Frequently Asked Questions

Print
Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

General Planning Questions

Land Development Application/ Permit Questions

Town Council and Advisory Board Questions

Zoning Questions

Is my property in the Town of Chapel Hill's jurisdiction?

To determine if your property is in the Town of Chapel Hill's jurisdiction, view the Chapel Hill Jurisdictional Limits Map.

return to top

What is the Permit Center and where is it?

The Permit Center provides support for all questions related to development applications. It is next to the Inspections Division on the Third Floor of the Town Hall, located at 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Chapel Hill, NC 27514, near the intersection with North Columbia Street. Walk-in hours can be found here.

return to top

What is a land-use plan?

 A land-use plan is a visual representation of land use goals described in the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. The Land Use Plan does not outline zoning districts. Rather, it can be thought of as a blueprint for growth. It is a decision-making guide to help the Town Council, citizen advisory boards and Town staff in making decisions regarding proposed developments and regulations. When the Land Use Plan is updated via input from Town residents and approval from the Town Council approval is required. You can view the current Land Use Plan by clicking here.

return to top

What is a "Small Area Plan"?

A small area plan is a detailed, long-range land-use plan that is focused on a particular size limited area. Small area plans guide future land-use expectations and decisions for the Town Council, advisory boards, and Town staff, as well as developers and property owners. Small area plans work in conjunction with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and Design Guidelines and may vary in relation to surrounding land uses as well as transportation, housing, and economic development goals, for example. Each small area plan is unique and may be amended over time. Community members, including people who live in the specific area, work with Town planning staff, and in some cases consultants, to develop the plans. Click here to see current small area plans and related documents.

return to top

What is a "Comprehensive Plan"?

A comprehensive plan is the Community’s vision of how the town should grow and function over the next 10 or more years. It includes goals, objectives, and policies to guide the Town Council’s day to day decisions in managing Chapel Hill’s future. The Comprehensive Plan is updated every 10 years or so based on input from Town residents. To learn more about what a comprehensive plan is click here.

return to top

What kind of application do I need to complete a project on my lot?

The type of application you need depends on the use(s) you are proposing, the area of land disturbance, and if your parcel is inside any special overlay zoning districts. For descriptions of allowable land uses in Chapel Hill click here. To see which uses are permitted in a particular zoning district click here. (Note: Zoning districts are organized by column and Land uses are organized by row).

As of January 1, 2014, All Single Family and Two Family Residential Projects will use a combined Zoning-Building Permit Application. View more information about this application on the Development Services website.

Development within a Zoning Overlay District is subject to special regulations. Please see the entry on Zoning Overlay Districts below. For more information please call the Planning Department at 919-968-2728

return to top

How long does it take to review and approve an application?

  • The amount of time required for application approval varies by the type of application and the complexity of the project and the volume of applications being submitted
  • Single Family and Two Family Residential projects (excluding new duplexes) will be reviewed by Planning and Inspections staff in 30 business days or less.  
  • The Planning Department is required to take action in 30 business days on complete Zoning Compliance Permits, Sign Permits, and Home Occupation Permits, but may take less time depending on the complexity of the application.
  • Applications requiring Advisory Board review such as a Concept Plan, Site Plan, Minor Subdivision, Community Design Commission Review or a Historic District Commission Review typically take several months.
  • Complex Applications requiring Town Council Review such as a Special Use Permit, Major Subdivision, and Rezoning, can take between 12 and 18 months, but may take longer depending on application complexity.

    return to top

    What kinds of changes require a Historic Certificate of Appropriateness?

    • Any exterior portion of any building or other structure (including masonry walls, fences, fixtures, steps, and pavement, or other appurtenant features), or any above ground utility structure, or any type of outdoor advertising require a Certificate of Appropriateness before it can be erected, altered, restored, moved, or demolished.
    • Ordinary maintenance or repair of any exterior architectural feature that does not involve a change in design, material or outer appearance typically does not require a certificate of appropriateness. To learn more, please see the Planning Department's Historic District web page.

    return to top

    Do I need an application for a fence?

