April 25, 2014

Planning and Zoning

ZoningMap

Download the Sterling Zone Map
Download the Sterling Zone Map

2013 Sterling Master Plan

Responsible for the guidance of land use in the City of Sterling. The use of the land could be either a large development (such as subdivision or shopping center) or adding another room to your house. The City Planner assists the general public as well as the developer in helping to guide their projects through the appropriate process. Sometimes these processes involve a variance, conditional use, zoning change, etc. Additional approvals from the Planning Commission or Board of Adjustment may be needed.

If you would like to develop a vacant piece of land, the first thing that you would do is to find how it is zoned in order to determine what you can do with the land. If it is a use by right (a permitted use) there are no other approvals that are needed other than building permits. If the use is a conditional use, you will need to seek approval from the Planning Commission.

When it is time to do renovations or develop vacant land, remember your first step is to check with the Planning and Zoning Division on what your property is zoned and whether or not the intended use is permitted or a conditional use. You need to check on what the setbacks are — you may be building too close to a property line. Check to see if your lot meets the minimum lot size and the height of the building meets the minimum requirements.

Some lots, structures, or uses existed before the zoning went into effect. This sometimes creates a situation where the lot, structure or use no longer conforms to the Ordinance. It then becomes “grandfathered”-allowed to remain because it previously existed. It is then considered a legal nonconforming use, structure or lot. (This can also happen when the Ordinance is amended.) To make any changes to something that is legal nonconforming you will have to have a nonconforming review before the Planning Commission.

Larger developments such as subdivisions and mobile home parks take longer. It is important that a sketch plan is submitted before formal plans commence.

The Planning and Zoning Division is also responsible for processing annexations. Annexation is a process by which the boundaries of a City are extended to encompass more land.

Annexation areas must have a common boundary with the city limits of not less than one-sixth of the total perimeter area proposed to be annexed. A petition for annexation must be submitted to the City by more than 50% of the landowner(s) who own more than 50% of the land proposed to be annexed.

The annexation petition is a legal form on which are the notarized signatures and addresses of the landowners. A property legal description and map of the annexation area are required to accompany each petition.

Once the petition is filed, the remaining steps in the process are handled by City staff. The petition is then sent to the City Council to be “accepted”. This is accomplished by the adoption of a “resolution of intent to annex”. A public hearing schedule for the annexation is set by this resolution. The petition is also submitted to the Planning Commission for their input prior to Council approval. The Planning Commission does not have any jurisdiction over annexations, but are asked if a proposed annexation will be a benefit to the City.

After a period of about 30 days in which the notice of the annexation public hearing is published four times, the proposed annexation ordinance is presented to the City Council for consideration. Once the ordinance is approved, the proposed area is annexed into the city limits.

The following are terms that are used in the Planning and Zoning Division. If you have any questions about any of the procedures, please feel free to call (970) 522-9700.

  • Annexation
    The incorporation of a land area into an existing community with a resulting change in the boundaries of that community. County input report may be required of larger developments.
  • Board of Adjustments
    A local body whose responsibility is to grant variances from the strict application of the Zoning Ordinance. In Sterling the Board of Adjustments is the same board as the Planning Commission.
  • Conditional Use
    A use of land, structure or both that may be allowed in a particular zone district with conditions deemed necessary upon recommendation of the Planning Commission and approval of the City Council.
  • Fees
    A fee is usually required to process an application. A fee schedule may be found at the Public Works Department.
  • Map Amendment (zoning change, re-zoning)
    Changing or giving a parcel of land a particular zoning classification. (Commercial, Residential, Industrial)
  • Nonconforming
    A structure, lot or use that was legally created but does not conform to the current requirements either at the effective date of the Zoning Ordinance or as a result of any subsequent amendments that may be incorporated in the Ordinance.
  • Planning Commission
    A board that is created by Ordinance with the responsibility for reviewing and approving applications for development and the preparation of a master plan.
  • Setbacks
    The distance between any property line and the wall or support of a structure.
  • Text Amendment
    A change in the text of the Zoning Ordinance.
  • Variance
    Permission to depart from the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance relating to setbacks, side yards, frontage requirements and lot size, but not involving the actual use of structure. The Board of Adjustment reviews these requests.
  • Zone
    A specific delineated area or district in a municipality within which regulations and requirements uniformly govern the use, placement, spacing and size of land and buildings.
  • Zoning
    The dividing of a municipality into districts and the establishment of regulations governing the use, placement, spacing and size of land and buildings.