RetoolCOS - Zoning Ordinance Update

On February 14, 2023 Colorado Springs City Council approved RetoolCOS

“Improving and modernizing the City of Colorado Springs’ land development regulations will make it easier for property and business owners to understand and use,” said Planning and Community Development Director Peter Wysocki. “We are thankful for all those who played a role over the last several years in helping to update our Unified Development Code as part of RetoolCOS. The new code will help implement the vision for the City established in PlanCOS and help ensure we are positioned to address future growth, redevelop aging and functionally obsolete sites, and enhance existing neighborhoods.”

RetoolCOS Unified Development Code final draft


    About the Project

    After a two-year community-wide process, the Colorado Springs City Council approved PlanCOS—our community’s Comprehensive PlanA comprehensive plan is a guiding document that provides a framework for city policies and priorities regarding the physical development of the city. It is a long-range vision of what we want our city to become and is a tool for making decisions about how that vision should be achieved. It outlines strategic steps to make the vision a reality and provides targeted and strategic planning of the physical development of the city. for the physical development of Colorado Springs—in January 2019. Focused around six themes, PlanCOS establishes the City’s land-use vision and directs how we will accommodate future growth and change while building upon the strengths of our existing communities.

    For PlanCOS to come to life, the next step was to establish technical (regulatory) provisions for implementation. RetoolCOS revised the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance, Chapter 7 of City Code, which had not been comprehensively updated since the late 1990s. The goal was to establish a new, modern and more user-friendly Unified Development Code (UDC). The zoning and subdivision ordinance governs how property owners can use their land—and including regulations such as building height, setbacks between properties and rights-of-ways, what uses are permitted, and how many parking spaces must be provided for various development types. The zoning and subdivision ordinance also describes the procedures for subdividing property or undertaking a larger development project.

    Project Plan 

    The Project Plan analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the current Chapter 7 - Zoning & Subdivision Ordinance, and provides Clarion’s recommendations for amendments based on stakeholder interviews and PlanCOS.  The Project Plan will be used as a general guide during the re-write drafting process.  It is important to note that this document does not reflect Staff recommendations or final changes to Chapter 7.  Concepts will evolve throughout the processes based on input from the steering committees, public, and the Planning Commission and City Council.

    View project plan 

     The public will have the opportunity at key points in the process to learn about the proposed technical updates and how they support PlanCOS, as well as provide input, prior to final adoption by City Council.

      Project Scope                  

      In addition to the implementation of PlanCOS through zoning and subdivision standards…

      RetoolCOS will focus on:           

      RetoolCOS will NOT focus on:

      • Review of dimensional standards, zoning classifications, and use tables
      • Site design standards
      • MultimodalIncluding more than one mode of transportation. For example, a facility that accommodates lanes for motorized vehicles, bike lanes, sidewalks, and transit stops. transportation options
      • Modifying restrictive zoning districts to allow for more creative development projects to would enhance neighborhoods
      • Parking ratios
      • Landscape standards
      • Flexibility for mixed-use developmentDevelopment that integrates two or more land uses, such as residential, commercial, and office, with a strong pedestrian orientation. and land use patterns
      • Inclusion of user-friendly graphics to illustrate regulations and make the Code more intuitive
      • Building and construction codes
      • Sign regulations
      • Parkland and school land dedication
      • Impact fees
      • Standards for fiscal impact analyses
      • Short-term rentals
      • Accessory dwelling units
      • Wireless communication facilities/small cell telecommunication facilities

      Frequently Asked Questions

      What is the zoning and subdivision ordinance?

      The zoning and subdivision ordinance is the part of the City Code that governs land use, growth, and development. Like most zoning and subdivision ordinances, it divides the City into different zoning districts. Each zoning district has its own rules and regulations that determine how much buffering and what kind of landscaping is required between properties, the maximum height and size of buildings, where they can be located on a property, and how they can be used.   It regulates how property can be subdivided, and sets requirements for new residential and commercial subdivisions such as the width of streets, the type of drainage and stormwater facilities needed, and minimum lot size. The ordinance also establishes a set of procedures for applying to subdivide land, for rezoning properties, and allowing different uses on properties.

