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Common Planning Questions



  1. What is the difference between Incorporated and Unincorporated Land?

    In Larimer County the unincorporated area is all of the land within the county boundary that falls outside of the incorporated boundaries of cities and towns. The incorporated cities and towns in Larimer County are Fort Collins, Loveland, Estes Park, Berthoud, Wellington, Timnath and portions of Windsor and Johnstown.

    Other communities and neighborhoods in Larimer County that are not incorporated are still known by their place names. These unincorporated communities do not have their own government organization or political designation like the incorporated cities and towns. In Larimer County these places include the communities of Laporte, Bellvue and Red Feather Lakes.

    View a map of Larimer County showing the names and general locations of incorporated cities as well as some of the unincorporated communities and local landmark places in the county.

  2. Why does the County have all these land use rules? Why can't I just do what I want with my property?

    Federal and State land use laws and regulations aside, the County has established land use regulations based upon the desire of its citizens to manage growth and development in a responsible manner. Larimer County established zoning districts in the early 1960's, followed by a County Master Plan in 1976, 1988, and 1997. Its current County Master Plan (1997), based upon lengthy and considerable public debate and input, sets forth the general principles and strategies to be used by the County to guide growth and development. The Larimer County Land Use Code, developed after the Master Plan was adopted, is intended to implement the adopted Master Plan. The result is a Land Use Code that provides a balance between the rights and responsibilities of property owners in a rapidly growing county.

  3. What if there are covenants on a property?

    Simply put, covenants are a contract or a legally binding promise. If a property is subject to covenants, then the property owner has promised to abide by the terms contained in the covenants. Sometimes covenants are more restrictive than the County's land use regulations. Even though the land use regulations may allow a certain use, private covenants that are in place may not allow that use. Property owners who have questions about what their covenants allow are advised to talk with their homeowner's association (HOA) and to get legal advice as needed. Larimer County does not enforce or interpret private covenants.

Zoning

  1. What is my zoning?
    You can find the zoning for a specific property in the unincorporated area several ways:
    • Find by parcel number
      If you have the Assessor's parcel ID number for the property, you can find zoning information by entering that parcel number (with no dashes or hyphens) in the query form (click the button below). Zoning information is only available for properties located in unincorporated Larimer County. If inquiry is for property inside city/town limits, the jurisdiction name and contact phone number will be displayed.

        Parcel Search  



      If you have an address but no parcel number, go to the Assessor Property Record Search screen to find the parcel ID number for that address.

      You can find more details about Larimer County's zoning districts on the Zoning Districts page.
    • Find on the zoning map
      If you know the general location of the property and can find it on a map, you can view the zoning map on the Zoning Maps page. Please note that this is not an interactive map. If using the map option, we recommend that you verify the zoning of a parcel by contacting the Planning Department at (970) 498-7679 or send us email.
    • Contact the Planning Department
      To verify the zoning district for a particular property, call the Planning Department at (970) 498-7679 or send an email. Please be prepared to provide an address or parcel number to identify the property.
  2. What is the difference between zoning and how the Assessor classifies property?

    These are two different designations, but they are sometimes confused with each other. Each parcel of land in the unincorporated area of Larimer County is zoned. Parcels also have a property tax assessment classification assigned by the County Assessor to classify, assess and value property.

    • Zoning districts are adopted by the Board of County Commissioners. The zoning district determines the uses that are allowed on a property. Section 4.0 of the Larimer County Land Use Code contains the zoning regulations. For more information on zoning districts in unincorporated Larimer County, see the Zoning Districts page. Contact the Larimer County Planning Department at (970) 498-7679 or by email for assistance with your zoning questions.
    • Property tax assessment classifications are determined by the County Assessor's Office based on the actual use that is present on a property. That classification is shown in the Assessor's property records for each parcel. For more information about assessment and valuation of property, contact the County Assessor's Office at (970) 498-7050.

    Sometimes a property tax assessment classification such as "Agricultural" or "ag-land" is assumed to be the zoning of a property. Larimer County doesn't have a zoning district called "Agriculture". In Larimer County, having an "agricultural" classification for a property means that the Assessor has identified the property as qualifying for agricultural assessment and valuation for property tax purposes. In other cases, the property tax assessment classification may indicate a use on the property that isn't allowed by the current zoning of that property. There are many possible reasons for that and Planning staff can help you determine the details in those situations and clarify the uses that are allowed.

  3. What things does Larimer County regulate with the zoning district?

    The purpose of zoning districts is to implement the Larimer County Master Plan, promote compatible land use patterns and establish standards appropriate for each zoning district. Each zoning district spells out the uses allowed on properties within that district, the minimum lot sizes, the maximum density allowed if a property in that district is developed, the building setbacks required from property lines, heights for structures, and accessory uses allowed.

  4. What are the building setbacks for my zoning district?

    Each zoning district in the County lists setbacks from streets or roads, side, and rear property lines. Additional setback requirements are found in Section 4.9 of the Land Use Code. You can find detailed information about setbacks on the Setbacks page.

    Property owners and citizens are advised to contact the County Planning Department for setback information on specific properties due to the many factors and unique situations that affect setbacks. To confirm setbacks on your property call the Planner-on-call at (970) 498-7679 or send an email.

  5. What are the uses allowed in my zoning district? Where can I find the regulations for each zoning district?

    The regulations for each zoning district lists what uses are allowed in that district. You can find the detailed information about each zoning district listed in Part II, Section 4.0 of the Larimer County Land Use Code.

