The Importance of Managing Your Rural Acreage
The number of large ranches and farms within the County has declined as property values have increased, water supplies become more limited, and food production methods and markets substantially change over time. The County’s climate is unsuitable for many crops due to the short growing season, though hay production and certain specialty crops can be viable. Participating in agricultural activities continues to be important to many rural residents for both lifestyle and health preferences. Productive agricultural activities can mean securing a lower agricultural property tax status. Horse ownership is another important component of rural life for many County residents.
Mismanaged animal activities can have a devastating impact on your property and adjoining neighbors. Overgrazing can lead to erosion, dust, and weed infestation. A single horse given unlimited access to a pasture can de-vegetate it in a short period of time, with or without supplemental feeding. Once de-vegetated, restoration can take years to accomplish. Animal waste management can also impact land and water quality. Manure is generally stored in a contained bin or pile for subsequent hauling, composting, or spreading. Composting, prior to spreading, is highly recommended to avoid proliferation of weeds across the property and vegetation damage due to high nitrate levels. An improperly located manure pile can easily contaminate water in nearby drainage ways, impacting the larger stream system.
Animal Uses – Regulations and Guidelines
Colorado State University (CSU) Extension provides extensive guidelines for small acreage property owners including resources for proper grazing practices and manure composting. Technical assistance and information is also available through the Douglas County Conservation District. The County strongly encourages all rural property owners to consult these guidelines and take full advantage of the resources and technical assistance provided through these agencies.
Douglas County has adopted rules and regulations regarding livestock and the number of animals allowed on a property. Generally, the number of animals allowed is tied to the size of your property. The regulations also make a distinction between horse ownership and commercial horse boarding, the latter of which typically requires a formal land-use application and approval process through Douglas County. Douglas County also has requirements for animal manure management. Manure must be removed regularly or otherwise composted and spread in such a manner as to protect surface and groundwater, to minimize the breeding of flies, and to control odors. These rules and further guidance on these issues is available in the Animal Information Packet.
Also be aware that Colorado has “Right to Farm” legislation under Senate Bill 29 which protects farmers and ranchers from nuisance and liability lawsuits potentially brought by neighboring (non-agricultural) properties. Colorado is also a “fence out” state, meaning that it is your obligation to fence for purposes of keeping other’s cattle or other livestock off your property if that is important to you. In most cases, rural property owners do, in fact, fence their livestock operations to ensure that their animals do not get out onto public roads and pose a safety risk to traveling vehicles.
A final note – moving into a rural area does not provide a license to let pets roam. Pets can become a nuisance to neighbors and can become predators to neighbors’ livestock or prey to wild predators in the area.
Agricultural Tax Rate
The State of Colorado has specific rules, administered by the Douglas County Assessor’s Office, for the valuation of land for property tax purposes. The Assessor considers the actual use of the land when determining value and tax rate category, as opposed to the property’s zoning classification. Being in an Agricultural One (A-1) Zone District does not ensure that you will be assessed at the lower agricultural tax rate. Rather, your land must provide a certain level of agricultural income for a period of time before the agricultural assessment can be obtained. In general, the personal ownership of horses does not create the basis for an agricultural tax rate. Please refer to the specific rules that the County Assessor applies when valuing your property for agricultural assessment purposes.
Noxious Weed Control
Noxious weeds can severely degrade the quality of agricultural lands and wildlife habitat throughout the county if uncontrolled. Many weeds often look like attractive wildflowers, but can quickly take over and destroy a lawn or pasture. Over-intensive animal grazing and manure mismanagement are the primary culprits in noxious weed infestation.
The most common noxious weeds that threaten the County’s rural areas include: Cypress spurge, Dalmatian Toadflax, Diffuse Knapweed, Hoary Cress, Leafy Spurge, Musk Thistle, Myrtle spurge, Russian Knapweed, Saltcedar, and Yellow Toadflax. Such weeds can often be mistaken for wildflowers. Research noxious weed species in order to identify their presence on your property.