    Fences under 6 feet in height typically only require a Zoning Compliance Permit Exemption. Fences that are 6 feet in height or higher will require a permit. Please contact the Planning Department at 919-968-2728 for additional information. Note that additional regulations apply for properties within a Historic District, Resource Conservation District and the Jordan Buffer.

    return to top

    How do I apply for a sign?

    For an individual property you will need a sign permit. Please see Section 5.14 for sign design standards. If the property owner has established a Unified Sign Plan for your property, additional design standards will apply, please contact your property owner or the Planning Department 919-968-2728 to obtain a copy of the Unified Sign Plan.

    return to top

    Do I need a permit to remove trees from my lot?

    A permit is not required to remove trees from a Single-Family Residential property. If your lot is a non-residential or multi-family residential use, a Zoning Compliance Permit may be required for the removal of trees- contact the Town's Urban Forester at 919-969-5116 before removing trees.

    return to top

    Does the Town have a survey of my lot?

    In some cases the Town may have a plat of an entire subdivision where a lot is located, but typically we do not have surveys for individual lots. The Orange County Register of Deeds may have a recorded survey; you can contact them at (919)-245-2675. You may also search Real Estate related documents for Orange County online, more information can be found here. If your Property is in Durham County, you may access the Durham County Government Tax Administration Record Search by clicking here.

    return to top

    If I am displeased with a decision made by Town how do I appeal the decision?

    Any decision made by Town staff, the Planning Board, the Historic District Commission, or the Community Design Commission may be appealed within 30 days of notification of the decision. The applicant must submit an appeal application which can be found on the forms page.

    return to top

    If I am proposing something that is not in compliance with the Land Use Management Ordinance how do I apply for a Variance?

    The Section of the Land Use Management Ordinance regarding variances can be found here. (sections 4.10-4.12). The application for a Variance can be found on the forms page.

    return to top

    When and Where are Town Council Meetings Held?

    Town Council Business Meetings are typically held on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of most months. Public hearings are held on the 3rd Monday of the month. To view a calendar of meetings click here.

    All meetings are held in the Council Chambers on the first floor of the Town Hall. The Town Hall is located at 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Chapel Hill, NC 27514
    NOTE: Holidays may necessitate variation in the meeting schedule. There are no Town Council meetings in July and August.

    return to top

    Where can I find upcoming agenda items for Town Council Meetings?

    Upcoming meeting agenda items are posted at least a week in advance and can be found here.

    Where can I find agendas, minutes, and videos from past Town Council Meetings?

    These items are posted by noon on the Friday following the meeting on the Town’s website. Click here to access them.

    return to top

    Where can I find Information on Advisory Boards and Commissions?

    Click here to view the Boards and Commissions page. On that page you will find links to their descriptions and meeting locations and times. You can also find upcoming and past agenda items by clicking here.

    return to top

    How do I volunteer to serve on a Town Advisory Board?

    To learn about current vacancies and to download an application form please click here. Please note that applications are reviewed in the spring of each year and need to be submitted by April 1 of the year you wish to be considered for appointment. Applications will stay on file for one year.

    return to top

    How can I comment on development applications?

    You may send comments to planning@townofchapelhill.org, as well as attend advisory board and Town Council meetings. If you have not received notification of meeting dates for the application of interest, please send an email to the above Planning Department address or call 919-968-2728. Click here for more information on advisory board meeting times and agendas.

    Click here for information on Town Council meetings and agendas.

    Click here to view a list of pending development applications.

    return to top

    How can I provide feedback to the Town Council?

    There are multiple ways to provide feedback to the Town Council, including oral statements during Council meetings and/ or written materials submitted prior to the Council Meeting. Click here for more information. Additionally, you may provide feedback at citizen advisory board meetings. Click here to view upcoming meetings and agendas.

    return to top

    What is the zoning on my lot?

    You can determine the zoning district for your property on the Town's online GIS tool using the following instructions below. Alternatively, you can view an online zoning map.  

    1. Access the Town's online GIS Tool. Read the disclaimer and click "I accept the above conditions"

    2. Click on the "Find Parcels" button on the top left of the screen and enter your Parcel Identifier Number (PIN) and then select "Find". 

            2A. Alternatively, click on "Find Address" and enter your address and then select "Find".

