History of Denver Zoning and the Board of Adjustment

Charter Amendment. On May 15, 1923, the people of the City and County of Denver adopted an amendment in the City Charter authorizing the City Council to pass a Zoning Ordinance, “for the purpose of promoting health, safety, morals or the general welfare of the community.”


Zoning Commission. A Zoning Commission was appointed to survey the City and make recommendations on the various original zone districts and appropriate regulations to be enforced therein.


Zoning Ordinance. On February 11, 1925, the first Denver Zoning Ordinance and Zone District map was passed by the City Council. The Zoning Commission was dissolved and the Board of Adjustment was created.


Board of Adjustment. The Board of Adjustment was and is empowered by the Ordinance and the Charter to hear and decide appeals where it is alleged there is error in the enforcement of the Ordinance, to hear and decide special exceptions, and to authorize variances. In addition, until 1955, the staff of the Board approved all zoning permits, while enforcement of the zoning code was performed by the Building Department.


“New” Zoning Ordinance. In 1955, an entirely new Zoning Ordinance and Zone District Map was passed by City Council, which created the Zoning Administration. This ordinance was subsequently overturned by the Courts, due to technicalities. On November 8, 1956, City Council, again, passed the “New” Zoning Ordinance, following procedure, which is the foundation of our present Zoning Ordinances. This ordinance narrowed and specified the powers of the Board of Adjustment as an appeal Board, rather than an agency involved in the day-to-day administration of the Zoning Code, and was Chapter 59 of the Revised Municipal Code.
2010 Denver Zoning Code,  On June 25, 2010, after 5 years of work by a Task Force and City staff, the Denver Zoning Code was adopted by City Council.


Zoning Administration. The Department of Zoning Administration is charged with the administration and enforcement of the Zoning Ordinance and official Zone Map. All actions of the Zoning Administration are subject to review by the Board of Adjustment for Zoning Appeals. In turn, the actions of the Board of Adjustment are subject to review by the District Court.


Community Planning and Development. Currently, the city manages land use and development through various permit processes utilizing several divisions within the Community Planning and Development Agency. Under this strategy, existing zoning code violations are reported to, and investigated by, the Neighborhood Inspection Services Division. Inspectors conduct investigations of reported violations and may issue Orders to Cease and Desist illegal activities. All proposed changes in use and construction at a property should begin the permitting process at Development Services.  All proposed projects are reviewed for compliance with the zoning code and if violations exist a Denial of the Permit is issued. Both the Order to Cease and Desist, and the Denial of a Permit are eligible for appeal through the Board of Adjustment. Please see the web pages for those departments for further information.