Zoning is the most common tool used by local governments to prescribe the allowable development on parcels of land.  Generally when a community adopts a zoning ordinance, they are dividing a geographic area into zones or districts, which each have a unique set of standards for land uses and development regulations balancing the general health, safety, and welfare of the public with private property owners rights to use their land to their best interest.  For example, a parcel of land lies within a Neighborhood Commercial zone district where both residential and commercial uses are allowed.  Because it is a Neighborhood Commercial zone, and the primary use is single-family residential, the zoning code further defines limitations for any commercial development as to the maximum building height, and setback from the public right-of-way in order to protect the existing character of this particular community.  

There are several types of zoning practices in current planning, however the most common and familiar type is the Euclidean zoning (or traditional zoning).  This type of zoning was validated through a United States Supreme Court case, Village of Euclid vs. Ambler Realty Co. (1926), where the village assigned parcels into unique zone districts for residential, commercial, and industrial land uses.  The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately found zoning to be a legitimate exercise of a local government's police power thus establishing the basis for traditional zoning in the United States.

Other types of common zoning practices in Colorado include:

  • Form-based zoning, which focuses on the form of the built environment rather than the permitted land uses within a particular district.
  • Planned Unit Developments, or PUDs, which prescribe the development standards and land uses on a specific development property (or subdivision) rather than an entire district. 
  • Hybrid zoning, where communities are using a mix of traditional zoning and form-based zoning practices.

Sample Zoning Regulations

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