Learn about how the city is updating procedures to request relief from zoning standards.
What are Zoning Exceptions?
There are two ways to request relief from zoning standards.
An administrative adjustment can be approved by city staff and is limited to minor deviations from standards.
A variance can only be granted by the Board of Adjustment, a citizen volunteer board appointed by the Denver City Council and Mayor. All variance decisions are made only after a public hearing.
Why is this Project Necessary?
In February 2022, the City Council approved changes to the membership of the Board of Adjustment as well as the minimum qualifications needed to be appointed. In the same way these key qualities of the Board of Adjustment required updating, the criteria and procedures for granting relief from zoning standards also need updates over time to keep up with changes and priorities in Denver’s land use goals and policies. A review of other cities’ practices and recent surveys of city staff, applicants, and external stakeholders confirm that the variance and administrative adjustment procedures should be revisited. Specifically, this project will focus on the thresholds for eligibility and approval criteria for administrative adjustments and variances.
What Changes are Proposed?
The proposed changes to the Denver Zoning Code would create new or expanded review criteria that apply in many common situations and would allow for more flexibility or simpler processing. The proposed changes to the administrative adjustment and variance include:
Processing claims based on federal law (such as the American Disabilities Act and Federal Fair Housing Act) as administrative adjustments, rather than variances.
Allowing approval of a variance or adjustment if the request would result in an increase of income-restricted units.
Addressing minor errors in permitting and construction through an administrative adjustment or variance.
Expanding the definition of unusual physical circumstances to support preservation of existing buildings and mature trees.
Updating the allowances for certain administrative adjustments to allow less impactful changes to be approved at the staff level, rather than a Board of Adjustment hearing.
Proposed changes in the form of text amendments to the Denver Zoning Code will go through a formal legislative adoption process.
This project has two outcomes: a charter amendment and zoning code text amendment. Denver’s Charter currently describes in detail the Board of Adjustment, its powers, and how zoning exceptions should be made. To make comprehensive changes to the Denver Zoning Code related to zoning exceptions, the Charter must be amended to allow the Denver City Council to modernize and revise zoning exceptions by ordinance. Charter amendments must be approved by City Council and then approved by Denver voters to go into effect.
On December 19, 2022, Denver City Council voted in favor of referring a Charter amendment to the April 4 municipal election. If approved, this Charter amendment will allow for text amendments to the Denver Zoning Code to change the administrative adjustment and variance procedures.
The Denver Zoning Code amendment is in the early stages of the legislative review process and any changes to the Code would be contingent upon the approval of the Charter amendments in the April 4 election.
Planning Board Draft
A Planning Board Draft is now available.
Read the Planning Board Draft(PDF, 32MB)
Read the Proposed Amendment to Denver Revised Municipal Code Section 59(PDF, 651KB)
Read a Summary of Key Changes Proposed(PDF, 184KB)
A Planning Board hearing is scheduled for March 15. Please send all questions and comments to Alek Miller, Senior City Planner, at email@example.com.
Read the project background report(PDF, 428KB)