    • Uses followed by an (R) are allowed by right but they may be subject to all other requirements of the Land Use Code.
    • Uses followed by an (SP) require approval through the site plan review process described in section 6.1.
    • Uses followed by a (PSP) require approval through the public site plan review process described in section 6.2.
    • Uses followed by an (MS) require approval through the minor special review process described in section 4.5.
    • Uses followed by an (S) require approval through the special review process described in section 4.5.
    • Uses followed by a combination of (R/SP/PSP/MS/S) may be allowed by right or require approval based on thresholds in
      section 4.3 (use descriptions).
    • Use descriptions in section 4.3 contain conditions that apply to certain uses.
    • The number of dwelling units allowed on a site is based on the presumption that all other applicable standards will be met. The maximum density established for a zoning district is not a guarantee that such densities may be obtained, nor a valid justification for varying other dimensional or development standards.
    • It's important to note that the zoning information provided online is general in nature. Specific properties may have different requirements than those noted by zoning district. Please contact the Planning Department at (970) 498-7679 or by email to verify allowed uses for specific properties.
  6. I want to have a business on my property. What are the regulations?

    The first thing to do when you want to propose a new business use, whether it is a wedding venue or a group home or a doggie day care, is to check the zoning for your property and find out whether the proposed use is allowed. As noted in the response to the question above, each zone district lists the principal uses that are allowed and also indicates the level of review that is required for each use. If you're not sure whether your proposed use is allowed, contact the Planning staff at (970) 498-7679 or send an email for assistance.

    Getting back to the specific wedding venue question- This proposed use is generally classified as a "community hall" which is defined as a "facility used for recreational, social and cultural activities". This use is allowed in a limited number of zoning districts and requires review and approval through various review processes, depending on the zoning of the property and the proposed sizes of indoor/outdoor use areas. Contact the Planning staff at (970) 498-7679 or send an email for more details.

  7. Which zoning rules apply if my property is in a special plan area?

    Larimer County has several special area plans that respond to the unique conditions and character of those areas of the county. The zoning regulations in the Land Use Code apply in all of these areas except for the Estes Valley Plan Area. Unincorporated properties within the Estes Valley Planning Area are subject to the Estes Valley Development Code which is administered by the staff at the town of Estes Park. For details on the Estes Valley Development Code, contact staff in the Estes Park Community Development Department at the (970) 577-3720.

  8. What are overlay zone districts?

    In addition to the zoning districts that exist for each property in unincorporated Larimer County, there are also overlay zone districts that apply in certain areas. These are described in Section 4.2 of the Land Use Code. Overlay zone districts have development standards and requirements that apply in addition to those of the underlying zone district.

    One of these overlay zone districts is for the official floodplains which designate areas of the County where flooding may occur. The requirements of the floodplain overlay zone districts are intended to reduce flood danger. Contact Larimer County Engineering staff at (970) 498-5700 for more details.

    Other important overlay zone districts designate Growth Management Areas (GMAs) in the areas around the cities of Fort Collins, Loveland and Windsor. These overlay districts provide regulations to guide development near the participating communities and help to facilitate cooperative growth management in urbanizing areas of the county. Cooperative Planning Area (CPAs) overlay zone districts may be designated in areas where the county and a municipality have developed a joint land use plan outside of the growth management areas.

    Some overlay districts may be designed to accomplish a specific goal for a limited area of the county such as transferable density units (TDU). The TDU overlay zone district allows for shifting of development densities from one ownership to another and exists only in the Fossil Creek Reservoir area of Larimer County.

    Contact the Planning Department at (970) 498-7679 or by email.

Setbacks

  1. What is a setback?

    A setback is the distance between a building and a lot line. A setback can be measured from a lot line, property boundary, the edge of a traveled way, street or road, the right-of-way centerline, the edge of the road easement, or from a waterway centerline.

  2. Why do we have setbacks?

    Setbacks provide space between buildings. The space between buildings can serve many purposes including:

    • To preserve or improve safety
    • To provide access for firemen and prevent fire hazards
    • To allow room for buffering, drainage, and utilities
    • To reduce impacts from noise
    • To preserve the character of an area
    • To preserve or improve aesthetics
    • To prevent buildings from being placed too close together
    • To help with compatibility issues and provide space for screening and landscaping when adjacent lots allow different uses.
  3. Why do I need to know what the setbacks are on my property?

    If you plan on building anything on your property you will need to know where it can be located. During the process of applying for a building permit, the land owner is required to draw a plot plan that shows existing and proposed buildings, the setbacks, easements, and other features. The plot plan is reviewed by a planner to make sure buildings and structures are outside of the required setbacks for the property.

  4. How can I find my setbacks?

    Setbacks vary by zoning district and by property location. The Setback Table is a general guide to setbacks by zoning district. Visit the Parcel Search page to determine the zoning for a specific property. Property owners and citizens are advised to contact the County Planning Department for setback information on specific properties due to the many factors and unique situations that affect setbacks. To confirm setbacks on your property call the Planner-on- call at (970) 498-7679, or email.

  5. What do I do if my building does not meet setback requirements?

    In certain circumstances, a setback variance may be granted either by the Planning Director or the Board of Adjustment. Please contact the Planning Department at (970) 498-7679 or send an email for information on the Variance process.

  6. Are there different types of Setbacks?

    Yes, there are several different types of setbacks. Find more details about setbacks by going to the Setbacks page on our website. Buildings have to meet all setback requirements. If your proposed building setback is different from a required setback, contact the Planning Department at (970) 498-7679 or send an email for information on variance processes.

