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Planning, Zoning, and Subdivision   arrow

The Routt County Planning Department oversees lands in unincorporated areas of Routt County including the communities of Milner, Hahn’s Peak and Phippsburg.

Changes in the Community

Routt County has experienced many fluxuations in development pressures on its rural lands. Proposals have included large and small subdivisions, recreational amenities, and mineral development. Due to Routt County having a large tourism based economy, many of these developments promote the tourism industry and have enticed new landowners to this area. This has resulted in increased land values and impacts from development.

The Planning Department and Zoning and Subdivision Regulations (Regulations) were created in 1972 to manage current and long range planning, building permit approvals and code enforcement. The Routt County Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners review applications for development and update these Regulations on an ongoing basis.

Over the years, the Regulations have been revised to better address changes occurring in the community while trying to preserve the rural character and beauty of this county.

Land Preservation Subdivision Exemption (LPS)

Colorado Revised Statutes allow lands in Colorado to be divided into 35-acre developments or parcels without going through County subdivision review.  In June 1995, the process of Land Preservation Subdivision Exemption (LPS) was created to offer alternatives to 35-acre subdivisions and help preserve open space. The process was originally developed to support ranchers in the area. This option allows for additional revenue to be generated for ranchers without having to sell their entire parcel or 35-acre tracts, and, consequently, shutting down the agricultural operations.

The LPS regulations allow the creation of lots without going through the County’s typical rezoning and subdivision process.  Under these regulations, homes are allowed to be placed on clustered 5-acre lots, with the remaining lands left for agriculture operations, wildlife or preserved views.  LPS includes a density bonus provision that states for every 100 acres restricted from development an additional buildable lot is allowed.

Secondary Dwelling Unit Regulations (SDU)

Secondary Dwelling Unit Regulations became effective November 1, 1997 and have periodically been updated. These regulations allow caretaker, guest, employee housing units, and mother-in-law apartments on Agriculture/Forestry (A/F) and Mountain Residential Estate (MRE) zoned property.  To be eligible for a SDU, a parcel must possess a minimum of 5 acres and have a legal water source to serve the secondary unit. These units are also allowed on buildable lots created through the LPS process.

Recreational Facilities, Tours and Rides, Tourist Home, Miscellaneous

Recreation is a large part of Routt County.  Routt County has regulations to allow consideration and review of an assortment of opportunities for tourist attractions which create income for residents. There are processes for the smaller tourist home or a large recreational resort; dog boarding to dog sled rides; and tours for non-motorized operations such has horseback rides to the more adventurous tour on a snowmobile or ATV. These are commercial operations which require a permit through Routt County.

Routt County also reviews other commercial operations such as gravel extraction,  industrial uses, milling and processing of lumber, etc.

Surface and Mineral ownership

In Colorado, property can be severed into two separate ownerships: surface ownership and mineral ownership.  An individual can own both the surface and the rights to the minerals underneath, or these can be held by different individuals. There are private property rights associated with each. Surface and mineral interests are created or transferred through private party contracts, including deeds and leases. The mineral estate is dominant over the surface estate.

Colorado law recognizes that access to the mineral estate from the surface estate is necessary in order to develop the mineral interest. The law provides for access to the mineral estate by allowing subsurface ownership “reasonable use” of the surface estate.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) regulates and permits oil and gas operations and Routt County has a local permitting process for these operations as well.  There are regulations for surface owner consultation, but neither entity is involved in negotiations or leasing of surface or mineral interests.

Agriculture Farm Stands, Processing Facilities and Agri-tourism Enterprises

With the rise of the local food movement, food producers in the region were finding that the County’s regulations concerning the processing and selling of products were hampering their efforts.  Routt County created a set of regulations that manage tourist operations on a farm or ranch as well as the selling and processing of locally produced foods.  There are certain criteria for each type of operation that dictates what level of review the activity must go through.

It is advised to meet the Planning Department when purchasing property or considering a business, development, or subdivision in Routt County. For more information on the permitted uses and requirement for each of the County’s zone districts, please contact:

Routt County Planning Department

2nd Floor, Routt County Annex
136 6th Street
P.O. Box 773749
Steamboat Springs, CO 80477