Setbacks and Building Heights
A setback is the minimum required fixed distance from the property line to any structure on your property, including but not limited to roof appurtenances, chimneys, decks and bay windows. You must know the setback requirements for your property prior to submitting a site plan to the County for a permit.
Building height is the distance measured vertically from any point on a roof or eave to the natural or finished grade, whichever is more restrictive. See below for detailed information on determining building height.
Setback requirements vary depending on zoning classification, road classification, and in some cases, a building envelope established through the platting of a subdivision. Setbacks for RP (residential with plan) and PUD districts are stated in the RP plan or PUD designation. Contact the Planning Department for details on RP zoning (970-668-4200).
General setback requirements from roads, property lines and buildings in specific zoning districts can be found in Figure 3-6: Minimum Setback Requirements of the Development Code. Refer to Section 3505.13: Setbacks in Chapter 3 (pdf) of the Development Code for a description, requirements and exceptions.
Setbacks are measured perpendicular from the closest point of the structure (building foundation walls, eaves, overhangs, decks, etc.) to the lot line or parcel boundary, as illustrated in the figure below.
Setbacks must be measured for the front, sides, and rear of the structure (applicable to a building) in relationship to the lot line. Attached decks more than 18 inches above the ground, steps, cantilevers, eaves, roofs and other appurtenances must be included in the measurement of setbacks. Call or visit the Summit County Planning Department to verify setbacks and any special plat restrictions for your property.
Lot lines are the legal boundaries of a parcel of land, established by a recorded subdivision plat and are classified as front, side, or rear:
- Front: The property line separating a lot from the street. If a lot is bordered by more than one street, the property owner must determine which side of the lot with street frontage is to be considered the front for setback purposes. Each lot proposed for development must have at least one property line designated as the front lot line. Regardless of which lot line is chosen as the front, all property lines adjacent to a roadway are subject to the applicable setback from that road classification. See Figure 3-6 in Chapter 3 (pdf) of the Development Code for setbacks from the different road classifications.
- Rear: The property line opposite to and furthest away from the front property line is designated as the rear property line. However, where a lot is irregular in shape, the Planning Department shall determine which property line is to be designated as the rear property line for setback purposes. Each lot proposed for development shall have at least one property line designated as the rear lot line.
- Side: Any property line bounding a lot which is not designated as either a front or rear property line.
Example of typical setbacks (for illustrative purposes only, exceptions may apply).
Exceptions to Setback Requirements
According to Section 3505.13.G of the Summit County Land Use and Development Code, the following minor structures and uses are allowed in any required setback, as long as they don’t obstruct motorists’ vision at access points.
- Bus shelters used as a part of a community transit system
- Uncovered decks and patios within 18 inches of finished grade
- Driveways, including driveways that must be elevated due to topographic conditions
- Flagpoles that do not exceed the maximum height limit established in the underlying zoning district
- Mailboxes and newspaper tubes
- Landscape planters
- Play equipment
- Signs, with an approved sign permit
- Walls and fences, as provided in Section 3505.17 of the Code
- Minor utility facilities
- Light bollards/fixtures
- Sheds, provided that (1) the sheds are located in the rear or side yard and are located a minimum of 5 feet from all property lines (including the driplines of the shed); and (2) the maximum size of the shed does not exceed 200 square feet of floor area; nor shall the maximum height exceed 8 feet. Sheds larger than 200 square feet must be located outside of the required setbacks.
- Ranch signs and similar entry structures for parcels greater than 5 acres
- Signs as permitted by the Code, subject to any sign setbacks established in the Sign Regulations
- Hot tubs, provided that (1) the hot tubs are located in the rear yard, (2) a minimum setback of 5 feet to all property lines is maintained, and (3) buffering or screening is provided to the adjoining property or properties
- Railings for walkways, patios, decks, stairs or driveways, as required to meet code requirements
- Stairs less than 18 inches above finished grade
- Any structure if it is buried below natural grade if (1) the finished grade provides a smooth transition into the unaltered natural grade, and (2) the setback area retains its open character
- Typical non-structural residential recreational amenities, including play sets, sandboxes, tree houses, benches, picnic tables, grills, dog houses and other similar non-structural residential recreational amenities that do not adversely impact the open character of the setback area
- Solar energy systems, as indicated in Section 3507.01
- Raised garden beds.
Determining Building Height
Summit County's method for determining building height is commonly referred to as the “bulk plane” method. Building height is normally measured from a certified topographic map (site plan) that contains the building footprint. The building height is the distance measured vertically from any point on a proposed or existing roof or eave (including but not limited to the roofing material) to the natural or finished grade (whichever is more restrictive) located directly below said point of the roof or eaves.
This methodology for measuring height limitations can best be visualized as an irregular surface located above the building site at the height limit permitted by the underlying zoning district, having the same shape as the natural or finished grade of the building site (whichever is more restrictive). For more information about height limits and requirements, download our handout on building height (pdf) and see Figure 3-5 (pdf) of the Summit County Land Use & Development Code.
Please be aware that there are some portions of Summit County, primarily within the Keystone PUD, where height is measured using the Uniform Building Code (UBC). It is important to ensure that all permit submittals use the applicable method for demonstrating height compliance.