    3. Right click on your PIN (or address) in the "Results" window and select "zoom to." To zoom in further, click on the plus symbol near the top left of the map.

    4. The color on your lot corresponds to the zoning district. Click on the plus symbol next to "Zoning Districts" on "Map Contents" to view the zoning districts and their corresponding colors. Alternatively, you can move the map around to find a maroon label indicating the zoning district.

     

    Step 2 (Example):

    Image showing location of seach fields

     

    Step 3 (Example):

    step 3

     

    Step 4 (Example):

    step 5

    Image indicating Zoning

    • If the Zoning is not displayed make sure the box next to “Zoning Districts” in the “Map Contents” window is checked. You may also need to zoom out to view the zoning labels.
    • If you need further assistance using the GIS Tool to find the zoning on your lot, please call the Planning Department at 919-968-2728.
    • You can also purchase a print version of the zoning map for a nominal fee by calling the planning Department.

    return to top

    What are Special Protection Areas and how do they affect how I can develop my property?

    Special Protection Areas are designed to protect either natural resources or the existing built environment. Development within a Special Protection Area is subject to special regulations in addition to those associated with the zoning district for your property.

    Jordan Buffer: The Jordan Lake Watershed Riparian Buffer (Jordan Buffer), created by the State, regulates activities and uses in streamside areas. Jordan Buffers apply to perennial and intermittent water features that are shown in one of the following places:

    • The most recent paper version of the U.S. National Resource Conservation Service soil survey map
    • The most recent version of the U.S. Geological Survey 1:24,000 scale quadrangle topographic map
    • Town-prepared map approved by the Geographic Information Coordinating Council and EMC.

     A Stream Determination result will indicate whether or not a stream has a Jordan Buffer. For more information related to Jordan Buffer, view the Stormwater Division's Jordan Lake Rules web page.

    Resource Conservation District: Resource Conservation District (RCD) is a part of the Town’s Land Use Management Ordinance and it regulates the types of uses and activities allowed in streamside areas. The size of the buffer is dependent upon the date your lot was created, the steepness of your lot, and the classification of the stream. To determine whether or not your property contains a stream with a RCD, view the FAQ entry on this topic. For more information regarding RCDs, view the Stormwater Division's RCD web page.

    Historic District: Historic Districts, established by the Town, are designed to preserve and enhance historic neighborhoods and structures in Chapel Hill. To learn what kind of changes to property require a Certificate of Appropriateness, view the FAQ entry on this topic. To lean more, view the Planning Department's Historic District web page.

    Neighborhood Conservation District: Neighborhood Conservation Districts, established by the Town, are designed to protect the quality of established neighborhoods in Chapel Hill. To learn more. view the Planning Department's Neighborhood Conservation District web page.

    return to top

    How can I determine if my lot is within a Neighborhood Conservation District or a Historic District?

    To determine if your lot is within a Historic District or a  Neighborhood Conservation District, you can lookup your property on the Town's online GIS Tool using the following instructions:

    1. Access the Town's online GIS Tool. Read the disclaimer and click "I accept the above conditions"

    2. Click on the "Find Parcels" button on the top left of the screen and enter your Parcel Identifier Number (PIN) and then select "Find".

            2A. Alternatively, click on "Find Address" and enter your address and then select "Find".

    3. Right click on your PIN (or address) in the "Results" window and select "zoom to." To zoom in further, click on the plus symbol near the top left of the map.

    4. To view overlay zones check the box next to “Overlay Zoning Districts” in the “Map Contents” window. Click the plus sign next to “Overlay Zoning Districts” in the “Map Contents” window to view the legend.

     

    Step 2 (Example):

    Image showing location of seach fields

     

    Step 3 (Example):

      step 3

     

    Step 4 (Example):

    step 1

     Step 2

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Image indicating overlay districts

    **If you need further assistance using the GIS Tool to determine if your lot is within a Neighborhood Conservation District or a Historic District please call the Planning Department at 919-968-2728.

    You can also access online zoning maps here. You can call the Planning Department at 919-968-2728 to purchase a print zoning map for a nominal fee.

    return to top

    How Can I determine if my lot is within a Resource Conservation District?

