Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why Zoning?

Delta County’s 2018 Master Plan suggests using zoning to better address new development in a manner that is consistent with different land use characteristics and functions within our County.  The intent is to have orderly development that reflects the future vision of Delta County as requested by a majority of its citizens.  

What is zoning (versus building codes)?

Zoning (land use) codes provide direction of what type of development can occur where.  This is different from building codes that provide minimum specifications on how a structure must be built.

Has Delta County adopted Building Codes?

Delta County has NOT adopted building codes in the unincorporated areas of Delta County.  However, the State of Colorado has requirements that apply to construction, and counties are an extension of the State.  Electrical and plumbing permits are required through the State Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), Division of Professions and Organizations (DPO).  In addition, development within the Highway 92 Overlay or the Highway 50 Overlay requires a building permit.  

What is the Land Use Code (LUC)?

Land use regulations have been in place for many years in various forms.  Delta County first adopted a comprehensive Land Use Code in January 2021, incorporating a number of pre-existing regulations as well as State and/or Federal regulations that apply locally, as counties function as an extension of the State.  Development is reviewed for compliance with standards in the Delta County Land Use Code (e.g., setbacks) as well as any other applicable regulations (e.g., State, local).  

History of Land Use Regulations in Delta County

  • 1985    Access and Utility Installation Code
  • 1997    Mobile Home Park Regulations*
  • 1998    Subdivision Regulations (included setbacks)*
  • 2001    Specific Development Regulations (commercial & industrial uses)*
  • 2003    Rubbish (Junk) Ordinance*
  • 2003    Address Regulations (Street Names)*
  • 2005     Roadway Design and Construction Standards (Access)*
  • 2006    Pre-HUD Mobile Home Ordinance*
  • 2006     Highway 92 Overlay District (Ordinance)
  • 2009    Highway 50 Overlay District (Ordinance)
  • 2010    Highway 133 Corridor Master Plan
  • 2011    Development Application Ordinance (Site Plan Review)*
  • 2016    Federal Telecommunications Act*
  • 2018    Master Plan
  • 2021    Land Use Code
  • 2022/2023    Land Use Code Update

* Incorporated into, or referenced within, the Land Use Code

Why amend the Land Use Code?

The Land Use Code (LUC) is a “living” document.  It was recognized from the start that the LUC was not going to be perfect, especially the first iteration.  As implementation began in April 2021, some felt that some language/terminology was not clear and/or regulations were not worded how it was intended for Delta County.  The 2022 Update was initiated as a first attempt to fine-tune the LUC to better guide the direction Delta County wants to go.  Through this year-long process, topics like Legacy Lots, Stewardship Areas and Zoning Maps were identified for future considerations.

Proposed changes relative to lot size. Variation to lot size has been addressed in a couple ways due to the number of variances to reduce lot size requested since 2021.  Criteria for variances have been revised to reduce the number of variances so they are more an exception than the rule.  New zoning classifications have been added to provide a path to subdivide into smaller parcels (RES-2.5 and RES-1.0) where there is adequate infrastructure (e.g., water, roads, etc.).  

Is there an exception for existing uses/structures?

The LUC does not affect conditions that existed prior to the LUC, unless it was done without proper approvals for the timeframe when it was built.  When a use changes or intensifies, then the new aspects need to comply with current regulations.  Subdivisions processed under the regulations have expired if they in place prior to the 2021 Land Use Code and not completed by January 5, 2022.  

Lawful (legal)  

Uses/structures conform with the current regulations.  

Legal non-conforming

Uses/structures established in conformance with the rules in place at the time, but that are not consistent with the Land Use Code, are considered lawful (aka legal nonconforming).  A legal nonconforming use/structure may be continued and maintained in reasonable repair.  Change or intensification of the use/structure might require some level of review.  

Unlawful (nonconforming)

Uses/structures that were not consistent with the rules in place and are not consistent with the Land Use Code are considered unlawful (nonconforming).  Effectively, the structure/use does not legally exist, and the Code does not allow for the perpetuation of unlawful development.  

When is review required for development?

There are different levels of review:  

  • Allowed Use.  No Planning review is required, but development is required to comply with applicable standards in the Land Use Code (e.g., setbacks, water, etc.).  Examples: Agricultural uses, Non-Habitable Structures (no plumbing), Personal-Scale Renewable Energy.
  • Permitted Use.  Subject to Site Plan Review by Planning to assess conformance with applicable standards in the Land Use Code, including proof of an adequate water supply, access, and that there are no restrictions on the property that impact the proposed development (e.g., easements, plat notes from a prior subdivision, etc.).  The Plan is approved if it conforms.  Examples:  Residential uses, Rural Light Industry, Short-Term Rentals (Ag zones), Small Wireless Communications.  
  • Limited Use.  Zoning Permits are subject to Administrative Review (Director Approval).  Some Limited Uses require public notice.  In addition to the standards noted with a Permitted Use, the Land Use Code includes specific standards for certain uses.  The Director has discretion to approve, conditionally approve or deny a Zoning Permit.  If warranted, the Director can determine that a Limited Use is subject to the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) process.  EXAMPLES: Apartments (4+), Storage Facility, Lodging/Resort.
  • Conditional Use.  Conditional Use Permits (CUP) require public hearings before the Planning Commission (recommendation) and the Board of County Commissioners (final decision).  The Planning Department prepares a staff report that assess the project relative to the Land Use Code.  EXAMPLES: Manufactured Home Park, Rural Heavy Industry, Golf Course, Commercial-Scale Renewable Energy Facility, Mining, Landfill, Salvage.  

