search icon

Zoning Adjustment

Zoning Adjustment

What is an adjustment?

Sometimes, when you're building or changing a structure in Golden, you might not be able to meet all the City's zoning requirements, which include things like setbacks, how large your building is, and streetscape improvements. You can search your property to find out what the zoning is using the Golden Planning Map. Make sure to look at both the use zone and form zone layer. 

Use Zone – Zoning determines the uses allowed on a given property 
Form Zone Overlay – The Form Zone Overlay determines what kind of Form Types can be built on a given property.

Properties not within a Form Zone Overlay, but within the following use zones may still apply for Adjustments: RE, AG, CO, M1 & M2
Contact Planning and Zoning for properties zoned PUD

If your proposed project cannot meet the zoning requirements, you can apply for an 'adjustment.' This is a process to request permission for relief from the standards. There are two kinds of adjustments:  'minor' and 'major.' Which one you'll need depends on the specifics of your project and how much relief from the requirements you are requesting.
Minor Adjustments Minor adjustments can be approved by the Director of Community Development. Adjustments may qualify as minor if the associated criteria in Chapter are met.Major Adjustments Major Adjustments must be approved by the Planning Commission following a public hearing. Public Hearings are noticed according to the notice requirements of Chapter 18.10. 

If you need more flexibility than what a minor adjustment can offer, you can ask for a major adjustment. To get a major adjustment, your project needs to meet certain conditions, which are listed in Chapter of the Municipal Code

Major adjustments should meet one or both of the following sets of criteria:

Major Adjustments for Practical Difficulty (  are for circumstances, usually an actual physical condition related to the lot, that make it difficult or impossible for a project to meet all of the lot, design and/or landscaping standards of a form type without an adjustment. 


  • Lot using the form type has an unusual shape, size, utility or geologic feature and new structure needs to exceed lot coverage in one of the building envelop areas. 
  • Existing structure on lot was built in a configuration that does not meet the current setbacks and a new addition is requested.  

Generally Acceptable “Hardship” Criteria is: 

  • Exceptional narrowness, shallowness, or shape of the lot 
  • Exceptional topographic or other conditions of the property 
  • Pre-existing conditions 
  • Strict applications of certain regulations would result in peculiar and exceptional and undue hardship upon the owner 

Adjustments for Enhanced Compatibility ( 
are for circumstances of a project that meet or exceed the intent of the code but might have difficulty meeting specific lot, design or landscaping standards of the form type being used.


  • The requested front setback that does not meet the form type is aligned with all the other front setbacks on the block. 
  • The requested combination of form types on one large lot are all allowed in the specific form zone overlay. 

VariancesVariances can be requested if you need relief from parking or sign standards. There are two ways to get a variance approved:
Administrative Variance: This is a smaller change that the Director of Community Development can approve. Examples include:

  • Making a sign 10% taller or bigger because your building has a special, historic look.
  • Reducing the number of parking spaces by up to 5% if there's something unique about your property that makes this necessary.
Variance for Public Hearing: Bigger changes need to be considered by the Planning Commission and can only be approved following a public hearing. These include:

  • Changes to building placement or size rules in older parts of town (legacy zoning districts).
  • Any major changes from the usual site development plan rules.
How to Apply  An adjustment can be requested alongside a complete Site Development Plan (SDP) application or before a complete SDP application is submitted.

If you're working on a project and realize you cannot meet the zoning requirements (like building size or placement), you should contact the Planning Department to discuss adjustment options. Once you are ready to apply for an adjustment, here's what to include in your submittal:

  • Project Narrative:  Write about the changes you are requesting and why. Your reasons should address the criteria in Chapter for adjustments or 18.12.110(2) for variances.
  • Include a Site Plan:  Provide a scaled drawing of your project. It should show how you meet (or don't meet) the zoning requirements, with the areas where adjustments are requested clearly marked.
  • Photos (Optional):  You can add photos to help illustrate your request.
  • Submit Online:  Use the City's Online Permitting System  to send your application.
  • Application Fee:  See the Fee Schedule to see how much your request  
The Approval Process
Depending on whether your  adjustment or variance request can be administratively approved or must go to public hearing, it will follow one of two processes:

Administrative Process:
  • Who Decides:  The Director of Community Development makes the call on minor adjustments or variances.
  • Possible Referral:  The Director might send some decisions to the Planning Commission.
  • Next Steps After Approval:  Once approved, your project can go to the next stage.
  • Posting on City Website:  If you've submitted a full Site Development Plan (SDP) with your request, it'll be posted online for 21 days for public viewing. If the City Council doesn't call for a review (Call-up procedure) within this period, your project gets the green light, and you can apply for a building permit.
Public Hearing Process:
  • Application Review: Staff will review your application to make sure any necessary adjustments are requested and the plan otherwise meets code requirements
  • Notice Period:  We'll announce the hearing 14 days beforehand.
  • At the Hearing:  City staff and you (the applicant) will present your cases. The Planning Commission will listen to everyone, including public comments, and then make a decision.
  • Approval and Next Steps:  If they approve, your project moves forward. If your adjustment and a full SDP were reviewed and approved together at the hearing, you can go ahead and apply for a building permit.
  • Submitting a Site Plan Later:  If you get an adjustment before your full SDP is ready, you need to submit the SDP (consistent with the approval) within a year, or the approval expires. Once you submit the full SDP, it'll be posted online for 21 days. If the City Council doesn't call for a review during that time, you're all set to apply for a building permit.
footer shape