      Why does the zoning and subdivision ordinance need to be updated?

      The zoning and subdivision ordinance has not been comprehensively updated since the 1990s. While City Council has approved multiple changes to the ordinance since then, there are inconsistencies throughout the text which make it difficult to use. It lacks some of the features of more modern codes such as a logical and intuitive organization, useful illustrations, cross-references, and consistent review procedures. All of these features, lacking in the current ordinance, make development more predictable and understandable. In addition, the ordinance does not support the type of development advocated by the community during the preparation and adoption of PlanCOS.

      As one example, Goal UP-4 of PlanCOS calls for developing “active, unique, and connected centers and corridors” that incorporate higher levels of design for both private and public space. However, the zoning and subdivision ordinance does not allow this type of development throughout most of the City. Most zoning districts require traditional suburban style development with low buildings setback from the road, often fronted by garages, and make it difficult or impossible to do high-quality infillDevelopment of vacant land within previously built areas. These areas are already served by public infrastructures, such as transportation and utilities. Parks and open space are also considered infill, since they are permanent uses for vacant parcels. development that supports this goal from PlanCOS.

      What will be the end result of RetoolCOS?

      The goal of this project is to develop a new, modern Unified Development Code (UDC) that is adopted by City Council and implemented by City staff.  This UDC will improve the land development regulations for everyone—City residents, property owners, developers, and City staff. This updated code will be easier to use and understand, include procedures for efficient and effective administration of land-use regulations, provide improved standards that help the City achieve high-quality infill and redevelopment, and fully support multimodal transportation. The new UDC will allow the City to implement the vision established in PlanCOS.

      What is the timeline for RetoolCOS?

      The RetoolCOS project was initiated in December 2019.  The new Unified Development Code (UDC) is scheduled for adoption in 2022.

      Project staff is currently updating the project timeline. This page will provide a link once complete and participants will receive an emailed copy. For those who would like to be notified, please email RetoolCOS@ColoradoSprings.Gov

      About the Process

      The RetoolCOS project is organized into five distinct phases, as illustrated below. Drafting and review of the Unified Development Code (UDC) will occur in three installments: zoning districts and permitted uses, development and design standards, and review and approval procedures. During Phase 2, opportunities for community and stakeholder input will be provided in conjunction with each of these draft UDC Modules. Additional input opportunities will be provided when a consolidated public draft is released during Phase 3, and again as part of the adoption process.

      The Retool process will take shape over the coming months and the Unified Development Code adoption is anticipated for 2022.

      Project Management and Advisory Groups

      The Planning and Community Development Department is managing the RetoolCOS project and is being assisted by Clarion Associates, a Technical Committee, and an Advisory Committee. 

      The Technical Committee is made up of internal City Staff, CSU, and PPRBD members who are involved in the development review process. 

      The Advisory Committee is comprised of elected and community representatives familiar with and/or directly involved in the development process, including City Council and City Planning Commission members, HBA (Housing and Building Association) representation, and CONO (Council of Neighborhood Organizations). 

      Current Advisory Committee Members:     

      • Jason Alwine – Matrix Design
      • Andrea Barlow – NES
      • Kyle Campbell – HBA (Housing & Building Association)
      • Max Cupp – Citizen Representative
      • Caleb David – Commercial Real Estate
      • Jan Doran – Citizen Representative
      • Alison Eubanks – City Planning Commission
      • Todd Goodman – JE Dunn Construction
      • Nancy Henjum – City Council
      • Scott Hente – City Planning Commission
      • Rick Hoover – CONO (Council of Neighborhood Organizations)
      • Amy Kelley – USAFA
      • George Nehme – Pikes Peak Association of Realtors
      • Laura Nelson – Apartment Association of Southern Colorado
      • Simon Penner – Commercial Real Estate
      • Henry Reitwiesner – AIA (American Institute of Architects)
      • Ayoka Paek – Peterson Air Force Base
      • Robert Shonkwiler – Citizen Representative
      • Tim Siebert – Nor’wood
      • Tom Strand – City Council
      • Clarissa Thomas – Pikes Peak Association of Realtors
      • Kevin Walker – HBA (Housing & Building Association)
      • Tom Taylor – HBA (Housing & Building Association)

