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Understanding the development review processes

There is undoubtedly a learning curve when the average resident begins investigating the layers of checks, balances and standards for approving development plans.

Oftentimes, it is not until the public becomes involved in discussions over a proposed development that they gain a greater understanding of the review processes. Cities and counties are required to follow a set of criteria that provides a structured, consistent framework for landowners seeking to develop their property. If a development proposal is submitted and complies with all elements needed for approval, elected officials are duty-bound to give it the green light.

Such was the case with the recent approval to rezone almost 300 acres of private land, City of Castle Pines City Council members said. The contents of the proposal were measured against five criteria, including whether the development has a sufficient water supply or if it would “confer a special benefit upon an individual.” Governing bodies must also determine, for example, whether the proposed changes would “adversely affect the public interest or enjoyment of the adjacent land,” according to a presentation by Castle Pines Planning Commission staff. The guidelines pay special deference to maintaining and exercising property rights.

Councilman Kevin Rants said during a February 14 public hearing that private property rights are “foundational to our liberty,” and added that even though there is opposition to the 300-acre rezone from neighboring homeowners [on the east side of I-25], he is obligated to follow the rules for development approval that were established when Castle Pines was first incorporated. There is no distinction between the rights of an individual who owns two acres and a development company that owns 2,000 acres, as long as the plans are within the bounds of the land’s intended zoning.

When individual site plans are submitted, much of the review pertains to maintaining public safety, i.e., ensuring a new development has appropriate provisions for drainage and water detention. Decision makers also consider aesthetics, street configurations, utility infrastructure, property setbacks, ingress and egress points, traffic, environmental impacts and even the percentage of land dedicated to open space and parks. The plans are also subject to a referral period, in which existing neighbors and public agencies are given the opportunity to comment on the potential impacts of the changes. Proposals are also reviewed by a volunteer planning commission.

Council Member Geoff Blue said he thought a lot about the five criteria, and his decision to vote in favor of the rezoning and amendments to the planned development recently was made in that context.

The City’s comprehensive plan lays the rough groundwork for the types of development expected in the future, but subsequent approvals for specific plans are required.

City leaders approved The Canyons planned development in 2009, yet the individual parcels must still be properly zoned, and that often happens in piecemeal fashion. Typically, a zoning confers “uses by right,” but property owners can apply for a use by special review in certain circumstances, although the criteria for such approvals are more stringent.

City staff “works diligently to ensure that development is consistent with the vision and goals of the City’s comprehensive plan and contributes to the long-term well-being of the Castle Pines community,” the City’s website states.

To learn more about the City of Castle Pines development review processes, visit To learn more about the Douglas County development review processes, visit

By Chris Michlewicz




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