    • Zoning District Setbacks
      Each zoning district in the County lists setbacks from streets or roads, side, and rear property lines. Setbacks are measured from the lot line, nearest edge of the road easement, nearest edge of right-of-way, or nearest edge of traveled way, whichever is greater.
    • Highway and County Road Setbacks
      See Section 4.9.1 of the Land Use Code for details on the setback requirements for state and federal highways and for county roads. Setbacks for highways are measured from the centerline of right-of-way or from the edge of the right-of-way, whichever is greater. County Road setbacks are measured from right-of-way centerlines.
    • Waterway setbacks
      Streams, creeks, rivers, and other waterways are often shown on a USGS map. Any waterway shown on a USGS map has a setback of 100 feet from the centerline of the waterway to an existing or proposed building. Waterway setbacks include streams or creeks that only flow part of the year.
    • Other setbacks
      A property may have other setbacks that are not listed here. For more information on additional setbacks, contact one of the groups below:

      Building Department
      Contact the Building Department at (970) 498-7700 for other setback requirements such as separation between buildings.
      Health Department
      Contact the Health Department at (970) 498-6775 for other setback requirements such as setbacks for septic systems.
      Homeowner's Association (HOA)
      Larimer County does not enforce private covenants. Check with your Home Owner's Association (HOA) if your private covenants include other setback or location requirements.
  7. Are there any other restrictions regarding the location of a building?

    Yes. Your property may have easements, building envelopes or other features that restrict building placement. These items are different from setbacks. A building needs to be placed so that it can meet all applicable requirements, including setbacks, easements and building envelopes.

  8. What is an Easement?

    An easement is an interest in land owned by another entity or person that entitles its holder to a specific limited use. A common example is a utility easement. A utility easement allows a utility or government agency to locate and maintain utilities, pipelines, telephone and electric cables, and towers on private property, within the easement boundaries. Drainage easements are another type of easement and these are typically used to ensure that the flow of water is unimpeded by structures or other changes to the land.

  9. Can a building extend into or be placed in an easement?

    No structure or any portion or extension of a structure (i.e. eaves, window wells, patios, etc.) may extend into or above any easement.

  10. What is a Building Envelope?

    A building envelope is a specific area on a property within which buildings or structures must be placed. Sometimes a building envelope is created during the platting of a land division. Generally, all structures need to be placed within a building envelope, however there can be exceptions to this. Please contact the Planning Department at (970) 498-7679 or send an email for specific information about building envelopes.

  11. Does my Deck or Porch need to meet setbacks?

    Some porches and decks need to meet setbacks.

    • Open, unenclosed, uncovered porches or decks, located at grade have no setback restriction.
    • Open, unenclosed, uncovered porches or decks, with finished floor elevation 30 inches or less above finished grade, must maintain a distance of five feet from all lot lines.
    • All porches or decks with finished floor elevation greater than 30 inches must meet the applicable building setbacks.
  12. What is a Structure?

    A Structure is anything constructed or erected and that requires a permanent location on or in the ground or attachment to something having a permanent location on or in the ground, but not including fences, retaining walls four feet or less in height, irrigation facilities, poles, lines, cables or other transmission or distribution facilities of public utilities. Landscape and associated nonliving ornamental landscape features or materials, such as rocks and edging, are excluded from this definition.

  13. Do Structures need to meet setbacks?

    Structures are different from buildings in regard to setbacks. All structures must maintain a distance of 5 feet from all property lines. Structures may be located outside a building envelope unless restricted to the building envelope as part of an approved development. No part of any structure may extend into or above any easement.

  14. What is a setback certification?

    Setback certification verifies the location of a proposed building. When a person applies for a building permit, they provide a plot plan that shows where the proposed building will be located on the property. As part of the building permit review process, the plot plan is reviewed by a planner to make sure that the building location meets setback and other location requirements. In some cases the actual location of the building on the property has to be verified by submitting a setback certificate.

    Setback Certification must be done by a surveyor licensed to practice in the State of Colorado. The certification itself, usually in the form of a letter, must be signed by and include the seal of the licensed surveyor who checked the building location on site. The letter also must include the building permit number issued for the site in question.

  15. When is a Setback Certification required?

    Whenever a proposed building is less than 5 feet beyond the required setback or building envelope boundary or if a setback variance has been approved for that building, then the owner will be required to certify the building location.

    The setback certification is provided prior to foundation pour for a building. It is usually based on the location of holes or footers for the foundation.

  16. What is the allowed height of buildings in my zoning district? How do I measure the height?

    The maximum height of structures is 40 feet in all zone districts except as follows:

    Zone District Height limit
    RE-1 30 feet
    AP 40 feet for use-by-right and "to-be-determined" for Special Review uses
    PD "to-be-determined" during review process that establishes the PD zone

    See Section 4.9.5 of the Land Use Code for exceptions to the maximum height limits for certain architectural features and structures.

    Height is the measurement from the average elevation of the finished grade to the highest point on a structure.

Land Use Code

  1. What is the Land Use Code and how does it affect my property rights?

    The Land Use Code is a set of regulations that guide how property is used and developed in Larimer County. The purpose of the Land Use Code is to protect landowner rights while also looking out for overall community interests.

  2. What is the difference between zoning and the Land Use Code?

    Zoning is part of the Land Use Code, and it is one of the tools that directs property development and use. "Zoning" is a set of zone districts that list uses and other requirements for each district. The Land Use Code includes a description of all uses, the processes that are available for development, and the standards for development.

  3. What is Development?

    "Development" of land can include anything from building a house, starting a business, subdividing a property, or building a strip mall.

  4. What is a Land Use?

    A "land use" can be:

    • A Single Family Home, or Duplex – Residential Land Use
    • A Farm or Ranch – Agricultural Land Use
    • Business – Commercial Land Use
    • Factory – Industrial Land Use
    • An RV Park or Campground – Accommodation Land Use
  5. Where Does the Land Use Code Apply?