While the County works to control weeds on publicly-owned property, it is the legal responsibility of individual landowners to control noxious weeds on private lands. Douglas County provides technical assistance to private property owners to control noxious weeds.
Early detection and treatment is the best means of avoiding negative impacts on the health of the larger rural ecosystem. To find out more about noxious weeds in the County and available weed control assistance, visit Douglas County Weed Management.
Many land-disturbance activities require a Grading, Erosion, and Sediment Control (GESC) Permit from Douglas County. While routine agricultural operations and activities are usually exempt from the permit process, other activities will require the issuance of a County grading permit. Such activities include the construction of berms for sound or visual mitigation and the construction of ponds, among others. Prior to the start of any grading on your site, please contact the Douglas County Department of Public Works Engineering or reference Section 1.4 and Section 1.5 of the Douglas County GESC Manual to determine if a permit will be necessary.
Wildfire Hazard Areas and Mitigation Requirements
Many residents value the privacy and seclusion of the vegetated property. When a property is developed wildfire mitigation may be required to reduce the risk of wildfire. Minimum defensible space requirements must be met prior to issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy for habitable structures, and prior to completion of out-buildings, in wildfire hazard areas. Staff is also available to provide assistance to existing homeowners at no charge.
Wildfire regulations and permit processes:
Many subdivisions have prepared and adopted Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) that identify collaboratively developed action steps reducing hazards and risks associated with wildfire.
Steep Slopes and Soil Hazards
Certain areas of the County, particularly near the western foothills, have significant geologic and other soil hazards, which can require expensive foundation designs and other forms of mitigation. Homes sited within areas of a steep slope, rockfall hazard, or steeply dipping bedrock are discouraged. When a building permit is requested, the County will require the submittal of a site-specific soils investigation to ensure that the foundation and other structural design elements can be accommodated with acceptable levels of risk.
To find out more about the general characteristics of soils in your area, consult the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
The County’s Comprehensive Master Plan map indicating general areas of hazards, including floodplains, can be viewed at Map 8.1 Class Three Hazards and “Environmental Constraints.
As a landowner or potential property purchaser, you should be aware of any mapped 100-year floodplains (regulated by both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Douglas County) that may fall within the property boundaries. The County keeps records of mapped floodplains and other flood-hazard areas, but not all remote areas have been mapped. A professional can be retained to determine the limits of any floodplains on your property if you have specific concerns.
Activities that would obstruct or alter the course of a mapped floodplain, such as building construction or placement of fill, are prohibited without obtaining a Floodplain Development Permit from Douglas County. The elevation of your home and other habitable structures should be sited well above the flood elevation for safety reasons. At the time of building permit, the County will review your driveway alignment relative to the crossing of drainage courses and necessary bridging. Floodplains and other drainage courses serve as important wildlife habitat and movement corridors.
One benefit of rural living is the opportunity to share your property with many species of wildlife. Feeding or directly interacting with wildlife is not advisable, and often illegal, as animals can quickly become a nuisance, if not a danger, to human beings. In addition, fed animals can become dependent on humans, losing their ability to fend for themselves in the wild.
Pet food and trash can attract anything from skunks to bears, so make sure trash is in a secure area until it is removed. In general, it is best to enjoy wildlife from a distance. The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife provides detailed information regarding living with wildlife.
Colorado weather can be extreme. In remote areas of the County, rural residents should prepare for the worst, as access is limited.
Legal and Physical Access
One of the first issues to verify and understand when buying a property is the parcel’s legal and physical points of access. In many instances, rural properties gain access through another property, via an access easement or private road. This is in contrast to many urban and suburban properties that front directly onto a publicly owned and maintained street. You should understand the access rights and responsibilities associated with the private road or access easement, as they may limit the type or intensity of uses allowed on your parcel, either now or in the future. There may also be significant ongoing commitments to financially contribute to the maintenance, grading, and snow plowing. For more information, visit the Douglas County Rural Roadway Design and Technical Criteria.
