Living with Nature: the Environmental Setting

EnvironmentalWildfire Hazard Areas and Mitigation Requirements

Many residents highly value the privacy and seclusion of vegetated property.  The risk of potential wildfire should be carefully considered, however. When property is developed, wildfire mitigation may be required. When building in a wildfire hazard area, county staff will require minimum defensible space requirements be met prior to a Certificate of Occupancy for habitable structures, and prior to completion of out buildings. County staff is available to provide assistance to existing homeowners at no charge.

Wildfire regulations and the permit process is described at the following links:

Many subdivisions in the county have completed and adopted Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP). These plans identify collaboratively developed action steps for communities and their partners to take to reduce hazards and risks associated with wildfire within their communities.

Steep Slopes and Soil Hazards

Certain areas of the County, particularly near the western foothills, have significant geologic and other soil hazards which can require expensive foundation designs and other forms of mitigation.  Homes sited within areas of steep slope, rock fall hazard, or steeply dipping bedrock are discouraged.  When a building permit is requested, the County will require the submittal of a site specific soils investigation to ensure that the foundation and other elements of structural design can be accommodated with acceptable levels of risk.

To find out more about the general characteristics of soils in your area, consult the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The County’s Comprehensive Master Plan map indicating general areas of Class 3 hazards, including floodplains can be viewed at  Map 9.1 Class Three Hazards and “Environmental Constraints

Floodplains

As an owner or potential purchaser, you should also be aware of any mapped 100 year floodplains (regulated by both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Douglas County) that may fall within the bounds of your property.  The County keeps records of mapped floodplains and other flood-hazard areas.  In more remote areas, these hazards may not have been mapped.  If you have specific concerns, a professional can be retained to determine the limits of any floodplains on your property.

Activities that would obstruct or alter the course of a mapped floodplain, such as building construction or placement of fill, are prohibited without having first obtained a floodplain development permit from Douglas County.  The elevation of your home and other habitable structures should be sited well above the flood elevation for safety reasons. At the time of building permit, the County will review your driveway alignment relative to the crossing of drainage courses and necessary bridging.  Floodplains and other drainage courses also serve as important wildlife habitat and movement corridors.

Wildlife

One of the benefits of rural living is the opportunity to share your property with many species of wildlife.  However, feeding or otherwise directly interacting with wildlife is not advisable, and often illegal, as animals can quickly become a nuisance, if not a danger, to human beings.  In addition, fed animals can become dependent on humans, losing their ability to fend for themselves in the wild.

Pet food and trash can attract anything from skunks to bears, so it is also important to make sure that trash is put into secure areas until it is taken off the property.  In general, it is best to enjoy wildlife from a distance and home and property owners should know that if their pets and trash are not handled properly, problems will be caused for the owners as well as the wildlife.  The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife provides detailed information regarding living with wildlife.

Weather

Colorado weather can be extreme.  In the more remote areas of the County, rural residents should be prepared for the worst, as access is limited and commercial areas and services are less readily available.

Grading Activities

Many land-disturbance activities require a Grading, Erosion,  and Sediment Control (GESC) Permit from Douglas County.   And while routine agricultural operations and activities are usually exempt from the permit process, other activities will require the issuance of a County grading permit.  Such activities include the construction of berms for sound or visual mitigation and the construction of ponds, among others.  Prior to the start of any grading on your site, please contact the Douglas County Department of Public Works Engineering or reference Section 1.4 and Section 1.5 of the Douglas County Grading, Erosion, and Sediment Control Manual to determine if a permit will be necessary.