Determine if a Land Use Approval Is Needed
Generally, all development proposals are subject to the land use approval process. However, there are instances where approved parcels can go straight to building or remodeling.
The information below will help identify when your project is required to go through the land use approval process and when it is not. Before taking on any new project, you should consult with the planner of the day to ensure you are compliant with the Land Use Code.


Development Requiring Land Use Approval:

Below are some of the most common reasons a project would need land use approval prior to applying for a building permit.


  • Plat approvals- Whenever land is subdivided, creating new or modified lots, streets or tracts, a plat is required. The plat is basically a map of the lot and street layout showing property dimensions and easement locations. Plats, once recorded, are the legal documents by which property is described.

  • Planned Development (PD) - PD's allow for flexibility and creative design for the development of an individual or series of parcels. PD's always require a Land Use Application, as well as staff, board, and council review.

  • Site development or re-development - New or re-development of a parcel almost always requires a land use review and will most likely require approval. A plan approval focuses on the physical development of the parcel, including things such as setbacks, parking areas, and square footage of buildings. This process is necessary to ensure use, size and design is consistent with the zone district.

  • Changing the use of a building - If you're changing the use of a building, the intended new use of the building must be verified and approved. For example, if you're remodeling an office into a condo, you need a land use review.

  • Requesting a variance - Reasonable accommodations can be made to the land use code if needed, but these always require a full review and approval. 

  • Development of a parcel with a non-conformity - Non-conforming uses occur when the land use code changes, causing existing buildings to be out of compliance with the updated land use code. Existing buildings are grandfathered in under previous versions of the code, but additional development may require the building to come into complete compliance. If you are doing any development to an old property, it is recommended that you schedule a pre-submittal meeting, at a minimum.


  • Development in Commercial or Lodging Districts or the "Character Areas" of Aspen - The character areas of Aspen, known as the commercial core, lodging and historic districts, are always subject to a land use approval due to their sensitive location. Any development in these areas require approval. 

  • Development, re-development or remodeling a historic property - Anything in the historic district or a designated historic property must receive approval from the Historic Preservation Commission before work can commence.


Projects Exempt from Land Use Approval:

Although all development projects must comply with the Land Use Code, there are several scenarios when a project doesn't require a land use approval. The following list is only intended to be a guide. In some instances, projects that typically don't require land use approval do.


For any significant project, we recommend you consult with the planner of the day or even schedule a pre-application meeting.


  • Most interior remodeling projects - Unless your remodel involves the demolition or combination of separate units, basic remodel projects do not require land use approval. However, almost all significant remodels require a building permit.

  • Fences - Although fence designs and sizes are approved by the planning department through the fence permit process, fences are not considered development and are not subject to land use review.

  • Signs - Although sign designs are approved by the planning department through the sign permit process, they are not subject to land use review.

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