    The Land Use Code applies to the development and use of land in unincorporated Larimer County, outside of all Town and City limits. Most of the Land Use Code does not apply in the Estes Valley Plan Area, though Sections 4.2.2. (Floodplain overlay zone districts), 5.8 (Rural land use process), 5.11 (Street and road naming), 7.0 (Special Events), and portions of 9.0 (Land Dedications and Fees), and 10.0 (Signs) do apply in the Estes Valley.

  6. Is the Land Use Code the same as the County Code?

    The Land Use Code is different from the general County Code. The general County Code gives the County the authority to tax property, provide police and emergency services, and build roads, among other things. The general code can be found under Part I: General Code.

    The Land Use Code looks at individual lots and property more specifically, and it is Part II of the overall County Code.

  7. Where can I find Code Amendments?

    Amendments to the Land Use Code happen periodically. There may be some lag time between adoption of the amendment and the inclusion of the amendments into the on-line version of the Land Use Code. Approved amendments are incorporated into the on-line version only four times per year.

  8. How can I get a paper copy of the Land Use Code?

    Larimer County has contracted with Municipal Code Corporation of Tallahassee, Florida to publish and sell the Code of Ordinances and Land Use Code. These Volumes will be supplemented periodically by incorporating all new laws and ordinances into each volume on a page-for-page substitution basis. The Code and future Supplements to these volumes can be purchased directly from Municipal Code Corporation. You'll find their contact information at http://www.municode.com/Contact-Us.

  9. How do I propose to change or add something to the Land Use Code?

    The Land Use Code is a living document that changes over time to respond to new information and the needs of the community. Citizen participation is welcomed and encouraged. As members of the community, citizens may propose changes or additions to the Code. Please go to the Citizen Comments on the Land Use Code page on our website for details.

Animal Regulations

  1. I don't have a farm. May I raise livestock on my property? May my kids have 4H animals?

    Horses: In Larimer County, outside of city/town limits and the Estes Valley Plan Area, personal horses are allowed on properties for the use of property owners and their guests. The number of horses on a property cannot exceed one horse per one-half acre. Horses are not allowed on lots in the B-Business, C-Commercial, I and I-1 Industrial and the RFLB-Red Feather Lakes Business zoning districts.

    Personal livestock: Generally if the zoning for a property allows "Farm" as a use by right, then the property owners may keep personal livestock. Additionally:

    • The lot or parcel needs to be at least 3 acres in area to meet the definition of a "farm". If the lot is smaller than 3 acres, then the Land Use Code does not provide clear guidance on the keeping of livestock or the number of livestock that can be kept.
    • The number of animals on a property must be less than an amount that would qualify as a feedyard.
    • Livestock cannot be classified as pets.
    • Use best management practices to care for property and livestock to avoid a nuisance situation.
    • Check for private covenants or other restrictions that may limit keeping livestock.

    The Colorado State University (CSU) Extension Office can provide assistance and information about raising livestock and taking care of property.

    Commercial livestock: Raising livestock for commercial purposes is addressed by County land use regulations under Agricultural uses in Section 4.3.1 of the Land Use Code. The County has an Agricultural Advisory Board to address issues that affect production agriculture and agri-business; you can find additional information in the County's Right to Farm policy and Executive Summary.

  2. Can my kids have 4H animals?

    The keeping of 4H animals is generally considered to be keeping "personal livestock". Here are guidelines for "personal livestock":

    Personal livestock: Generally if the zoning for a property allows "Farm" as a use by right, then the property owners may keep personal livestock. Additionally:

    • The lot or parcel needs to be at least 3 acres in area to meet the definition of a "farm". If the lot is smaller than 3 acres, then the Land Use Code does not provide clear guidance on the keeping of livestock or the number of livestock that can be kept.
    • The number of animals on a property must be less than an amount that would qualify as a feedyard.
    • Livestock cannot be classified as pets.
    • Use best management practices to care for property and livestock to avoid a nuisance situation.
    • Check for private covenants or other restrictions that may limit keeping livestock.
  3. Can I have horses on my property? How many horses can I have?

    In Larimer County, outside of city/town limits and the Estes Valley Plan Area, personal horses are allowed on properties for the use of property owners and their guests. The number of horses on a property cannot exceed one horse per one-half acre. Horses are not allowed on lots in the B-Business, C-Commercial, I and I-1 Industrial and the RFLB-Red Feather Lakes Business zoning districts.

    If you want to board horses on your property or offer lessons or training, click here for details on Larimer County's Equestrian Operation regulations.

  4. Can I have chickens on my property?

    A property owner may raise chickens if there is a house or residential use on a property. Keeping chickens for personal use is considered an accessory use.

    1. An owner or tenant may keep up to 6 chicken hens
    2. Keeping roosters or more than 6 chickens is prohibited in all zone districts except those that allow a farm.
    3. The following requirements apply to keeping chickens:
      • The chickens must be provided with a covered, properly ventilated, predator-resistant chicken coop.
      • The chickens must have access to an outdoor enclosure that is adequately fenced to protect them from predators.
      • The coop and enclosure are limited to a maximum size of 120 square feet.
      • The chicken coop and outdoor enclosure shall be regularly cleaned to control dust, odor, and waste and not constitute a nuisance, safety hazard, or health problem to surrounding properties
  5. What are the rules for alpacas?

    Alpacas are considered livestock. If your zoning district allows a farm then you may have alpacas and the Land Use Code does not specify the number of these livestock that can be kept on a property. Best management practices should be used to care for the property so there are no neighborhood issues and a nuisance is not created. We recommend that you check with your HOA, if applicable, to see if there are any restrictions and the CSU Cooperative Extension Office for information on raising livestock.

