Hillside Overlay

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Hillside Overlay

The current Hillside Ordinance was approved in 1996. The Ordinance defines hillside terminology and outlines development requirements for properties within the Hillside Overlay Zone. A companion to the Ordinance, the Hillside Design Manual was first published in July of 1996 and reprinted in 2000. 


The purpose of the Hillside Overlay is to specify conditions for any type of development to ensure that these areas retain their unique characteristics, to safeguard the natural features of the City, and to protect the public health, welfare, and safety. The Hillside Overlay seeks to conserve the aesthetic qualities of hillside areas within the City, to provide safe and convenient access to those areas, to minimize water runoff and soil erosion problems, to assure type, distribution and densities of development which are compatible with the hillside, to preserve wildlife habitat and wetland areas, and to encourage innovative, environmentally sensitive design techniques.

Review Criteria and Development Standards

Development within a Hillside Overlay zone is subject to additional review requirements and criteria. No building or structure may be erected, reconstructed or structurally altered on land which is designated with the HS overlay zone designation, nor can any land be subdivided, graded or otherwise disturbed unless the developer/property owner complies with all hillside development requirements and first obtains approval from the City via site plan or development plan review.

Site Plans and Development Plans

The predominant development type in hillside areas is single family detached housing. For this type of development a hillside site plan is required. The content of the hillside site plan is outlined in the Hillside Design Manual. Care should be taken to minimize terrain disturbance, preserve natural vegetation, and mitigate visual impacts upon off site areas.

A hillside development plan is required before the submittal of a subdivision plat. The hillside development plan is only one part of the overall hillside development submittal package, which includes a master facilities plan, a land suitability analysis, and a grading plan, erosion and stormwater quality control plan. For more information, visit Section 7.3.504 of the City Code. 

Additional Information

Developing within the Hillside Overlay zone district requires an environmental sensitivity above and beyond that applied to general property within the City limits. Development within the Hillside Overlay zone requires additional attention to slopes, grading, vegetation and building height. Additional studies, such as Geologic Hazard Reports, will almost certainly be required in order to ensure lasting and safe development. 

Hillside Property Maintenance

Properties within the Hillside Overlay Zone are subject to specific regulations regarding any physical modification. Mostly, these regulations do not apply to routine maintenance. 

Maintenance of Vegetation

One objective of the Hillside Ordinance is to conserve the unique natural features of hillside areas. Thus, it is the property owner’s responsibility to care for the existing vegetation, including trees, shrubs and grasses, on hillside properties.

Oftentimes, it may be necessary to hand-groom accumulated soils over 6 inches from the roots of scrub oak, to trim dead and dying tree branches, and to ensure that a clear perimeter is maintained around any building on a hillside property.

From a fire-protection perspective, the Hillside Ordinance specifies a “Safety Zone” of 30 feet around buildings, not to extend past the property line, to protect from fire. Within this safety zone, maintenance is especially important. Trees should be checked for dead branches and overlapping limbs and these limbs should be pruned.

Removal of Vegetation

The Hillside Overlay prohibits the out-right removal of existing vegetation except in certain situations. For example, a clear-zone of 10 feet surrounding a building is required by the Fire Department. Any vegetation may be removed within this area without approval from City agencies.

Dead and dying vegetation is also allowed to be removed within the “Safety Zone” but may later need to be replaced. Removal of any other vegetation may require approval from the Development Review Enterprise (DRE). Contact the DRE at (719) 385-5982 or visit its offices at 2880 International Circle.

Erosion Control

Hillside properties often have soils that are easily eroded and therefore, it is imperative that water run-off is minimized. Many hillside properties are subject to specified erosion control facilities. These facilities must be maintained by the owner. For more information on possible erosion control measures, contact the DRE.


Any changes to the slopes or contours of the lot such as grading or retaining wall installation is required to be approved by the DRE before any work is started.

Additional Information