    The approximate location of Resource Conservation District (RCD) can be determined using the Town's online GIS tool and following the instructions below. If the GIS tool indicates that a RCD buffer is on or adjacent to your property, you will need to contact the Stormwater Division to determine its exact location and size. See the FAQ regarding stream determinations for additional information.

    To determine the approximate location of RCD, do the following:

    1. Access the Town's online GIS tool. Read the disclaimer and click "I accept the above conditions"

    2. Click on the "Find Parcels" button on the top left of the screen and enter your Parcel Identifier Number (PIN)

            2A. Alternatively, click on "Find Address" and enter your address

    3. Right click on your PIN (or address) in the "Results" window and select "zoom to." To zoom in further, click on the plus symbol near the top left of the map.  

    4. Check the box next to "Hydrology Classifications" in the "Map Contents" window. The three-colored shape surrounding the stream indicates the approximate location of RCD. To view the legend for the RCD buffer, click the plus box next to "Hydrology Classifications" and then click the plus box next to "Resource Conservation District Buffers"

     

    Step 2 (Example):

    Image showing location of seach fields

     

    Step 3 (Example):

    step 3

     

    Step 4 (Example):

    Image showing the location of RCD buffers

    return to top

    How can I obtain a Stream Determination for my property?

    This information can be obtained from Development Services or from the Stormwater division. If the Town has completed a stream determination for the stream on or near your property, then you can contact Development Services at 919-969-5066 to get the result. If the Town has not completed a Stream Determination then you will need to complete a Stream Determination Request and submit it to the Stormwater Division.

    To determine whether or not a Stream Determination has been completed, you can check on the Town’s online GIS tool and use the following directions:

    1. Access the Town's GIS tool by clicking here. Read the disclaimer and click "I accept the above conditions"

    2. Click on the "Find Parcels" button on the top left the screen and enter your Parcel Identifier Number (PIN).

            2A. Alternatively, click on "Find Address" and enter your address

    3. Right click on your PIN (or address) in the "Results" window and select "zoom to." If you need to zoom in further, click the plus symbol near the top left of the map.

    4. Check the box next to "Hydrology Classifications" in the "Map Contents" window and click the plus symbol next to "Hydrology Classifications. Next click the Plus symbols next to "Streams Needing a Site Visit" and Streams not Needing a Site Visit" 

     

    Step 2 (Example):

    Image showing location of seach fields

     

    Step 3 (Example):

    step 3

     

    Step 4 (Example):

    Step 1

    Step 2

    Step 4A (Example): Examples of a stream that needs a site visit (red) and one that does not (purple).

    Image indicating streams that need a stream determination

    If your property has one of the symbols under “Streams Not Needing a Site Visit,” Development services has a record on file.

    return to top

    What are the setbacks on my lot?

    To determine the required setback for your lot, you first need to know the zoning for your property. Click here to view the FAQ entry for zoning. Once you have determined the zoning, refer to table 3.8-1 in the Land Use Management Ordinance. Setback requirements are recorded in Columns H, I, and J and zoning districts are recorded in Column A.

    Notes: Properties in Southern Village and Meadowmont are subject to different requirements. You should also check for additional requirements in your neighborhood’s restrictive covenant if applicable.

    return to top

    Can I put an accessory dwelling unit on my property?

    If the use on your current property is Single Family Residential, and if you comply with Section 3.8 of the Land Use Management Ordinance, you may place an Accessory Dwelling Unit in the following zones: R-LD5, RT, R-LD1, R-1A, R-1, R-2, R-2A, R-3, R-4, R-5, R-6, R-SS-C, TC-1, T-2, T-3, CC, NC, OI-1, OI-2, OI-3, OI-4, H, and OI. (From section 3.7 and table 3.7-1 of the Land Use Management Ordinance). You must also comply with the Definition for Dwelling Units, Single-Family with Accessory Apartment, which can be accessed by clicking here.

    return to top

    How can I find out more about the rezoning process?

    Please refer to Rezoning - A Citizen's Guide and Rezoning Protest Petition.
    For detailed information, please refer to Section 4.4 of the Land Use Management Ordinance.

    return to top

     

    View Full Site