The County requires the issuance of a driveway permit in conjunction with a requested building permit. Depending on the size and topography of your property, driveway feasibility may dictate the location of your home or other structures. Details on the driveway permitting process can be found at Apply for Permits – Driveway.
As a current or prospective rural resident, you should be aware that emergency response times can be significantly slower in certain parts of Douglas County. In times of severe weather, response times may be further reduced.
Slower emergency response times can affect property owners in several ways. Not only can it affect health in a medical emergency, it may also affect the cost of your homeowner’s insurance due to the higher potential for wildfire damage and loss. The County Assessor’s records will indicate which fire district your property is located within should you wish to check what services are available and what insurance (“ISO”) rating the district has been given.
Please refer to the map of the Douglas County Fire Protection Districts.
Many roads within the rural portions of Douglas County are not owned or maintained by the County. For private roads, it will be the responsibility of the residents using the road, or a formal property owner’s association if one exists, to undertake regularly required snow plowing, grading, or paving efforts. For County owned and maintained roads in lower-density rural areas, services, snow plowing, in particular, may not occur as quickly as residents might desire. Living in rural areas may also mean that there is only one way in and out of a property. In the event of a road closure, you may be kept from entering or leaving your property for a limited period of time.
Unpaved roads generate dust, which can be viewed as a nuisance for many rural residents. If a road is unpaved, it is unlikely that it will be paved in the near future. You are encouraged to check with Douglas County when a statement is made by a seller or real estate agent indicating that an unpaved road will be paved. There are programs available at the County level that can be used to secure paving at a materials-only price if the majority of the subdivision residents agree to participate. Information on this program is available on the County’s website at the link below. Please be aware that these programs are only available for County-owned roads, not private roads or access easements. For more information, please visit gravel roads in Douglas County.
The County routinely applies magnesium chloride to County-owned gravel roads with a significant amount of daily trips. Applications occur on an annual basis and can substantially improve air quality conditions by controlling particulate dust pollution.
It can be difficult for large construction vehicles to navigate small, narrow roads or portions of a property with significant vegetation or changes in grade. When building a new home, it is important to evaluate the possibilities of construction access, along with increased time and expense to deliver materials to the site.
Designated School Bus Routes
Getting children to local schools in rural areas can be more challenging than in a more urban setting. School buses typically travel only on maintained county roads that have been designated as school bus routes by the school district. Children may have to be driven to the nearest bus stops along designated routes in order for them to utilize the district’s services.
Information on Douglas County School District bus routes can be found by visiting Douglas County School District bus routes.
There are several charter school and private school options available in Douglas County. Generally, families must arrange their own transportation to these facilities.
Residents often choose the rural setting for its peaceful atmosphere. However, there are permissible activities that will, at times, result in unexpected noise or other impacts. Be prepared to tolerate certain uses and activities and, as appropriate, moderate your own activities in consideration of those living adjacent to you.
Living Near Active Ranches and Farms
The State of Colorado has adopted the Right to Farm” legislation as part of Senate Bill 29. This statute protects farmers and ranchers from nuisance and liability lawsuits potentially brought by neighboring (non-agricultural) properties. It is important to be aware of potential conflicts that may arise as a result of sharing the rural community with active ranchers and farmers:
Hunting and Shooting
Hunting and shooting sports are popular pastimes in Douglas County. Hunting, target practice and other activities with firearms are generally allowed in Douglas County’s rural areas, provided that the bullet does not leave the property. Any safety concerns arising from the use of firearms should be directed to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Regulations
Please contact the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife for hunting and fishing regulations. Contact any private landowners for permission to hunt or fish on their lands before doing so as there could be a serious safety and legal consequences.
Mineral, Oil and Gas Rights
Property owners should know what minerals may be located under their property and who owns them. Owners of mineral rights can change surface characteristics in order to extract minerals even if the property is not owned by them. A typical title commitment may not indicate who owns the mineral rights associated with a property. This may require a specific request of the information.