  6. My neighbors have animals. What are the regulations?

    This may depend on the circumstances. The Land Use Code allows property owners to keep pet animals as an accessory use. Personal horses for the use of property owners and their guests are allowed in all zone districts that allow single family dwellings, at a rate not to exceed one horse per half acre. Personal livestock and 4H animals are often kept on smaller acreages where the zoning allows a "farm" use. Private covenants are sometimes more restrictive than the county regulations. Find more details about keeping animals on the animal regulations page.

  7. What does "agriculture" include?

    The Land Use Code defines agriculture as "the production, keeping or maintenance, for sale, lease or personal use, of plants and animals useful to people. This includes but is not limited to forages and sod crops; grains and seed crops; dairy animals and dairy products; poultry and poultry products; emus and ostriches; livestock, including beef cattle, sheep, swine, horses, ponies, mules, llamas, alpacas or goats or any mutations or hybrids thereof, including the breeding and grazing of any or all such animals; bees and apiary products; fur animals; trees and forest products; fruits of all kinds, including grapes, nuts and berries; vegetables; nursery, floral, ornamental and greenhouse products; or lands devoted to a soil conservation or forestry management program."

  8. What is a farm?

    The Land Use Code defines a farm as "any parcel of land containing at least three acres used primarily for the commercial, soil-dependent cultivation of an agricultural crop, the facilities and storage necessary for the management of a commercial custom farming operation or the hauling of farm products, the raising of fish, bees, plants or animals or the raising of livestock, including horse breeding farms. This does not include feed yards, poultry farms, exotic animal farms or fur farms.

  9. What is a feedyard?

    The Land Use Code defines a feedyard as "a confined enclosure for the feeding and fattening of livestock where the average number of animals exceeds ten animals per acre of feed yard and where less than 50 percent of the roughage type feed is raised on the same farm premises.

  10. Where is this information in the Zoning Code?

    Section 4.3.1 of the Land Use Code describes principal agricultural uses. Agricultural related terms are also defined in Section 0.1.1 definitions.

Home Business

  1. Can I have a home business on my property?

    A home business is a small business use that is accessory to the primary or principal use (such as a single family dwelling or an agricultural operation) that is located on a property. Home businesses are intended to operate at levels of intensity that do not negatively impact neighboring properties. There are two options for these small home business uses: Home Occupation or Accessory Rural Occupation. Go to the Home Business page to get more details on these options. If you still have questions, please contact the Planning Department at (970) 498-7679 or send an email (planningoncall@larimer.org) for assistance.

Dwellings

  1. Am I allowed to tear down my existing home and build a new home on my property?

    Larimer County's Land Use Code does not prohibit "teardowns"-tearing down an existing home and replacing it with a new one. A demolition permit is required from the County Building Department for demolition of a primary structure. Please contact the Building Department at (970) 498-7700 for assistance. Click here for their Miscellaneous Building Permit Application form.

    Be sure to check the minimum zoning setback requirements for your property so you'll know where a new building can be located on the site. If you intend to rebuild in the same location as the existing home, then you'll want to verify that its location meets the current minimum setback requirements before you begin any work to demolish the building. In some cases, existing buildings have non-conforming setbacks, meaning they don't meet the current setback requirements. If a non-conforming building is voluntarily removed/demolished, a new building cannot be placed in the same location without approval of a setback variance. For assistance with your setback or variance questions, please contact Planning staff at (970) 498-7679 or send an email.

    Some property owners want to live in the existing home while they are building their new home, and then remove the older home once the new home is completed. This type of situation can typically be handled through the building permit process.

  2. I want to build another home on my property for a member of my family. What do I need to do?

    The answer will depend on your specific circumstances and intended use. Generally, only one main dwelling (single family home) is allowed per parcel, regardless of the parcel size. It's possible that one of the County's accessory dwelling options [link to Accessory Dwelling Units handout], such as an Extended Family Dwelling or an Accessory Living Area, may fit your needs. If your intent is to build a new dwelling with no size limits, occupancy requirements, or time limits, then a new separate building lot is needed. A land division application would have to be approved to create that lot.

    Our planners can help you determine the options available for your property and circumstances. You can reach Planning staff at (970) 498-7679 or via email.

  3. How many unrelated people are allowed to live in a home in the unincorporated area of the County?

    No more than 3 unrelated people may occupy a single family dwelling. This is based on the Land Use Code's definitions for single family dwelling, living unit and family— A single-family dwelling may be occupied by one "living unit". A "living unit" is defined as "one family, plus up to two additional individuals whose place of residence is with the family in the dwelling unit". A "family" may be an individual or a group of people who are related by blood, marriage or adoption. See the Occupancy handout.

  4. Why does the County limit the number of unrelated people who reside in a residence?

    The occupancy requirements help to maintain the quality of life in single-family neighborhoods. Problems associated with too many people living in a dwelling include inadequate parking, additional traffic and changes in traffic patterns, trash, noise, water supply and inadequate sewage disposal issues.

  5. How does the County enforce occupancy limits?

    When a complaint is received, Code Compliance staff contact the property owner to explain restrictions and determine whether a violation exists. If there are more than the allowed number of unrelated people residing in a residence, staff will ask for voluntary compliance. In cases where compliance is not achieved in a reasonable amount of time, a public meeting before the Larimer County Board of County Commissioners may be held for a finding of a code violation and authority to commence a court action to enforce County regulations.

  6. I want to rent my home (or cabin) out as a vacation rental. Is this allowed?

    Vacation or other rentals of dwellings of less than 30 days are not allowed in the unincorporated area of the county. The Land Use Code addresses rentals in its definitions of dwellings. If a dwelling is rented, the rental period must be a minimum of 30 days. Use of the property as a rental unit cannot convert the property to a use contemplated by tourist or accommodation zoning, i.e. as a resort cabin, providing single night transient rentals.

