Determine Which Approvals Are Needed
Depending on the scope of your project and its location, you will need different approvals from different boards. To help determine if your project needs a formal review from an elected board or just an administrative approval, visit the Land Use Approval Map.


Administrative Approval Reviews:

  • Administrative approvals are done completely by City Staff, and do not require a public hearing in front of an approval board.
  • These are done for simple projects that comply with the Land Use Code, do not require variances, and are not in a sensitive area (such as environmentally sensitive areas or the Historic District)
  • Administrative Approvals still require reviews from the appropriate review agencies

Historic Preservation Commission Reviews:

  • The Historic Preservation Commission is required to review any development projects that are proposed on historic designated properties or within the Historic District.
  • The HPC can issue the following approvals for historic properties:
    • Certificate of Appropriateness for Major Development
    • Certificate of Appropriateness for Minor Development
    • Certificate of No Negative Effect
  • Learn more on our Historic Properties Page
  • Learn more about the Historic Preservation Commission


Planning and Zoning Commission Reviews:

  • The Planning and Zoning Commission is required to review a majority of development projects, if they are not applicable to the HPC
  • Examples of types of development needing P&Z approval might be conditional uses, development requiring a variance and development in environmentally sensitive areas.
  • They are also expected to make recommendations to City Council on major development decisions, such as a PD
  • Learn more about the Planning and Zoning Commission


City Council Reviews:

  • The HPC or PnZ commissions will review your project before it reaches City Council
  • City Council is the highest review board that can be involved on a project
  • Final approval or denial comes from the council for the largest development projects, ones that are deferred from a commission, or are required by the Land Use Code.
  • Learn more about the City Council


Examples of Which Approvals Are Needed By Project Type:

The following categories are common review topics and provide a guide as to which approvals you may be required to get, if you are doing something similar. This list is not exhaustive of all review possibilities, however, and you should always check with the planner of the day before starting a project.


  • Permitted Uses - A permitted use can typically be described as a planning project that is similar and consistent with other land uses in the same district. An example of a permitted use would be building a home within a pre-approved residential neighborhood. These permitted uses do not require a formal land use review and approval, and they can apply for a building permit. However, during the building permit process, the project will still need a zoning compliance check and verification.

  • Variances - These are deviations from the Land Use Code that can be permitted and approved in special circumstances. Variances are only granted when it is clear the literal enforcement of code would cause an unnecessary hardship and make a property undevelopable, and the variance is in the best interest of the public. A variance must undergo a formal public hearing in front of the appropriate decision-making body, after it has been reviewed by City staff.

  • Residential Design Standards - These standards are applied to all residential neighborhoods to establish and preserve a consistent scale and character within the City. Examples of residential design standards include: building orientation, scale, building materials, yard set-backs, use of fences, use of garages and the placement of key building elements like windows and doors. These standards are reviewed and checked for compliance during the building permit application process. You do not need to submit for separate approval for design standards unless you are requesting a variance from the standards. Staff are permitted to grant administrative variances for up to three (3) design variances for unusual site-specific circumstances, but a formal public hearing and decision from the Planning and Zoning Commission is required for additional variances.

  • Development of a Historic Parcel or Within the Historic District - Historic properties are essential to the character of the City of Aspen, and special guidelines and review processes have been put in place to maintain and preserve this character. To determine if your property is a designated historic property and to learn more, visit the historic properties page. Any development to these sites requires review and approval by staff and/or the Historic Preservation Commission.

  • Conditional Uses - conditional uses are similar to with the other permitted uses of a zone district, but they are slightly different and are permitted. An example of a conditional use might be a bed and breakfast business in a residential home. All permitted conditional uses are listed for each zone district in Part 700 of the Land Use Code. Any proposed conditional use is subject to review, which will examine the location, design, configuration, density and appropriateness of the use in its proposed location. In addition to a staff review, conditional uses are reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

  • Special Review - Special reviews are required for a variety of specific projects, such as: dimensional requirements, replacing a non-conforming structure, reduction of a public amenity, off street parking requirement exemptions, accessory dwelling unit standards, and affordable housing standards. City staff will be able to determine if your project will need a special review, will need to be conducted and approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

  • Development in Environmentally Sensitive Areas - Development near certain environmentally significant areas are subject to heightened reviews and will need approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission. The following are some of the common environmentally sensitive areas, as depicted on the Zone District Map. If you are in or near any of these areas, you most likely will need to go through a formal review process.
    • 8040 Greenline - Subject to special standards and applies to development above 8040' in elevation
    • Stream Margins - Almost now development is allowed within the stream margins, which applies to all property within one hundred (100) feet of the high water line of the Roaring Fork River.
    • Mountain View Planes - These are designated areas and planes that are subject to special review to preserve viewing planes for the public. Several areas around town are off limits to development to preserve these view planes, but all development impacting viewing planes is subject to review.
    • Hallam Lake Bluff - Development in the Hallam Lake Bluff area is also subject to special review by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

  • Planned Developments (PDs) - Planned developments are set aside pieces of land which encourage flexibility and innovation in development projects. An application for a PD can be submitted for any parcel or series of parcel, and are subject to a formal public hearing by the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council, after a staff review, which includes Engineering standards. No development is allowed to take place on a proposed PD until the final development order is received.

  • Temporary Uses - These are uses that may or may not be permitted in the given zone district, but are given temporary allowance after an individual review and approval. Temporary uses are only permitted after it has been determined that the use will be appropriate and enhance the public well-being. An example of a temporary use may include a public special event. To receive approval for a temporary use, you must submit an application to the community development department, which can deny or forward the application on to City Council for public hearing and approval.

  • Growth Management Quota System (GMQS) - The GMQS sets ceilings on the maximum square footage of development that is allowed each year by type of use, as well as other requirements to offset the burden development may have on the community. This is done to ensure the community's long range goals and smart growth occurs within the City. You can review the maximum quotas and requirements for approval within Part 400 of the Land Use Code. 

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