Learn About the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan

The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan is used by the City of Boulder and Boulder County to guide long-range planning, the review of development proposals and other activities that shape the built and natural environments in the Boulder Valley.

Project Overview

The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan (PDF) seeks to protect the natural environment of the Boulder Valley while fostering a livable, vibrant and sustainable community. The plan provides a general statement of the community’s desires for future development and preservation of the Boulder Valley, and the city and county use it to guide long-range planning, the review of development proposals and other activities that shape the built and natural environments in the Boulder Valley.

The plan was first approved in 1977. Since then, seven major updates have been completed: 1982, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2017. The updates allow the community to change the plan to reflect and address current conditions, changed circumstances and community values and needs.

In December 2020, both City Council and Planning Board approved the 2020 Mid-Term Update to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.

The Land Use Map shows the current land use designations for properties in the Boulder Valley.

2020 Mid-Term Update

The mid-term update, a routine process to ensure the BVCP, incorporates recent area plans and current maps, is taking place in 2020-2021. The mid-term update reviews progress made against objectives identified in the last major plan update, provides an opportunity for the public to request changes to the plan that do not involve significant city and county resources, and makes minor additions or clarifications to the policy section.

Updates to BVCP policies and text and land use are described here:

On Oct. 12, 2021 City Council approved zoning changes to implement the land use changes approved in the Midterm Update:

What Does The Plan Do?

The aim of the first plan approved in 1977 was to concentrate urban development in the city and preserve the rural character of lands outside the city service area. Since then, the plan has evolved to also do the following:

  • State the community's core values, commitments and long-term vision
  • Guide decisions about growth, development, preservation, environmental protection, economic development, affordable housing, culture and arts, urban design, neighborhood character, and transportation
  • Inform decisions about how services such as police, fire, water utilities and others are provided
  • Define the desired land use pattern for the Boulder Valley by establishing the location, type and intensity of development and setting land use designations
  • Offer a starting point as the community develops strategies and policies to confront emerging issues and challenges
  • Serve as a foundation for master plans created by city and county departments
  • Be consulted during site and development reviews for proposed new construction

For more details, see the Boulder Planning 101 guide.


What is the Boulder Valley? What communities are included?

The plan affects a defined area--the City of Boulder and portions of unincorporated Boulder County, including Gunbarrel--and does not include or affect neighboring communities such as Louisville and Lafayette.

The Boulder Valley planning area is generally bounded by:

  • The mountains on the west
  • Neva Road and Niwot Road on the north
  • Mineral Road on the northeast
  • 95th Street on the east,
  • Davidson Mesa and the Coal Creek drainage on the southeast,
  • The south county line on the south

See map below for more details.

Boulder Valley Outline Map

What are Area I, II, III and the Planning Reserve?

Area I is the area within the City of Boulder. This land has adequate urban facilities and services and is expected to continue to accommodate urban development.

Area II is under Boulder County's jurisdiction, where annexation to the city could be considered. New urban development may only occur if adequate facilities and services are or will be available.

Area III is the remainder of the Boulder Valley and for the most part is in Boulder County. The Area III-Rural Preservation Area is preserved for rural land uses and character. The Area III-Planning Reserve Area is where the city and county maintain the option of future development.

Who Approves the Comp Plan? Who Writes It?

The community's elected leaders on the Boulder City Council and the Boulder County Board of County Commissioners, along with the city’s appointed Planning Board and county’s Planning Commission approve changes to the plan. These governmental bodies provide guidance to the City of Boulder's Planning & Development Services Department and Boulder County's Community Planning & Permitting Department, which conduct public outreach, do research and draft the plan.

Further Information & Maps

Sustainability and Resilience Framework

The framework explicitly identifies the community’s values expressed in the BVCP.

Community Profile

The Boulder Community Profile gives an overview of the key indicators and trends of Boulder population, housing, jobs, and land use.

Analysis, Maps and Reports

As part of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan Update, the City of Boulder and Boulder County conducted extensive research about the community. This includes demographic and economic research, projections of future population, job and housing growth, and in-depth looks at topics such as transportation and environmental sustainability.