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Zoning Permits for Commercial Projects

Zoning permits for commercial projects are classified as one of the following:

  • Use permits, which ensure that land and buildings are used in a manner that matches the community's vision for the future of Denver; and
  • Construction permits, which ensure that what is being built lines up with zoning requirements for proper placement, height and bulk of a structure. Unlike building permits, zoning construction permits are only required if you are doing work to the property or building exterior (e.g., new builds, additions, site improvements, detached structures, new equipment on the roof, changing the building facade, and so on).
 

This sections below describe how to apply for most commercial zoning permits.

New commercial construction, major additions and some tenant-finish/remodel projects undergoing change of occupancy must submit a site development plan (SDP) before applying for zoning or building permits.

Residential Projects: This page is specific to commercial and multifamily zoning only. For single-family and duplex projects, visit the residential section of the website.


Commercial Zoning Project Guides, Applications, and Instructions

Zoning submittal requirements depend on the type and scope of your project. Use the drop-down menus below to find links to permit applications, instructions on what to submit, and project guides that outline what plans (e.g., site plan, floor plans, building elevations) are needed for your specific project. These guides are designed to help you prepare a complete zoning submittal.

Zoning Use Permits

Examples of projects that need a zoning use permit

  • Building a new structure
  • The first occupant of a tenant space in a new structure
  • Changing the use of an existing structure (e.g., converting a retail store into a restaurant)
  • A change in square footage (e.g., if you are proposing to build an addition to your restaurant, store or other structure, or are acquiring additional tenant space in the same structure)
  • Building or changing an accessory (or subordinate) use, even if the primary use is unchanged (e.g., adding outdoor seating to a restaurant or adding outdoor storage to a business)

What to submit

  1. Download and fill out the General Zoning Permit Application (PDF)
  2. Attach a written project narrative to your application that includes the following: 
    • name of business,
    • scope of work,
    • hours of operation,
    • type of activities, and
    • how you plan to address any use limitations found in Article 11 of the Denver Zoning Code. 
    • There is no required length for the narrative, but you should provide as much detail as possible.
  3. Download the Zoning Use Permit Project Guide (#UP-01) to see which plans are required for your project, and what information must be included on the plans. A zoning plan set may have a site plan, floor plans, building elevations, and roof plan, but not every project will require all of these.  

Download sample plans: single tenants; multiple tenants; additions. (PDFs)

Customers submitting applications for both zoning use and zoning construction permits only need to submit one plan set.

Marijuana-related businesses that need zoning use, and potentially, zoning construction permits include the following:

  • New marijuana operations,
  • Expanding marijuana operations, 
  • Marijuana operations with new owners or a change of name, and
  • Marijuana businesses applying for or renewing business licenses.

Customers submitting applications for both zoning use and zoning construction permits only need to submit one zoning plan set.

What to submit for zoning permits

Use permit for marijuana retail sales or plant husbandry

  1. Download and fill out the General Zoning Permit Application (PDF)
  2. Download the Marijuana Businesses Project Guide (#UP-02) to see which zoning plans are required for your project, and what information must be included on the plans. A zoning plan set may have a site plan, floor plans, building elevations, and roof plan, but not every project will require all of these. 
  3. Attach a written project narrative to your application that includes the following: 
    • name of business,
    • scope of work,
    • hours of operation,
    • type of activities, and
    • how you plan to address any use limitations found in the Project Guide (PDF). 
    • There is no required length for the narrative, but you should provide as much detail as possible.

Click here to view sample plans. (PDF)

Use permit for marijuana-infused products (MIPs) or extraction operations

  1. Submit the same three items that are outlined above under "Use permit for marijuana retail sales or plant husbandry"
  2. Also download and fill out the supplemental application for MIPs/extraction operations (PDF) - both the general zoning application and the more detailed MIPs/Extraction application are required.

Zoning construction permit 

Follow the instructions in the drop-down menus under "zoning construction permits" below. 

A temporary use permit for special event parking is not transferrable, and is only valid for the designated event, or series of events, listed in the permit application.

Limitations and allowances for special event parking can vary greatly by zone district (e.g., residential zones versus mixed-use commercial). Download the Special Event Parking Project Guide (#TP-01) to review requirements by zone district and make sure that your proposed off-street parking use can be permitted. The Project Guide also contains guidance on signage for temporary parking in all zone districts.

