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.

About the Plan

The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan 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.

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 comp 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. Please see the page for the full text of the most recent adopted plan, including descriptions of its history and implementation process, and links to individual chapters and sections. Or you can download the 2010 plan as a PDF.


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, must approve the changes. These governmental bodies provide guidance to the City of Boulder's Comprehensive Planning Department and Boulder County's Land Use Department, which conduct public outreach, do research and draft the plan.

Resources & Maps

Sustainability and Resilience Framework

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

Community Profile

The 2019 Community Profile gives an overview of the Boulder community.

Analysis, Maps and Reports

As part of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan Update, the City of Boulder and Boulder County are conducting 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.

The 2015 Community Profile is a quick summary of this research, and the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan 2015 Update Trends Report is an in-depth look.

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


2015 BVCP Survey Results with Appendices

2015 Major Update

The 2015 update to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan ( BVCP) is complete along with the 2017 Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) Many decision makers and members of the community provided input to this plan. Thank you! As of July 26, 2017 all four approval bodies have adopted the 2015 Major Update to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan. As part of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan Update, a request has been made to change the Planning Area designation for the Knollwood and Spring Valley subdivisions.

The 2015 Major Update Focus Areas include:

  1. Housing Affordability and Diversity
  2. Growth – Balance of Future Jobs and Housing
  3. Design Quality and Placemaking
  4. Resilience and Climate Commitment
  5. Subcommunities and Area Planning
  6. Arts and Culture
  7. Small Local Business

You can find more information about these focus areas in the following documents:

Adopted Plan: