Douglas County Government offices closed Monday, July 5Continue Reading

Site Planning and Design

Home tucked into hillside to avoid perching on a visible ridgeline

Site planning involves the thoughtful placement and orientation of buildings, driveways and other site improvements. The following principles are suggestions to help enhance the value and appearance of a property while avoiding negative impacts on the surrounding rural community and environment.

Building Placement and Massing

  • To reduce the amount of site disturbance and corresponding grading expense, structure location should respond to the natural landforms, drainage patterns, topography, and vegetation.
  • On sloping sites, building floor elevations should be stepped accordingly to avoid high retaining walls and extensive cut and fill slopes.
  • Building structures on a prominent ridgeline can obstruct the skyline views of the surrounding community while also making the structure more susceptible to high winds and other natural elements such as lightning. Instead, consider building on the edge of slopes where views are still possible, natural windbreaks occur, and where mountain and skyline vistas are preserved.
  • Environmental constraints such as floodplains, geologic conditions, and areas susceptible to wildfire may exist on rural properties. When choosing a location for homes and accessory structures, it is imperative to consider these constraints. The Douglas County Comprehensive Master Plan has information and maps regarding environmental constraints, however, site-specific research is advised.
  • Consideration should also be given to wildlife habitat and movement areas.  In order to protect wildlife habitats and preserve open space, property owners are encouraged to cluster buildings close to one another, away from obvious wildlife corridors.

Driveway Placement

  • Driveways should be designed to reduce the amount of cut and fill required and limit the need for retaining walls. Careful driveway placement will minimize the impact on existing topography, plant materials, rock outcroppings, and drainage patterns while minimizing overall driveway length to facilitate access in an emergency.
  • Driveways must be designed in accordance with the requirements set forth in the Douglas County Building Codes and a permit must be obtained.


Douglas County has a unique history that reflects the architectural styles of traditional ranching and the equestrian forms of the American West.  While no one style is characteristic of the County, the following are suggestions which may help landowners better consider rural compatibility through the home design process: 


    • Architectural composition should complement the natural and rural character of the specific surroundings.  The County has diverse landscapes (i.e. flat grassy plains and steep mountain slopes), which should be considered when selecting an architectural theme.


    • Within the design of each building, it is recommended that natural building materials such as wood (or wood appearance), stone, stucco, or brick should be encouraged to blend with the natural environment. Large expanses of a single building material should be avoided.
    • Anti-glare windows may be appropriate for a home sited on a slope or other highly visible location where sun glare could be an issue.


    • In order to blend with the natural environment, owners should choose colors from an earth-tone palette or those with a lower “Light Reflectance Value” (LRV). An LRV of 0 is black and 100 is white. Highly-reflective colors are discouraged except for limited use on trim or other accent elements. Most paint manufacturers provide LRV’s for their colors. 
Incorporate a variety of natural materials and breaks in the roofline and facade


    • Because the roof is often a dominant design element on a home, it should be compatible with the surrounding natural and built environment.  Parcels with relatively even (flat) topography and minimal vegetative screening should utilize a lower roof pitch.  On parcels with relatively steep slopes and substantial vegetative screening, steeper roof pitches may be appropriate.
    • Uninterrupted roof planes and excessive roof pitch should be avoided.  Homeowners should choose roofing materials for both aesthetic appeal and function.  For the safety of homeowners, Douglas County prohibits the use of shake shingles due to fire danger. 

Accessory Structures

    • Accessory structures should be arranged in clusters or compounds that are complementary extensions of the main home and use similar colors and materials.

Exterior Lighting:

Although lighting is used for both security and aesthetic enhancement, it is important to consider the surrounding environment when choosing lighting elements.  Night sky views are highly valued in Douglas  County; therefore, the selection of lighting that does not pose a nuisance to surrounding neighbors is encouraged. Although the County does not formally regulate residential lighting, it is recommended that these guidelines be followed to help citizens minimize light pollution, glare, and trespass.

Unshielded barn light that produces night time glare
Fully shielded barn light minimized light spill-over
    • It is recommended that the number of exterior residential lighting fixtures on a lot be limited to only those necessary for entries and way finding. Lighting at entries and decks should be placed below an eave or shielded so that emitted light is downcast with no direct light radiated towards the sky or adjacent properties.  The amount of light produced should be designated to maintain a minimum comfort level necessary for safety and security purposes.
    • Lighting at driveways and other entries should be limited to fixture types that are mounted low to the ground and do not exceed a maximum of 900 lumens. Landscape lighting is discouraged, especially up-lighting or “moonlighting” of trees and other landscape characteristics.
    • All light should be directed towards the property being served and not spill onto neighboring properties or roads.
    • All security or exterior lighting fixtures for agricultural buildings and uses should be fully shielded, meaning no portion of the bulb is visible, either through or below the fixture. Unshielded barn and pole lights can be major sources of night-time glare and nuisance.
    • Motion detectors may be allowed to control security lighting; however, individual switches with timers are preferred.

Lighting limitations for agricultural and residential purposes are generally not regulatory in nature.


xeric landscape drought tolerant plants, mulch and rocks
Xeric landscape conserves water use while adding visual appeal

The continued availability of water resources is a high priority for Douglas County rural residents. Landscape design should, first and foremost, keep water conservation in mind.

    • Native plants, or plants that are low water use, can create a pleasing landscape.  Native plants blend with the natural landscape and keep water use to a minimum. Non-native materials should be used sparingly and sited in areas close to the main home. For more information regarding water-wise landscapes, visit the CSU Extension Office.
    • For water conservation purposes, it is recommended that irrigated turf or other irrigated landscape materials be minimized.
    • A drip irrigation system is encouraged for homeowners interested in seasonal food-producing gardens. Drip irrigation systems use significantly less water than spray watering.


One fence type that works well for wildlife movement

Fencing should be selected keeping wildlife and the surrounding community in mind.  Wise fencing choices can minimize the environmental and visual impact that fences may have.

    • Fencing for agricultural purposes should be designed to accomplish its intended purpose.
    • Privacy fencing, or fencing for pets and children, should be limited to areas directly around the home.
    • Fences act as a barrier to daily movement and seasonal migration of wildlife. For this reason, fence designs should be consistent with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife’s fencing information (scroll down for brochures, layouts, and fact sheets). Generally, these standards require an open rail or wire fence design with a minimum height of 16” to the bottom rail or wire height and maximum 42” top rail or wire height. When another fence type is needed to contain animals or define grazing pastures, fence breaks or movement corridors through some portion of the property may be needed.