    Resort lodge/cabins may be allowed through the Special Review process in certain zone districts. Contact Planning at (970) 498-7679 or email.

  7. My property has a mobile home on it, but I want to build a new home there. Am I allowed to keep the mobile home once my house is built? Can it be used for storage?

    In most circumstances the mobile home will have to be removed from the property. The owner of a property may live in a mobile home on that property while a new home is being built. This type of situation is handled through conditions placed on the building permit for the new home.

    Manufactured homes, including pre-1974 mobile homes, cannot be used as storage buildings, barns or garages. Manufactured homes are designed, constructed and intended to be single-family dwellings and cannot be used for any purpose other than single-family dwellings.

  8. My elderly parents need to come live with us, but we don't have room in our existing home. What options are available?

    In this type of situation, there are several possibilities for you to consider. It may be possible to add on to the existing home, remodel the home or finish a basement area with living quarters (attached accessory living area). You could also propose to have living quarters in a detached garage or other outbuilding (detached accessory living area). In some cases, a manufactured home can be placed on a property on a temporary basis for family members (extended family dwelling). You can find more details about these options on the Accessory Dwellings page.

  9. My neighbor finished his basement and is now renting it out as an apartment. Is this allowed by zoning?

    The allowed use of the building depends on the zoning of the property. If the property is zoned R-2 Residential or M or M-1 Multiple-family, then a duplex dwelling is allowed. If the zoning of the property doesn't allow a duplex dwelling, then it may be an illegal dwelling unit. You can contact the Code Compliance Department at (970) 498-7683 for assistance.

  10. What is an illegal dwelling unit?

    An illegal dwelling unit is one built or occupied without obtaining the necessary land use approval and/or building permit. Some examples include:

    • an unfinished basement turned into a "mother-in-law" apartment
    • an apartment added to the second floor of a garage or outbuilding
    • a duplex changed into a triplex
    • a barn or garage converted into a dwelling unit, or any portion of a barn or garage converted into a dwelling unit

    See the Illegal Dwellings handout for more details, including steps needed to resolve the situation. Please contact the Code Compliance Department at (970) 498-7683 for assistance and information about permits/process.

  11. I want to convert part of my detached garage into a guest house. What do I need to do?

    The first thing you'll need is to get approval of a detached accessory living area through the County's Public Site Plan process. Contact the Larimer County Planning Department at (970) 498-7679 or email to request a pre-application conference for the Public Site Plan process; you'll meet with a planner to get the details on the application requirements. We recommend that you talk with your water provider before submitting an application to find out if they will require a separate water tap for the accessory dwelling. It helps to be aware of those additional costs early on in the process, so you can factor them into your budget and your decision on whether to build or not. If your Public Site Plan application is approved, then you'll need to submit your building permit application to convert that part of the building into living quarters. We recommend that you talk with the Building Department staff at (970) 498-7660 to discuss your specific situation and building, and what you'll need to submit for your building permit application. You can also find helpful information about building code requirements by reviewing this handout: Converting Existing Buildings Into Other Uses.

  12. Can I build a small house for the caretaker who watches my property while I'm gone?

    The first thing you'll need is to get approval of a detached accessory living area through the County's Public Site Plan process. Contact the Larimer County Planning Department at (970) 498-7679 or email to request a pre-application conference for the Public Site Plan process; you'll meet with a planner to get the details on the application requirements. We recommend that you talk with your water provider before submitting an application to find out if they will require a separate water tap for the accessory dwelling. It helps to be aware of those additional costs early on in the process, so you can factor them into your budget and your decision on whether to build or not.

    If your Public Site Plan application is approved, then you'll need to submit your building permit application to convert that part of the building into living quarters. We recommend that you talk with the Building Department staff at (970) 498-7660 to discuss your specific situation and building, and what you'll need to submit for your building permit application. You can also find helpful information about building code requirements by reviewing this handout: Converting Existing Buildings Into Other Uses.

  13. I see farm properties that have more than one house, and I'd like to provide a house for my farm/ranch employee. Will I be able to build another house on my farm for my employee?

    The County's Land Use Code has a simplified site plan review process for building accessory farmstead dwellings to be occupied by farm help (those residents needed to support the agricultural operation). Take a look at the information on the Accessory Dwellings page for more details. Contact the Larimer County Planning Department at (970) 498-7679 or email to request a pre-application conference for a farmstead site plan process.

Current Applications

  1. If I'm a neighbor and get a notice of an application(s), what are my rights and where can I find out more information?

    Larimer County welcomes and encourages public participation in its planning review processes. You may submit comments to the county, as well as participate in scheduled neighborhood meetings and public hearings through the Neighborhood Input Process.

    Application materials submitted for review are public records, and you have the right to review those materials at the Planning Department office during regular business hours. Information about applications that have been submitted for review can also be accessed on the county website on the Current Applications page.

  2. Can the Board of County Commissioners deny a request just because the neighbors don't like it?

    The members of boards who make decisions on land use applications consider all of the information that is presented, including public comments for or against a proposed development. The Larimer County Land Use Code contains review criteria for each of the various types of land use applications. There are some review criteria that call for judgment on the part of the board members; for example, when the review criteria is "compatibility". Under law, the Board of County Commissioners and any advisory board must use only those listed review criteria as reasons to approve or deny a given application.

  3. Can the Board of County Commissioners make the applicant do what the neighbors want him to do?

    In part, this question has the same answer as the one above. The County Commissioners may impose conditions of approval to mitigate impacts of a proposed development.

  4. I didn't get a notice of this public hearing in the mail, so why can't the project be tabled to give me more time to review it and make comments?

