Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson

Estes Valley Plan

6.0 Purpose and Use of the Plan

A. Community-Wide Policies


The Town of Estes Park and Larimer County share responsibility for planning future land use and development within the Valley. One of the tools for implementing the Estes Park Directions Comprehensive Plan is defining the policies jointly adopted by the Town of Estes Park and Larimer County. They are intended to reinforce the vision statement and Future Land Uses proposed earlier in this document

The policies included in this section provide a framework for preparing future regulations. These policies will need to be implemented through the adoption of revised zoning, subdivision, and development regulations. The specific actions necessary to accomplish this task are outlined in the Action Plan (Chapter Seven).

The policies are presented in the following sections:

  1. Land Use
  2. Community Design
  3. Growth Management
  4. Mobility and Circulation
  5. Housing
  6. Scenic and Environmental Quality
  7. Economics
  8. Intergovernmental Coordination

Land use policies are intended to provide additional guidance with regard to placement and organization of development within the Valley. They apply throughout the Valley and affect all types of development.

Policies include:

1.1 Adopt a Uniform Land Use Classification System and development regulations for the Valley (as described in Chapter Four)

1.2 Develop land use performance standards which address development in varying environmental and locational settings (e.g., slope, riparian system, wildlife, entry-ways, etc). The performance standards shall be developed in an open and fair process involving land owners, the Town of Estes Park, Larimer County, the National Park Service and other affected interests. Performance standards shall be designed which are reasonable, understandable and responsible to residents and their rights.

1.3 Encourage existing and future community commercial uses to locate within a compact, well defined downtown business district.

1.4 Encourage the concentration of cultural uses and activities in the downtown business district.

1.5 Provide a pedestrian-friendly downtown environment which provides for pedestrian movement, areas for relaxing, gathering and window shopping.

1.6 Encourage outdoor public spaces, including spaces for outdoor gathering, dining, nature and people watching.

1.7 Urban land use should occur within the Town limits of Estes Park.

1.8 Larimer County and the Town of Estes Park are committed to work together to implement the plan with honesty, respect for people and their rights in an open and fair process.

1.9 The maps and text included in the Estes Valley Comprehensive Plan are to serve as a general guideline to the staff, property owners and governmental entities during the implementation of the plan. The maps do not represent the zoning of the Valley, but rather a representation of general land use patterns appropriate for the Valley. Rezoning to uses other than those depicted in the plan may be appropriate if the applicant demonstrates that the proposals are compatible with the plan policies.

1.10 Larimer County reaffirms that the current zoning as represented on County Zoning maps are in place, acknowledged, and operative for the purpose of obtaining building permits and processing land development applications until such times as the zoning is legally changed.


The quality of life for residents and the visitor experience within the Estes Valley is, in large part, determined by the natural setting and relatively unspoiled environment. Without attention to detail in how development occurs within the Valley, this natural setting and high quality environment could be threatened.

The concept for architectural and environmental design standards is to develop a set of guidelines which are keyed to the varying land forms, vegetative cover types, and development types within the Valley. The primary purpose of these guidelines is to achieve development which compliments and respects the natural setting, and to protect and retain the high quality of the environment.

Policies include:

2.1 Develop urban design plans to improve the appearance and function of Beaver Point, Spur 66 Entrance, Highway 34 East.

2.2 Locate and design buildings to fit the land. Avoid excessive cuts and fills by stepping buildings down sloping sites. Use retaining walls to minimize the cut and fill slopes.

2.3 Utilize plant materials that are indigenous to the Valley.

2.4 Initiate planting programs to soften the visual impact of existing development.

  • Buildings that must be located in open areas should be clustered, designed and landscaped to blend into their surroundings to the maximum extent possible.
  • Significant open areas should be retained between clusters of buildings to provide visual separation of structures.
  • Building materials and colors should blend in with the native landscape.
  • Buildings should be set deep enough into wooded edges so that the tree cover remains visually dominant.
  • Buildings should utilize natural materials and colors so that they blend visually with the tree cover.
  • Removal of trees on steep slopes and ridgelines should be discouraged, except as required for wildfire protection.
2.5 Avoid the use of roofing materials which are light colored or reflect light.