Oil and gas development in Colorado is regulated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which is a division of the State of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources. The County has a Local Government Designee (LGD) that receives information from the COGCC about potential oil and gas activities in the County. Additional information is available regarding oil and gas development in Douglas County.
Property Surveys Help Reduce Conflicts
Property owners should ensure that their land has been surveyed and pinned by a licensed surveyor to correctly identify the physical limits of their parcel. In certain areas of the County, it is not uncommon to find fence lines and other improvements straddling property lines. This can lead to conflict between neighbors that can be difficult to resolve at a future point in time.
Zoning and Land Use
Existing and prospective landowners should understand the principles of zoning and possible land-use changes. After a property is purchased, the land surrounding your parcel may change due to existing or future development approvals. You are encouraged to contact Douglas County Planning Services before purchasing land to see if there are specific land-use projects pending and to understand the types of uses that could be developed near the property under current zone district rules. In addition, if your property is located near an incorporated city or town, you may want to check with that jurisdiction regarding any future plans for urban-level annexation and development.
As a property owner, you may wish to engage in different kinds of commercial activities in your home or on your property. Always check with Douglas County Planning Services to understand what uses are allowed, prohibited, or require additional land-use approvals. Any changes to the lot boundaries or divisions of land for sale will typically require County subdivision approval. Links to the primary land-use plans and regulations for unincorporated Douglas County are provided in the:
The following document provides specific information on the kinds of permitted home occupations and the process for obtaining County approvals: Guide to Home Occupation Permits.
Share the Road
All vehicles need to be respectful of one another and share the road appropriately. This includes residential vehicles, farm equipment, and recreational vehicles such as motorcycles and bicycles.
Working farms and ranches require a number of specialized vehicles and other equipment to manage crops (such as hay and alfalfa) and livestock. Slow-moving ranch and farm equipment utilize the County’s roadways at various times of the year. Exercise safety and patience when encountering such vehicles.
Anticipate other roadway conflicts resulting from the seasonal use of the County’s scenic roadways by recreational motorcyclists and bicyclists. Conversely, recreational vehicles should be aware of safety risks and disruptions to traffic flow which can result from riding on gravel roads, roads with narrow shoulders, or roads with high traffic volumes. The Douglas County Bicycling Map rates the County’s roads for a variety of factors related to safe bicycle travel.
Recreational Vehicle Use on Rural Properties
The recreational use of dirt-bikes, ATV’s, snowmobiles, and similar vehicles can be a popular pastime for many rural property owners. However, due to concerns regarding noise, dust, and other impacts, the County recently amended its Zoning Resolution to limit the use of motorsports vehicles on rural properties to the following:
Personal-use motorsports tracks (“Private Motorsports Facilities”) are allowed only through the County’s Use by Special Review (USR) process for parcels of at least 35 acres in size with a principal residence in place. The USR process requires the submittal of various types of information, including a Noise Impact Study. Public hearings on the USR are held before the County’s Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners, with the Board making the final decision on the request as judged against specific approval standards.
Commercial (or club) motorsports tracks are allowed only in the County’s commercial and industrial zone districts.
Prior to a change in the County’s motorsports regulations, accessory use motorsports tracks were established on properties throughout the rural areas of the county. A county review, at the request of a property owner, is required to determine if any specific track meets all legal requirements necessary to be considered a “grandfathered” (legal, nonconforming) use.
For any level of allowed motorsports vehicle use, it is important to be considerate of adjoining neighbors who value their properties for a peaceful, quiet setting. Residents are encouraged to be considerate of their neighbors by being sensitive to noise and other impacts generated by motorized recreational vehicle use on your property during particular times of day.
Pike National Forest
A large portion of Douglas County contains Pike National Forest lands. As more residents chose to live on or near national forest lands, there are several issues to consider. The Forest Service controls access across forest lands. Roads are maintained primarily for recreational uses and are not maintained at a level typically desired by residents. Few forest roads are plowed in the winter and some may be subject to seasonal closures.