What to submit

  1. Download and fill out the General Zoning Permit Application (PDF)
  2. Submit a site plan that meets the criteria listed in the Special Event Parking Project Guide (#TP-01)
  3. Attach a written project narrative to your application that includes the following: 
    • name of business,
    • scope of work,
    • hours of operation,
    • type of activities, and
    • how you plan to address any use limitations found in the Project Guide (PDF). 
    • There is no required length for the narrative, but you should provide as much detail as possible.
  4. Demonstrate proof of ownership or submit an affidavit that the applicant is the owner or authorized agent

Click here to view a sample site plan. (PDF)

Examples of projects that need a temporary use permit

  • Admission-based amusement, entertainment, or recreation activities
  • Bazaars or other special events
  • Activities related to construction sites (e.g., materials storage, installing fencing, processing concrete etc.)
  • Temporary health services
  • Outdoor retail sales
  • Food trucks operating on private property (will also need a business license)
  • Temporary offices
  • Temporary religious venues
  • Ambulance dispatch and storage
  • Other, known in the zoning code as "unlisted"

What to submit

  1. Download and fill out the General Zoning Permit Application (PDF)
  2. Submit a site plan that meets the criteria listed in the Temporary Use Permit Project Guide (#TP-02) (PDF)
  3. Attach a written project narrative to your application that includes the following: 
    • name of business,
    • scope of work,
    • hours of operation,
    • type of activities, and
    • how you plan to address any use limitations, as listed on page 3 of the Temporary Use Permit Project Guide (PDF)
    • There is no required length for the narrative, but you should provide as much detail as possible.
  4. For mobile food vendors only: Please submit a permission letter from the property owner with your application.

Generally, whether you are running a daycare from your home or simply using a home office for freelance work, if you intend on doing business from your home on a long-term basis and using your home address as your business address, you must obtain a zoning permit for a home occupation.

What to submit for a zoning permit

Most home occupations are allowed in all zone districts, except in the S-SU-Fx and S-SU-Ix zone districts, which have strict limitations on the range of home occupations allowed. Specific limitations and regulations for home businesses may vary by district; see Steps 1 and 2 of our home occupations webpage for more detail.

Fresh Produce and Cottage Food Sales Home Occupation

Adopted by City Council via text amendment to the zoning code on July 14, 2014, and effective July 18, 2014, this home occupation allows Denver residents to sell raw, uncut produce and homemade cottage foods from their home. Sellers must have grown the produce in their home gardens or off-site at a community garden, urban farm, or another person’s property, and must have prepared the cottage foods at their homes. Cottage foods are defined by the State of Colorado Cottage Food Act and include non-hazardous foods such as tea, honey, jams, jellies, and dried produce.

For rules and requirements associated with this home occupation, information on allowable cottage foods, and best practices, download the Fresh Produce and Cottage Foods Home Occupation Guide (PDF). (En Español)

Business licenses

Once you have secured a zoning permit for your home occupation, check the Denver Business Licensing Center's business index to see if your business requires a license.

Common home occupation types that will require a business license

  • Food preparation - Visit the "Food-Wholesale" page on the Business Licensing website for more information. Additionally, building permits and fire approval are required for commercial-grade kitchens. See the page on kitchen remodels for more information. As part of the licensing process, health inspections of your home facility will be required. 
    NOTE: A food preparation business license is not required if you are only preparing "cottage foods" (as defined by the Colorado Cottage Food Act) for sale with a Fresh Produce and Cottage Food Sales home occupation zoning permit.  

Download the Residential Care Zoning Guide (PDF) for step-by-step instructions, a submittal checklist, and permit application form.

Zoning Construction Permits

Examples of projects that need a zoning construction permit

  • Building a new structure
  • Building a detached, accessory structure (e.g., garage, storage unit, pool, trash enclosure, gazebo)
  • Additions/expansions
  • Exterior alterations (e.g., doors/windows, changes to the facade, railings, steps, ramps, rooftop equipment, ground-mounted HVAC or mechanical equipment)
  • Site improvements, which include parking areas, landscaping, outdoor lighting, and onsite pedestrian circulation

Most of these projects will also need building permits, which can be obtained at the same time as your zoning permits. Click here to learn more about what is required for a simultaneous zoning and building code review. (You will still need to submit all of the zoning-specific information below.)

What to submit for a zoning construction permit

  1. Download and fill out the General Zoning Permit Application (PDF)
  2. Download the Zoning Construction Permit Project Guide (#CP-01) to see which zoning plans are required for your project, and what information must be included on the plans. A zoning plan set may include a site plan, floor plans, building elevations, and roof plan, but not every project will require all of these.
  3. Attach a written project narrative to your application that includes the following: 
    • name of business,
    • scope of work,
    • hours of operation,
    • type of activities,
    • and how you plan to address any use limitations found in Article 11 of the Denver Zoning Code
    • There is no required length for the narrative, but you should provide as much detail as possible.
  4. In addition to the general application in step 1, fill out and submit the Statement of Valuation and the Zoning Construction Application from the Project Guide (PDF) (both the general application and the more detailed construction application are required).

Download sample plans: single tenantsmultiple tenantsadditions. (PDFs)

Customers submitting applications for both zoning use and zoning construction permits only need to submit one plan set.

Download the Zoning Guide for Fences (PDF) for step-by-step instructions, a submittal checklist, and permit application form.

Other Zoning Permits

Start here

Visit our Signs webpage to learn what zoning standards apply to signs, and which sign types do not require a zoning permit.

To apply

Download the Complete Signs Customer Guide (PDF) for step-by-step instructions, application requirements, and permit application forms for signs requiring a permit. Please review the guide and checklist and include all required materials when submitting your permit application. Incomplete applications may delay processing and approval.

