after the fire – rebuilding restrictions for Boulder County

Even though the fire is really just barely out and maybe not even so, I have been asked about the problems of rebuilding in Boulder County after the tragedy.  Here is the info I have found and confirmed with the Boulder County Land Use staff:

Good news for all the homeowners who are considering rebuilding after the devastating Fourmile wildfire here in Boulder County.  Many people have a very wary view of the County’s restrictions when it comes to new building and rightly so.  There are a lot of rules and regulations that must be complied with in the required Site Plan Review process.  However, staff has confirmed that for fire-destroyed properties, you will have 6 months before you will need a Site Plan Review:

“3. Restoration of a structure that has been damaged or destroyed by causes outside the control of the property owner or their agent provided the restoration involves the original location, floor area, and height. Must comply with the current provisions of the Boulder County Land Use Code other than 4-800 (also see Nonconforming Structures & Uses, Article 4-1002(D) and 4-1003(F)).

a. Such  be commenced within six months after the date  the structure was damaged or destroyed, or a latent defect discovered and completed within one year after the date on which the restoration commenced. This limitation may be extended in the case of extenuating circumstances as determined by the Director.

b. The provisions of this Section 4-802(B)(3) shall not apply to substantial improvements to structures in the Floodplain Overlay District as provided for in Section 4-400 of this Code.”

This is clearly dependent on keeping the house the same size as before but not necessarily the same shape, etc.  I will try to get some clarification from the County to verify if you can build smaller than before under these provisions.  I will also verify with staff that this means that a building permit must be either applied for or obtained within 6 months, nothing else.

Word is that they are going to be flexible on this deadline because of the circumstances.

This is very good news for homeowners whose houses were located on the tops of ridges.  The current interpretation of the Land Use regulations generally does not allow any new construction to be taller than surrounding trees.  On a ridge-top sites this is almost impossible so the maxim “thou shall not build on ridges” has been a bit of an unwritten rule in the County for a while now.  The code listed above will clearly allow people to rebuild on their existing sites (if existing foundations, septic systems, etc. can be re-used is a complex issue).  Keep in mind that significant re-grading of any portion of your property, and that includes both cut and fill, may require an additional permit and/or Site Plan Review or Limited Impact Special Review.  If you want to re-do that steep driveway, please remember this.

If you do not have information regarding the size of your existing home, the County typically uses the County tax assessor information.  We all know this is often not very accurate so there may be some interpretation allowed.

In any case, if you are rebuilding you will have to meet all the current building codes and that includes the County’s Ignition Resistant Construction and Wildfire Mitigation procedures.  Presumably this will also include the County’s relatively new energy codes as well.  If you are not considering rebuilding then the County’s Transferable Development Right may apply to your property and you may be able to benefit from your property.

I will keep updating blog posts with more information as I dig through the codes and their applicability in this situation. The Boulder County Land Use staff will be able to answer any questions you have and please, PLEASE, schedule a Pre-Application with them prior to doing ANYTHING. This is free and simple – you don’t need any drawings or plans – just sit down with staff and review what was there, what you can and can not do and how to do it.

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