Forest ecosystems are not static landscapes. In addition to natural processes such as wildfire and ecological succession, the Forest Service uses a variety of tools to manage vegetation. These include prescribed burning, grazing, and timber management. Increased threats from flash flooding can occur, including dangerous debris flows, where significant wildfires have occurred.
Homes and other improvements on rural land should be compatible with the rural context and natural environment including design, architecture, building placement, driveway location, and more.
Site planning involves the thoughtful placement and orientation of buildings, driveways and other site improvements. The following principles are suggestions to help enhance the value and appearance of a property while avoiding negative impacts on the surrounding rural community and environment.
Building Placement and Massing
Douglas County has a unique history that reflects the architectural styles of traditional ranching and the equestrian forms of the American West. While no one style is characteristic of the County, the following are suggestions which may help landowners better consider rural compatibility through the home design process:
Because the roof is often a dominant design element on a home, it should be compatible with the surrounding natural and built environment. Parcels with relatively even (flat) topography and minimal vegetative screening should utilize a lower roof pitch. On parcels with relatively steep slopes and substantial vegetative screening, steeper roof pitches may be appropriate.
Although lighting is used for both security and aesthetic enhancement, it is important to consider the surrounding environment when choosing lighting elements. Night sky views are highly valued in Douglas County; therefore, the selection of lighting that does not pose a nuisance to surrounding neighbors is encouraged. Although the County does not formally regulate residential lighting, it is recommended that these guidelines be followed to help citizens minimize light pollution, glare, and trespass.
Lighting at driveways and other entries should be limited to fixture types that are mounted low to the ground and do not exceed a maximum of 900 lumens. Landscape lighting is discouraged, especially up-lighting or “moonlighting” of trees and other landscape characteristics.
Lighting limitations for agricultural and residential purposes are generally not regulatory in nature.
The continued availability of water resources is a high priority for Douglas County rural residents. Landscape design should, first and foremost, keep water conservation in mind.
Fencing should be selected keeping wildlife and the surrounding community in mind. Wise fencing choices can minimize the environmental and visual impact that fences may have.
The following information is provided as a convenience for the citizens of Douglas County.
Douglas County does not provide residential curbside trash pickup. As residents, you are encouraged to investigate and determine the most economical and practical means of disposing of your domestic trash.
As an alternative to curbside residential trash pickup, there are two trash transfer sites in Douglas County that accept residential trash in addition to other items. These sites are listed below:
Sedalia Transfer Site and Community Recycling Center (5761 Peterson Road)
Imperial Enterprises operates the Sedalia Trash Transfer Site Community Recycling Center on a contract basis with Douglas County. This site is available to residents for the drop-off of residential waste and light construction materials. The site also accepts appliances, furniture, and household items. Imperial Enterprises also accepts electronics and computers for recycling. (Except for televisions or monitors.)
The site is located on Peterson Road, 1 mile north of Sedalia. Take the Sedalia exit off Hwy 85 to Hwy 67, proceed over the railroad tracks and take the first road on the right which is Platte Rd. Platte turns into Peterson at the yield sign. Continue 1 mile north to the entrance.
The hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday and Saturday except for Christmas and New Year’s (If they fall on a Monday or Saturday).
A full-service recycling operation is also in place at the facility. All types of metal products, aluminum cans. (Cans must be separate from all other aluminum) Tin cans, newspaper, magazines, junk mail (No shredded or packing paper). Cardboard (No packing material left inside.) Car batteries used motor oil. (No glass or plastic.) Recycling will be priced on-site.
The following prices apply:
Just about any type of waste material can be handled. Some materials require special handling and processing. If you have items to dispose of please do not hesitate call 303-720-3129.
If you have items to dispose of please do not hesitate call for information on specific disposal requirements.
