Boulder County farmers should be able to add outbuildings to shelter their hay and tractors from the elements. (Photo courtesy: KL Realty).

Some things are inevitable. One is that the human population is increasing and people are living longer, causing all types of pressures on the planet. On a local level we are feeling this along the Front Range: our cities are more crowded, we have sprawling growth to the east, roads are increasingly packed, and our parks and trails are overcrowded and worn down.

Karen Libin, KL Realty

Karen Libin, KL Realty

People are also living differently. Here in the U.S. for many reasons multi-generational households have become more common (like they are in other parts of the world). Children are “leaving the nest” later if they are leaving at all. Having live-in childcare supplied by grandma and grandpa is more popular than in decades. Additionally, more than ever before (and spurred on by COVID) people are working from home. This trend is forecasted to continue.

Some local governing authorities are adjusting to this reality. For instance, the city of Boulder has adjusted regulations for ADUs and implemented other changes (like co-ops) that allow for more living options in the city. These are smart and needed changes that allow new work-from-home possibilities.

Unfortunately a notable exception is Boulder County where the property owners are very limited in their building opportunities due to arcane regulations. First: In terms of the allowable square footage of house size, Boulder County has much more stringent (and rather strangely calculated) rules than the city of Boulder, even if one has a huge property. While most of us don’t want to see humongous McMansions in the country, being able to build a 6,000 square foot house (including the garage) on 30 acres seems like it should be allowed. This is not necessarily the case.

But where Boulder County seems really behind the times is in allowing features for multi-generational living and worker housing. The ability to independently house elderly parents, grown children and/or workers seems like an intelligent use of resources on large acreages especially in the time of COVID. These living situations would certainly alleviate many a family’s issues, help the homeowners by contributing to the property’s tax burden, provide low-income housing to agricultural workers and probably even mitigate road congestion.

Unfortunately, in Boulder County it is all but illegal to have a simple kitchenette in one’s home (for instance, in a basement) to accommodate one’s dependents while affording them a modicum of independence. It seems difficult if not downright impossible to get approvals for ADUs and other outbuildings. The time has come to change this and other stringent and outdated county regulations.

I say let the equestrian develop her farm, grow and store her hay. Let the entrepreneurial organic vegetable producer cultivate and sell his produce from the place where it is grown. Allow the tax-burdened farmer to shelter his hay and tractors from the baking sun, rain and snow instead of continuing to institute onerous regulations of bygone authorities (who most likely did not even live in the county proper). It is time that the outdated building regulations in Boulder County change to reflect our current world, its values and challenges, and the needs and desires of its actual residents.

By Karen Libin, KL Realty. Karen is the owner and managing broker of KL Realty, and has more than 30 years of experience in the Boulder County market. To contact Karen, call 303.4443177, e-mail [email protected] or visit