    In Larimer County, public participation in the land use process is valued and encouraged. Multiple methods (including mailed notices) are used to notify the public about upcoming hearings for certain types of applications. This is done in an attempt to get the word out to as many people as possible in the immediate area of a proposed development. The basic legal requirement for public hearing notification is the publication of a legal notice in at least one newspaper of general circulation in the area of the proposed development.

    There are many factors outside of the County's control that can affect mail delivery, so the mailed notice is considered to be a "courtesy" to the public. The mailed notice requirement is completed once the first-class, postage paid mail is deposited in the U.S. mail. A public hearing is still valid even if the mailed notice is miss-delivered, if the mailed notice arrives after the hearing date, or if a mailed notice is not sent out. Likewise, the County's requirement that the applicant post a sign regarding a pending application along each street frontage of the property is a courtesy to the public. The failure of anyone to observe such a sign does not invalidate a public hearing.

    State law and the Larimer County Land Use Code spell out the hearing notice requirements for various types of development applications. State law also requires the County to review and make decisions on development applications within a specified time period, or the application may be deemed approved. The Board conducting the hearing has the discretion to determine whether or not to table action on an application.

Development Review Process

  1. What is the purpose of the County's land use rules?

    The County established land use regulations based upon the desire of its citizens to manage growth and development in a responsible manner. Larimer County's zoning districts were established in the early 1960's, followed by adoption of County Master Plans in 1976, 1988, and 1997. These Master Plans were adopted following lengthy and considerable public debate and input.

    The current County Master Plan (1997) sets forth the general principles and strategies to be used by the County to guide growth and development. The Larimer County Land Use Code is intended to implement the adopted Master Plan and provide a balance between the rights and responsibilities of property owners in a rapidly growing county.

  2. Who decides if an application is approved?

    The answer to this question depends on the type of application that is submitted. Section 12.2 of the Land Use Code outlines development review procedures, including the responsibilities and authority of various Boards and Commissions. The final decision on most land use applications (see Section 12.2.7.A. for listing) is made by the Board of County Commissioners.

    Various Boards and Commissions provide input to the Board of County Commissioners prior to final decisions for some review processes. Please visit the County's Boards and Commissions page for more details on the duties and responsibilities of these and other boards and commissions that serve Larimer County residents.

    Certain types of applications can go through an administrative approval process, handled by the staff in the Planning Department. These applications include:

    • public site plan
    • site plan review
    • certain extended family dwelling site plans
    • farmstead site plan
    • boundary line adjustment
    • add-on agreement
    • administrative setback variance

    Details about review processes can be found on the Applications Forms and Information page.

  3. How does the hearing process work?

    Most of the county's development applications will go through a public hearing process. After an application is submitted, the materials are reviewed by various agencies who provide written comments to the County. Depending on the type of application, notifications may also be sent to property owners in the vicinity of the proposed development. The application will be scheduled for public hearing when the review is completed.

    At the hearing, presentations will be made by staff and the applicant, and public testimony will be taken. Any person can appear at a public hearing to testify or submit evidence regarding the application. There may be discussion by the board or commission conducting the hearing, as well as staff and/or applicant response to questions. The board/commission will make its recommendation or decision at the hearing to approve, to approve with conditions, or to deny the application.

  4. How long does it take to get through the development review process and get a final decision?

    Review times and hearing requirements vary, depending on the specific process involved. We'll be able to give you the estimated time for completing a specific process.

    The development review process and schedule is intended to meet State mandated legal notice requirements and the needs of the applicant, many different internal and external reviewing agencies, nearby property owners, planning staff, the applicable County advisory boards, and the Board of County Commissioners.

    Larimer County, within the parameters set by the State, has established a process for each type of development application. Each process has specific steps that occur in sequential order, with specific time deadlines that need to be met for the process to continue on schedule.

    It is staff's goal to move applications through the development review process as quickly as possible without hampering the ability of interested and involved parties to conduct a thorough review. If you have concerns about the review time for a specific development application, please contact the staff planner assigned to that project.

  5. How much does an application cost?

    Please see the Development Review Fees handout on our Applications Forms and Information page under the "general forms and handouts" section.

  6. Why is a pre-application conference required before submitting an application?

    The purpose of the pre-application conference is to discuss the procedure, development standards, and submittal requirements involved with a particular application. This conference is a meeting between the applicant, a member of the County planning staff, and other staff as needed. A pre-application conference is required by the Larimer County Land Use Code for all land use applications.

    Based on many years of experience, the County has found that a common cause for delays in the development review process is either submittal of an incomplete application or one with inadequate information. The pre-application conference is intended to help the applicant gain a clear understanding of the County's review process and submittal requirements, which results in more complete applications and a better review process for all involved.

  7. Why is a neighborhood meeting required before submitting an application?

    The purpose of the neighborhood meeting is to give the applicant the opportunity to present the proposed project to nearby residents and property owners who may be affected by the proposal. The meeting is held prior to the time the applicant submits their application to the County for public hearing so that he/she can consider the comments received at the neighborhood meeting and adjust the project accordingly. This timing is intended to result in applications that are less likely to require changes as the result of input received from neighbors at public hearings--this can save the applicant considerable time and money.

    Neighborhood meetings are required for many of the County's review processes. Information handouts regarding the neighborhood input process for both applicants and neighbors can be found on our Applications Forms and Information page under the "general forms and handouts" section.

  8. How do neighborhood comments affect development?

    Comments, questions and suggestions from the public can help an applicant with the design of their proposed development, especially if concerns are discovered early in the review process. Applicants may then be able to make adjustments to their development plans to address neighborhood concerns.

    Public involvement is an important part of the County's development review process, from initial sketch plan submittals through public hearings. Neighborhood input is essential in understanding the potential impacts of a development proposal in a particular area. Public comment and testimony is part of the information considered by the County's boards and commissions when making decisions on land use applications.

  9. Who is notified about a proposed development?

    Property owners in the vicinity of a proposed development project are notified about the submittal and given options for providing input, beginning with the sketch plan review step. Information about current applications is posted on the Current Applications page of our website.

  10. Can I subdivide my property?

    The answer to this question depends on many factors, including:

    • location, size and zoning of the property
    • whether the County's minimum development standards can be met and
    • whether the application is approved through the County's public hearing process

    An initial check of the property's zoning/minimum lot size requirement and the property's size would determine whether there was enough land to propose to divide it. The size and location of the property would determine which review process is required.

    Planning staff can help you with questions about specific properties. Contact staff at (970) 498-7679 or send us an email.

  11. What is an "exemption"? Does Larimer County have a recorded exemption process?

    An exemption is simply a type of land division process that was used by Larimer County in the past. During the 1970s and 1980s, the County's regulations included options for subdividing land for new building lots through a simplified "exemption" processes (exempt from going through the full subdivision review process).

    Larimer County currently does not have a "recorded exemption" process. The only exemption option that remains in the County's Land Use Code is the Minor Land Division (MLD) process. The MLD process can be used only in specific circumstances and is generally not an option for creating new vacant building lots. See the Land Division Processes page for more information on minor land divisions.

  12. What is a Growth Management Area and how does it affect development?

    Growth Management Area (GMA) overlay zone districts are designated adjacent to municipalities where urban level development and annexation are expected and where development may have an impact on present and future municipal growth. The county and the adjacent municipalities have agreements in place to address growth management in those areas.

    If your unincorporated county property is in a GMA overlay zone and is already adjacent to city limits, then annexation may be required depending on the type of development you propose. Proposals for certain subdivisions (planned land divisions), rezonings (PD-Planned Development), and for special review uses will require annexation and development of the site according to that city's requirements. Our staff can determine what process your development proposal would require, check to see if your property is adjacent to city limits, and advise you of your next steps. Contact staff at (970) 498-7679 or send us an email.

  13. What if a development can't meet all of the County's standards?

    The Land Use Code includes provisions for appealing the minimum development standards. An appeal to use a different standard may either be proposed as part of a development review application or it may be proposed as a separate application. In either case, a written request for the appeal must be submitted. The planner assigned to your project can provide you more details on the appeals process, or you may contact staff at (970) 498-7679 or send us an email requesting more information.

  14. Who can submit a development application?

    Anyone can submit an application for review, but the property owner(s) must sign the application form to acknowledge that their property is the subject of the application and to grant access permission to county staff to inspect it in regards to that application.

Signs

  1. How do I apply for a Sign Permit?

    Sign permits are processed like building permits. Sign applications are available at the Larimer County Planning/Building Department – 200 W. Oak Street, 3rd floor, Fort Collins, CO 80521. Sign permit applications are also available online:

  2. Who can apply for a sign permit?

    A licensed sign contractor must apply for a sign permit for any sign other than a temporary commercial sign. Read Contractor Licensing information online at:

  3. What documentation needs to be included with a Sign Permit application?

    A sign permit application generally needs to include the following items:

    • Sign Permit application form
    • Three (3) copies of an accurately scaled drawing of the proposed sign, including mounting details, type of construction, dimensions and area calculations [Note- Foundation drawings for free standing and monument signs must show pier size (depth & diameter) and type and size of the post supports. Overall height of freestanding and monument signs is required. New awning and canopies require structural plans sealed by a Colorado Licensed Engineer or Architect.]
    • Description of the sign illumination (may be shown on the scale drawing of the proposed sign)
    • Three (3) copies of an accurately scaled plot plan with property dimensions showing location of the sign on the property, buildings, easements and setbacks from sign to property lines
    • Details on meeting sight triangle standards (if applicable)
    • Application fee
    • A non-residential property sign inventory form (for permanent sign in a nonresidential district)

    Detailed procedural guides for sign permits are available from the Planning Department or on the Sign Permits page.

  4. Which signs need to be 'engineered'?

    Some sign permit applications require drawings stamped and certified by an engineer.

    • Canopy and canopy signs
    • Freestanding signs that exceed 40 ft in height or have more than 2 posts or columns for support
    • Freestanding signs with cabinets that have more than 3 cabinets on a pole or set of poles
    • Monument signs, especially those that support a large amount of weight
    • Signs of unusual dimension or unique shape.
    • Foundation plans are required for monument, freestanding, and single and double pole signs
  5. When is a Sign Inventory form required?

    Sign Inventory forms are required for commercial businesses in non-residential districts. The form is available from the Planning Department or online on the Sign Permits (create link to this page once it's been created)page.

    The non-residential property sign inventory form must be submitted prior to or concurrent with the issuance of a sign permit for any permanent sign in a nonresidential district. The form may include a graphic representation or photos showing all existing and/or proposed signage for the subject property. Properties and uses that are subject to the site plan requirement in Section 6 of the Larimer County Land Use Code may include a sign inventory form as part of the site plan review process.

  6. Can I change a sign face without a permit?

    Yes, the content or message of an existing sign face can be changed without a sign permit. A sign permit is required if you add or change the type of lighting on a sign, increase the height or size, add more sign faces or change the sign frame/structure components.

  7. Who can I call if I have questions about sign permits?

    The sign code is administered by the Planning Department. Please call the Planning Department staff-on-call at (970) 498-7679 for general sign permit questions. If your questions have to do with construction or engineering requirements for sign permits, please call the Building Department staff-on-call at (970) 498-7660.

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