2.5 miles north of Deckers ( 7828 S Highway 67)
The site is open Saturdays only 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during Mountain Daylight Time (MDT) and 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. during Mountain Standard Time (MST). The site is located at 7828 S Hwy 67 approximately 1 ½ miles north of Deckers on Hwy 67 at DOTT’s Park.
The following prices apply:
Swayback Site will accept branches at no charge. Pine Needles and Pine Cones will need to be disposed of through the trash according to the prices listed above.
Non-recyclable materials are NOT accepted, such as:
Douglas County Government does not provide water services to residents. Several different water providers serve the needs of the County. If your property does not have access to a supply of treated domestic water, as is the case in most rural areas of the county, it is your responsibility to locate an alternative supply. It most likely will be an individual domestic well, for which a permit must be secured from the Colorado Division of Water Resources, also known as the State Engineer’s Office.
When considering the purchase of a property, it is recommended that you verify that sufficient water rights exist and that those rights are being conveyed at the time of sale. In certain instances, the water rights for one or more of the aquifer layers have been severed from the land or retained by another owner. If a well permit has been issued for the property, verify the limits of water use set forth in the permit. A typical exempt well on a 35-acre parcel allows for household uses, animal watering, and 1 acre of irrigation. Other permits, depending on the size and location of the property, may be restricted to household water use only. This type of permit does not allow water for any outdoor uses, such as landscaping or animal needs.
Most rural properties within the County rely exclusively on non-renewable groundwater sources for their wells. Properties closer to the Pike National Forest are at the edge of the Denver Basin aquifer and can experience decreased well productivity over time. Water solutions can be costly if this occurs (e.g., investing in cisterns, well re-drilling).
Groundwater supplies are finite, and their depletion affects property owners throughout the County. Water conservation practices are critical for ensuring that water supplies will be available for future generations. Landscape irrigation is typically the largest component of residential water use, and owners are wise to appropriately restrict the amount and type of ornamental plants and turf grass on their property. Water for produce gardens and animal uses should also be considered when assessing your overall water demands.
Electricity and maintenance costs associated with operating a groundwater well can be significant and should be factored into your budget. Improper maintenance can greatly reduce the life of your well. A limited number of rural properties are served by a community well system or part of an established water district. It is helpful to understand the rate structures of such districts, along with any conservation requirements they may have.
Domestic Wells and Rural Water
Visit the following links for water-related information:
At lower densities, sewer service is generally provided by on-site wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) (often referred to as “septic systems”). Tri-County Health Department issues septic-use permits, which are required for the construction of any new septic system, or whenever a property with an existing septic system is sold. The type of soil, depth to groundwater or bedrock, slope, etc. are important in determining the cost and function of a system. Leach-field areas must be protected from vehicles and horses, or other types of livestock, to avoid costly system repairs. Regular pumping is also required to protect the longevity of the septic system.
Electricity, Gas, and Alternative Power
Douglas County has three energy providers: Xcel Energy, CORE Electric Cooperative (formerly known as IREA), and Mountain View Electric Association. The majority of rural area services are provided by CORE. It may be expensive to extend lines in order to accommodate land and homeowners in remote areas of the County. It may also be necessary to cross property owned by others in order to extend electric services. Identify the service provider and research these issues prior to building. Natural gas may also be unavailable through a utility provider, making it necessary to contract with a propane delivery service to meet these energy needs.
Roof or ground-mounted solar panels are allowed through the building permit process. Ground-mounted solar facilities must be placed outside the building setbacks set forth in the County’s Zoning Resolution. Residential-scale wind energy conversion systems are being developed within the industry and, at present, are subject to a more extensive land-use review process. The specific characteristics of a property will determine if wind energy systems are feasible.
Postal and Parcel Delivery
Mail, newspaper, standard parcel and overnight package delivery can be difficult in some rural areas. Prospective and current rural homeowners need to confer with service providers as to their status.