      Community Participation

      City Council Update

      The City Council voted to approve the Unified Development Code (UDC) with changed with an 8-1 vote (Councilmember Donelson voting no) at the first reading held on January 24, 2023. Changes have been outlined below. 

      • Do not include requirements for Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations as recommended by the Planning Commission. 
      • Add Subsection 7.1.1031 to read "Enhance the quality, diversity, and safety of neighborhoods by encouraging pride and investment."
      • Keep existing OR Office Residential district as-is.
      • Increase the radius for appeal standing to 3-miles.
      • Add 2g to Subsection 7.4.202B to state "Properties withing the HP-O district or on the National Registry of Historic Properties are not eligible for this incentive.

      All changes that were requested by Planning Commission and City Council have been captures in the linked "clean" version of the RetoolCOS Unified Development Code (UDC).

      The UDC was formally adopted at the second reading held on February 14, 2023.

      The next phase is Phase 5:: Implementation which includes, but is not limited to, rezonings to be reflective of amended sone districts, updates to applications/checklists, and training. Once this final phase is completed, the UDC will go into effect on June 5, 2023.

      Planning Commission Update

      On October 28, 2022, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval (8-0 with Commissioner Briggs absent) of the RetoolCOS Amended Final Draft to the City Council with the following requested changes.

      • Clarification in proposed ADS-O: Area Design Standards Overlay that a request can be initiated through a Council-adopted Neighborhood Plan OR Stakeholder Engagement Plan;
      • Minor changes to the HP-O: Historic Preservation Overlay that were unintentionally not included in the Amended Final Draft;
      • Revise R-1 6 and R-2 front setbacks (house) to 15 ft or 10 ft (respectively) “or average of two adjacent or nearest developed properties facing the same street frontage, whichever is greater”;
      • Draft Subsection 7.3.304.A.2.a – increase from 8’ to 12’ for accessory structure maximum height; and
      • Re-insert EV parking requirements (Pre-Amended Final Draft Subsection 7.4.1008.I).

      The RetoolCOS Amended Final Draft and Planning Commission-requested changes will be presented to the City Council in the near future. This website will be updated and participants will receive communication with the date once determined. As this will be a public hearing, participation is welcomed either in-person or virtually through the Teams meeting link. The link can be found in the meeting agenda packet once posted.

      Amended Final Draft

      The RetoolCOS Amended Final Draft (Unified Development Code) can be reviewed by accessing this link.

      Updates and scheduling information will be updated on the RetoolCOS project page and shared with RetoolCOS project participants. To be included in those communications, please email

      Past Events

      Virtual Open House – Consolidated Draft (October 5, 2021) 

      Meeting Documents:

      Virtual Open House – Module 3: Review and Approval Procedures (July 6, 2021)

      Meeting Documents

      Virtual Open House Modules #1 & #2 (March 24, 2021)

      Meeting Documents

      Virtual Open House Module #2 (November 17, 2020)

      Meeting Documents

      Vitual Open House Module #1 (May 5, 2020)

      Meeting documents

      RetoolCOS Open House: Project Plan (February 18, 2020)

      This meeting was an opportunity for the public to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the current Code and hear Clarion Associates’ preliminary recommendations for improvements to the Code to improve the quality of development, provide a more efficient land development process, and meet the goals and objectives of PlanCOS.

      Project Kickoff Open House for RetoolCOS

      Tuesday, December 3, 2019

      Opportunity for the general public to learn more about the RetoolCOS project, meet and ask questions of the project team, and provide input on successes and shortcomings of the City’s current zoning and subdivision ordinance as it pertains to the implementation of PlanCOS. 

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