Pre-Application Conference Required Before Applying

Before beginning any development review process in unincorporated Larimer County, talk with our staff to determine which process is needed and to complete a pre-application conference.

To confirm your zoning district and setback requirements, please email the Planner On Call or call (970) 498-7679.

A setback is the distance that a building or structure is set back from another feature, such as roads, streams or rivers, and property lines. Setbacks improve safety, allow space for drainage and utilities, reduce impacts from noise, preserve/improve aesthetics, and provide space for screening and landscaping from adjacent lots.

Setbacks vary by zoning district and by the natural features that may be located on or near a property. 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. A variance process is available if the proposed setback for a building is different from a required setback.

Additional Resources


  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Yes, there are several different types of setbacks. 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.
  6. 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.

  7. 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.

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.
  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

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

    Zone District - Height limit

    • RE - 130 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.


Contact Planning Department

Larimer County Planning Department
200 W. Oak Street, Third Floor, Fort Collins, CO 80521
On-call Planner:
(970) 498-7679
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