An often confusing issue for new residents relates to the fact that your mailing address may not reflect the jurisdiction in which you live, but instead where you receive mail service from (based on your postal zip code). While living in unincorporated Douglas County, your address may indicate Castle Rock, Parker, Larkspur, Sedalia, Franktown, Littleton, or another jurisdiction. Douglas County offers governmental services in these areas.
Rural residents may run into difficulties with telephone and internet use. Internet providers are not available in many parts of rural Douglas County and cellular and internet service is limited, especially in areas in or near the National Forest.
The definition of “rural” is largely self-determined, as many residents consider their lots and lifestyles as having one or more rural character elements. The County’s Comprehensive Master Plan defines “rural” properties as parcels of 35 acres in size or larger. However, multiple subdivisions scattered throughout the County with lots smaller than 35 acres, by virtue of their surrounding context and specific uses, are considered part of the rural community and lifestyle.
The Rural Framework Committee, a Board of County Commissioners’ ad-hoc citizens’ committee, formed to review and discuss various rural development issues.
Please visit the Douglas County Comprehensive Master Plan, which identifies goals, policies, and objectives for the rural portions of the County. Narratives and maps depict the distinct rural communities and subareas, including Sedalia, Louviers, Franktown, Cherry Valley, West Plum Creek, Indian Creek, Chatfield, Northeast Douglas County, the High Plateau, and the Pike National Forest and Foothills.
View the master plan maps for the County’s rural areas and communities:
Overview for prospective rural property owners is provided, such as what to consider when purchasing a property and building a home in rural Douglas County.
This is not a comprehensive list of items to consider before purchasing a property located in rural Douglas County. The suggestions provided are based on questions commonly asked of Douglas County Planning Services’ staff.
Was the parcel legally created?
Before purchasing a parcel in a rural portion of the County, it is advisable that the prospective property owner contact Planning Services to verify that the parcel is “legal” for purposes of obtaining a building permit. Establishing a parcel of less than 35 acres in size may have required subdivision approval by the County. Existing structures on the property cannot be expanded if the parcel was not legally created. Real estate agents and title companies should be able to verify legal parcel status if asked, but when in doubt, investigate further.
Are roads and services available on the property?
Generally, if roads or services are not currently extended to a parcel, they are not likely to be so in the foreseeable future. Any promises made by others regarding future zoning, subdivision, or other types of development approvals required by the County should NOT be relied upon without verification.
Generally, for parcels greater than two acres in size, individual water wells and septic systems may be installed by the property owner to provide such services. However, any prospective buyer should contact the County to determine if the property’s zoning requires the provision of central water or sewer services.
What uses are allowed on the property?
In addition to a primary residence, a property owner may purchase a property with other or future uses in mind. Uses such as horse boarding and training, home businesses, short-term vacation rentals, or accessory dwelling units, may or may not be allowed based upon the County’s zoning regulations. Certain uses may require additional permits or approvals, even if the property is currently being used for other activities. Do not assume such uses or activities are legal or otherwise “grandfathered.” Private covenants and deed restrictions may limit future uses as well.
Has the parcel been surveyed?
Property owners may wish to have their land surveyed and pinned by a licensed surveyor to correctly identify the physical limits of the parcel. Title work should be completed to identify any recorded deed restrictions, easements, or covenants that may apply to the property as these documents may limit certain uses of the land or impose ongoing financial obligations. The County has no role in enforcing private covenants, easement agreements, or deed restrictions.
Does the parcel have sufficient water rights?
It is important to ensure that adequate water rights are being transferred with the property to obtain a well permit and that legal and physical access to the property is in place with maintenance responsibilities identified.
Is the property eligible for the lower, agricultural tax rate?
Tax status is based on the actual use of the property, NOT the property’s zoning classification. The Assessor’s Office has specific thresholds for use and income that must be met in order to be classified as “agricultural” for tax purposes.
The Department of Community Development Planning Services Division has staff available to answer zoning (permitting uses), subdivision, and development questions for particular parcels. Please contact the Public Outreach and Assistance staff at 303-660-7460 or email general questions to [email protected].