View the Telecommunications Facilities Zoning Guide (PDF) for an overview of the city's zoning and permitting rules for siting, installing and constructing telecommunications equipment. 

A zone lot is the land designated as the building site for a structure and/or the site for a land use or activity. The city uses the "zone lot" as the basic land unit for zoning review and permitting. 

Zone lot boundaries may be changed by submitting an application for a zone lot amendment. (This is not a zoning permit.)


Where to submit

Email

Mail

In Person

zoning.review@denvergov.org

Email your complete application package and plan set with "New zoning application" in the subject line of the email.

Zoning submittals for a simultaneous review cannot be emailed - they must be logged in, in person, with the building submittal. 

Development Services/Zoning
Attn: New applications
201 West Colfax Ave.
Dept. 205
Denver, CO 80202

Zoning-only applications:
Commercial Zoning Counter

Simultaneous zoning and building permit applications:
Log-In Counter

Visit the Permit Counter Hours page for hours and location.


After your application is received

Once your application has been received, you will be contacted via phone or email to acknowledge receipt of your application, to advise you of additional materials that might be required, and to arrange payment of fees. All fees must be paid before your project will be assigned a reviewer.

Issued zoning permits will expire after 180 days, unless the permitted zoning use has been established or a building permit for construction has been issued. Any changes to the scope of what was approved will require a new zoning review and permit.

What if my project doesn't meet requirements?

Administrative adjustments and variances

Project plans must be submitted so that zoning staff may complete a full review of the entire project. For those projects where you know your project will violate zoning regulations, and you plan to request an administrative adjustment or zoning variance, you must still submit a complete application and plans for a full review first.

If after submitting your plans, you learn that your project does not meet zoning requirements, you may either revise the project to comply with the zoning code, request an administrative adjustment from staff (for a minor exception to the code), or request a zoning variance from the Board of Adjustment

An administrative adjustment or variance may be appropriate for the following:

  • When a permit is denied because a project does not meet zoning requirements due to an unusual hardship.

Appeals

If you believe that zoning review staff erred in interpreting or applying the zoning code’s standards, you may seek an appeal from the Board of Adjustment. Actions of the zoning administrator, zoning permitting staff, or zoning inspectors may be appealed to the Board.

An appeal may be appropriate for the following:

  • Zoning permits issued or denied based on an error in interpreting/applying the zoning code,
  • A zoning enforcement order to cease and desist,
  • Any other kind of zoning enforcement action, or
  • A formal written code or use determination (e.g., a determination to allow an unlisted temporary use or a home occupation).

How do I file for an administrative adjustment, zoning variance, or an appeal?

Apply for an administrative adjustment through your assigned project reviewer. Your reviewer will advise you on what to submit (typically a letter and narrative detailing the request, with additional evidence of the justifying hardship). An administrative review fee will apply. Most administrative adjustment decisions are made within two weeks.

For variances or appeals, once your project reviewer has made a decision to deny based on a zoning violation, inform the reviewer of your decision and obtain an “informal denial” form from the reviewer to submit to the Board of Adjustment. Appeals must be submitted within 15 days of the project reviewer’s decision. Variance requests may be submitted at any time.

If the appeal or variance request relates to the denial of a zoning permit for construction, you must also submit two copies of a scaled site plan, floor plan and elevation drawings to the Board.

Once a zoning decision is appealed, any action of the zoning administrator or staff directly related to the appeal is stayed until the Board hearing.

An incomplete submittal will not be accepted for filing for a hearing date.

 
 

If our commercial zoning webpage looks different, it is! We have new applications that better reflect the information needed for a zoning review and have created Project Guides and sample plans to help applicants prepare a complete zoning submittal.

Find out what else has changed.

Resources for Applicants

Before you start

Using the map and zoning code links below, verify that your proposed land use is allowed in your zone district, and know the vehicle and bicycle parking requirements and other use limitations.

Know what other approvals might be required for your project. View our starter list here (PDF).

Need help? Email us to schedule a pre-application meeting (optional).

Image of the zoning map that links to the zoning map online at (/content/denvergov/en/community-planning-and-development/zoning/find-your-zoning.html)

Click the image above to get to the Denver Zoning map to look up the zone district for your property.

Zoning Records Request

A zoning records request will provide you with a copy of the record for your site, including plans or permits on file. 

How: Instructions for requesting public records.

Zoning Research Request

We can also provide zoning research for any Denver property.

  • Zone district confirmation (no fee)
  • Zoning compliance information (fees apply)
  • Rebuild information/confirmation (fees apply)

How: Request zoning verification or zoning compliance letters.

Commercial Zoning Questions

Include your name, property address, phone number, and details of your question so we can make sure the right person returns your call/email. 

Phone: 720-865-3000

Commercial and multifamily email: zoning.review@denvergov.org

Single-family and duplex email: ResidentialPermits@denvergov.org

For rezoning inquiries visit CPD's rezoning page.

To change the boundaries of your zone lot, request a zone lot amendment.

Visit the Permit Counter Hours page for zoning office hours and location.