2.6 The natural colors of wood and stone are most desirable for building exteriors.

2.7 Facades should be broken up with windows, doors or other architectural features to provide visual relief.

2.8 Avoid use of metal siding along highway entries.

2.9 Monument signs, constructed of stone or wood and incorporated into the landscaping, are preferred over freestanding pole mounted signs.

2.10 Lighting should be shielded and directed downward, so that the light source is not visible from beyond the property line, and does not illuminate surrounding properties or the sky.


The future land use plan is intended to enhance and preserve the natural beauty of the Valley, ensure that critical open space is maintained as development occurs and that population growth and commercial development proceed at manageable rates.

Policies include:

3.1 Encourage infill of older core areas in order to reduce infrastructure costs and to stabilize residential neighborhoods.

3.2 Implement the future land use plan through adoption of new development regulations and performance standards.

3.3 Evaluate the potential for an impact fee system.

3.4 New development regulations should consider level of service criteria.


Mobility and circulation policies focus on the creation of a comprehensive and interconnected system of roads and trails within the Valley. They are also intended to promote a move toward alternative modes of transportation over time.

Policies include:

4.1 Encourage a comprehensive and balanced transportation system for the Valley, while maintaining a local road system that is consistent with the rural mountain resort character of the Valley.

4.2 Promote street system connections between developments and promote an interconnected roadway system throughout the community which minimizes cul-de-sacs.

4.3 Provide a street linkage between U.S. 34 and U.S. 36 west of downtown.

4.4 Encourage roadway standards that allow for preservation of distinctive landforms and significant vegetation within the right-of-way without sacrificing safety.

4.5 Encourage an adequate blend of public and private parking for both residents and visitors.

4.6 Create a comprehensive and integrated trail system for the Estes Valley.

4.7 Implement access control improvements as development occurs.

4.8 Encourage movement toward alternative modes of transportation.

4.9 Define the roles of public and private transit providers in order to create more efficient operations.

4.10 Encourage Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) to contribute toward the creation of a public transit link between RMNP and the Town.


The success of a community depends upon the continued availability of adequate housing for all income groups. Promoting a balance of housing opportunities will assist residents and businesses within the community.

Policies include:

5.1 Encourage a variety of housing types and price ranges.

5.2 Encourage housing for permanent residents of all sectors of the community that is integrated into and dispersed throughout existing neighborhoods.

5.3 Establish a balanced program of incentives, and public and private actions, to provide affordable housing.

5.4 Encourage redevelopment of existing substandard areas.

5.5 Provide for mixed use developments which integrate commercial, housing, employment, and service needs.

5.6 Encourage housing infill within the existing urban area.

5.7 Identify affordable housing opportunities on an ongoing basis.

5.8 Regularly evaluate regulations and eliminate unnecessary requirements.

5.9 Support the creation of public and private funding sources for affordable housing.

5.10 Establish a linkage between new developments and the provision of affordable housing.


The quality of life for residents and the visitor experience within the Valley are, in large part, determined by the natural setting and relatively unspoiled environment. Many components of the natural environment have attracted the tourist and resident alike. They include clean water, a pristine landscape and beautiful views. Environmental resources and scenic quality are the foundations of the economy and critical livability factors for residents. Protecting these important environmental assets is necessary to maintain a high quality community.

Policies include:

6.1 Maintain the quality of Estes Valley's scenic and natural resources; these resources are the keystone of the community's economic strength and quality of life.

6.2 Protect the scenic character and visual quality of the open space and gateway experience to the Valley and Rocky Mountain National Park.

6.3 Protect and enhance Lake Estes as an entry to the Town of Estes Park.

6.4 Protect the natural beauty of the Valley and acquire key parcels of land and create an open space network through land acquisition, development agreements, and conservation easements for preservation of open space.