Table 2.b of the Land Use Code summarizes the level of review required based on the type of use and zoning.  

In all cases, review is required for access (permit), address, and OWTS (septic) permits (required from the County (Environmental) Health Department).  Generally, residential properties are allowed one access per lot, and horseshoe driveways are not allowed.  In addition, electrical and plumbing permits are required through the State.  If the property abuts a river/stream, State and Federal laws requires the County (Environmental Health) to review development that occurs in a floodplain such that the development conforms to applicable requirements in those laws.  

The process generally follows the Specific Development regulations that were established in 2001 (Limited/Conditional Uses) and the Development Application Ordinance that was established in 2011 (Allowed/Permitted Uses).

What is an adequate water supply?

Development is required to prove that there is an adequate water supply for the proposed use.  

One source of proof is to provide evidence that the local water purveyor can and will provide services (e.g., tap) for the proposed use.  This can be in the form of an email or letter from the provider.  

If the domestic water supply is a well and/or spring, a permit is required through the State Division of Water Resources (DWR).  Said permit must include water for the proposed use (e.g., secondary units).  Wells cannot provide water across property lines without a State approved Augmentation Plan.  

Cisterns relying on hauled water are not considered an adequate water supply.  An exception can be made for hauled water cistern to support the first unit where there is no water source available, and no other development on the property.  In addition, this does not apply to a system using well/spring water that includes a cistern.  This does not affect development using a pre-existing hauled water cistern (Legal nonconforming); however, any new development or intensification of use needs to be done in conformance with the Land Use Code.  With change or intensification, connection to a public water supply (tap/meter) is required where a water line is available.  

Does the Land Use Code allow secondary or accessory units?

Yes.  Generally, one dwelling unit plus one Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) as well as a duplex/triplex are Permitted Uses.  A dwelling unit may consist of a house, cabin, mobile home, RV, etc. that is connected to permanent water, wastewater and electricity.  Additional dwelling units may be permitted provided there are enough water connections for each unit and there is capability to provide adequate wastewater systems (e.g., septic).  Development of multifamily (4+) attached units requires a Zoning Permit (Limited Use).  An ADU cannot be used for commercial purposes (e.g., short-term rentals).

Can I operate a business from my home?

Yes.  Accessory Business Use of the Home and/or Cottage Industry are Allowed Uses.  Key differences are that a Cottage Industry includes employees and storage.  The Land Use Code includes criteria that define what can be done as an Allowed Use in association with a residential use.  Threshold(s) are primarily to address things that change the nature of the use from residential (e.g., traffic, noise, dust).  If the business exceeds the threshold(s) in the LUC, it does not mean the use is not allowed, but rather it may fall under some other classification that might need some level of review (Permitted Use, Limited Use)…depending on the nature of the business.  The LUC criteria for a home business are essentially the same regulations that were in the Specific Development regulations, in effect since January 1, 2001. 

What is exempt from Subdivision Regulations?

35+ Acre Plat

Creating and/or adjusting parcels where all parcels involved begin and end with more than 35 acres, is exempt from County review pursuant to State statute.  

Boundary Agreement

Where there is a disputed property line (meaning lack of adequate records), then a Boundary Agreement can be processed and recorded without County review.  

Boundary Survey.

Survey of existing conditions (no change to recorded documents) does not require County review, and it may or may not be recorded.  

What is not exempt from Subdivision Regulations?

Boundary Line Adjustment

Adjusting property line(s) between two or more parcels/lots where no additional lots/parcels are created (start with two, end with two).  

Minor Plat

2-Lot subdivision that creates one new lot.

Preliminary Plat

3+-Lot subdivision.  Could include a standard subdivision design (meeting minimum lot sizes) or a clustered design that allows exception to the minimum lot size provided land is placed in a Stewardship Area. 

Is there a minimum lot size?

Zoning designations establish the minimum parcel size and lot dimensions (Chapter 3.A, Table 3.a LUC).  Existing parcels smaller than the minimum parcel size are lawful.  

In order for a property owner to divide off a portion of their parcel that does not meet the minimum lot size, the Board of Adjustments (BOA) must find that required criteria and finding are met in order to grant a variance from the minimum standards (lot size, lot width, frontage, etc.).  The variance must be approved before the subdivision is processed.

What if I disagree with the Director?

Any determination (interpretation) and/or decision by the Director can be formally challenged by filing an appeal to the Board of Adjustment.  

Does the Land Use Code affect my property taxes?

No.  The Delta County Assessor appraises property based on the actual use of the property, regardless of the zoning designation.  Structures and uses are assessed as they exist, whether it is legal, legal non-conforming or nonconforming.