If you are considering buying a building lot or larger piece of land in Boulder County or elsewhere in the area, a bit of background will help you understand the dynamics of our current situation.
State Law. You need to understand that state law prohibits landowners from subdividing their property into parcels of less than 35 acres unless the city or county in which the property is located approves the subdivision. For several decades, Boulder County has approved such subdivisions only under very special circumstances, thus restricting the availability of new building lots within the county’s jurisdiction. As a consequence, most of the building that has occurred in the area has occurred on land annexed to towns and cities or on land in the rural or mountain areas that was subdivided prior to 1970. Once a parcel of land is annexed to a city, the city rather than the county determines whether and how the land can be subdivided and developed.
Preserving Open Space and Rural Areas. The reason that Boulder County has restricted subdivisions in the rural and mountain areas over the past decades is to try to preserve these areas in their current natural or agricultural state and to stop suburban sprawl. Both through direct purchases of land for preservation purposes and through regulations and practices to restrict growth and development, Boulder County and all the cities within it are actively involved in efforts to stop or slow new construction outside incorporated towns or cities. In recent years, this led to efforts by the county to stop building on mountain mining claims, to city of Boulder regulations that resulted in lottery drawings for building permits where the winners draw 1/4 of a building permit, and to a referendum in the city Lafayette restricting the number of building permits that can be issued in a given year.
Limited Building Sites. The intended cumulative effect of all these efforts are that very few potential building sites are available, that the sites that are available are fairly expensive, and that the risks of running into trouble in your efforts to build are almost inevitable. The system is set up to discourage you and everyone else from building anything.