Vested Rights and Development Agreements: What Planners Should Know

APA Colorado Chapter


Wednesday, October 4, 2017
3:30 p.m. - 5 p.m. MDT

CM | 1.50
L | 1.50

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The terms “vested rights” and “development agreement” often make planners cringe.  But these tools are frequently underutilized methods for addressing some of the complex issues associated with new projects, including everything from zoning regulations to infrastructure requirements.  This session will explore some of the basic legal principles associated with vested rights and development agreements, and will provide practical advice on when and how to best use these tools to achieve outcomes unavailable under run-of-the-mill zoning.

Learning Objectives

1.  Basic understanding of the vested property rights doctrine, including how and when landowners obtain vested property rights that would preclude subsequent zoning or land use regulation.

2.  A working knowledge of the Colorado Vested Rights Act and how it applies to local governments and planners.

3.  The benefits and drawbacks of development agreements for local governments and private developers, and the times at which using a development agreement with vested rights is most valuable.


  1. Introduction
  2. Overview of Vested Property Rights
    1. What are vested property rights?
    2. When does a property owner obtain vested property rights?
    3. What are the limitations on local governments and zoning authorities when vested rights accrue?
    4. Common law vested rights versus statutory vested rights
  3. Vested Rights in Colorado
    1. The Vested Rights Act
    2. Site Specific Development Plans
    3. Development Agreements
  4. Overview of Development Agreements
    1. What is a development agreement?
    2. When is a development agreement appropriate?  When is it not appropriate?
    3. What types of items does a development agreement address?
    4. How enforceable are development agreements?
  5. Vested Rights and Development Agreements in Practice
    1. Benefits of development agreements and vested rights
    2. Drawbacks of development agreements and vested rights
    3. Examples of development agreements based on panelists’ experience
  6. Questions and answers

CM Criteria: 

1.   The activity meets a planning-related objective, is unbiased and non-promotional, and will communicate a educational purpose.  The session will introduce planners to the vested rights doctrine, and will educate attendees on the appropriate times and ways in which to use development agreements as a planning tool.

2.  The session will be led by experienced planner-attorneys who have significant experience negotiating, drafting, and implementing development agreements.  Materials for the session will include electronic presentations, as well as examples of development agreements that the panelists have used in their practices.  No proprietary information will be used.


3.  We will meet this requirement with assistance from the conference organizers.

CM LAW: The activity relates to an existing planning law, the Colorado Vested Rights Act, and will provide updates on new cases and local governments’ application of the vested rights doctrine.  Examples of good and bad approaches to vested rights and development agreements will be used during the session.



Brian Connolly

Invited Speaker

Brian Connolly represents public- and private-sector clients in matters relating to zoning, planning, development entitlements and other complex regulatory issues. Brian’s practice encompasses a broad range of land use matters including zoning compliance, rezonings and other regulatory amendments, planned-unit developments, development agreements, private covenants and restrictions, land use and ... Read More

Eric Heil, AICP

Invited Speaker

Eric Heil of Heil Law & Planning LLC is an attorney and certified land planner with 22 years of experience representing municipalities and local governments in Colorado. Over the course of his career Mr. Heil has served as a municipal attorney, community development planner, town manager and project administrator. Mr. Heil has presented on the topics of Legal, Planning and Environmental Issues Associated with Mining Claims; Annexation and Development Agreements; Ethics for Planners; Brownfields Redevelopment Law; The Role of Non-Profits in Brownfields Redevelopments; Recent Land Use Law in Colorado; Buying and Selling Property with Environmental Liabilities; Real Estate Transactions with Municipalities; and Right Code, Right Place; and Evaluating Tax Increment ... Read More

Contact Info

Shelia Booth,