Stay informed by signing up for the Newsletter!