6.5 Improve the overall image and character of developed areas within the Valley that detract from the visual quality of the Valley.

6.6 Ensure that new development minimizes the impacts to visual and environmental quality within the Valley.

6.7 Avoid development on skylined ridgelines.

6.8 Require development on slopes over 25 percent to meet specific standards of development.

6.9 Protect existing vegetation by minimizing disturbance outside of the building envelope, except as required for wildfire protection.

6.10 Minimize development impacts within riparian areas, wetlands, and floodplains.

6.11 Encourage the conservation and protection of native wildlife and vegetation habitats, with performance standards.

6.12 Work with landowners and appropriate agencies to reduce the threat of wildfires.

6.13 Develop an interconnected open space system which provides a framework for existing and future development.

6.14 Encourage sensitive trail connections and linkages.

6.15 Work with and support the efforts of the Estes Valley Land Trust and similar organizations as they pursue land preservation and open space acquisition.

6.16 Establish requirements for provision of open space in new developments.

6.17 Continue to acquire properties for the Big Thompson greenbelt, on East Riverside Drive.

6.18 A wildfire management plan shall be prepared by the developer for all developments for sites designated as "high wildfire hazard".


The area's economy, lifestyle, and environment are closely interconnected. Therefore it is critical to explore economic development options in keeping with the scale of the community and which respect the surrounding environment.

Policies include:

7.1 Maintain a unique blend of businesses, residents and visitors, without negatively affecting the natural beauty of the Estes Valley.

7.2 Develop eco-tourism, which relies on a high quality physical setting and minimal impact on the environment, as a component of the existing tourism industry.

7.3 Sustain and support the existing tourism industry and marketing programs.

7.4 Encourage environmentally clean economic development that is compatible with adjacent land uses and the natural environment.

7.5 Recruit businesses and companies that benefit from the environment and fit with community values.

7.6 Encourage high technology infrastructure (i.e., fiber optic cables) to attract high technology companies and "lone eagle" business people.

7.7 Establish the basis for a sound tourism market and sustainable economic climate.

7.8 Develop training programs for individuals entering the hospitality industry.

7.9 Build on strength of retirement community

7.10 Require that commercially zoned land be developed as commercial as the principal use.


Implementing and monitoring the variety of elements contained in this plan require the participation and cooperation of a number of different parties. The plan can be successfully implemented only if cooperation exists.

Policies include:

8.1 The Town and County shall work together to create an Estes Valley Planning Commission.

8.2 The Town and County shall work together to develop a uniform set of development regulations and standards for the Estes Valley.

8.3 The Town and the County shall work together to implement the Comprehensive Plan, to ensure that future development takes place in an orderly fashion that takes advantage of existing urban services, and that avoids non-contiguous, scattered development within the Estes Valley.

8.4 The Town and the County will encourage redevelopment and infill as a primary tool to create a compact community and to prevent sprawl.

8.5 A joint partnership between the Town, Estes Park Urban Renewal Authority, Larimer County, Rocky Mountain National Park and other state and federal agencies will be created to promote integrated planning which meets the goals of the various entities and creates a model for natural resource preservation, tourism, and sustainable communities.

B. Planning Area Guidelines


Because of the diverse natural resource and physical features within the Valley, it was decided to create subareas which reflect the natural features within neighborhoods such as: ridgelines, drainageways, neighborhoods, similar land uses, and, in some cases, jurisdictional and/or special improvement boundaries. By creating seven (7) planning areas, the Town of Estes Park and Larimer County were able to evaluate and determine future land use plans and guidelines which are unique to the subarea community of residents and businesses.

The subareas and subarea policies development guidelines are complementary and, in fact, reinforce the overall comprehensive community-wide goals, objectives, policies and the Future Land Use Plan. The subarea plans are reflective of specific objectives and policies which the neighborhood residents felt were critical to include as part of the Comprehensive Plan.

Next chapter - Chapter 6-1 - Planning Area 1: The North End

Background Image: Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson. All rights reserved.