Open House to Learn More About Conditional Zoning

Post Date:11/06/2017 5:04 PM

 As part of ongoing efforts to improve the development review process, the Town of Chapel Hill is considering whether to allow opportunities for applicants to request conditional zoning in a limited number of additional zoning districts. All rezoning requests would still come forward to the Council as part of its standard review.


Named “conditional zoning,” the tool is used in about 45 percent of all rezoning applications statewide. A proposed text amendment to Chapel Hill’s Land Use Management Ordinance (LUMO) considers the use of conditional zoning in non-single family detached dwelling districts. Conditional zoning currently is applied only in Chapel Hill’s Innovative, Light Industrial Conditional Zoning District (Enterprise Zone).


An open house for the public to learn more about the proposal is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, in the first floor conference room of Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. A second open house will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, in Room 344 of Town Hall. This open house will be held prior to a public hearing at 7 p.m. that day in which the Council will receive public comment on the proposal.


The Council is revisiting a presentation on various development review options – including conditional zoning -- made by David Owens of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government in November 2016. “Conditional zoning is proving to be very popular with elected officials, landowners, and many neighbors because it allows zoning to be tailored more carefully to a particular situation,” said Dr. Owens. “In some of the state’s larger cities, 80 to 90 percent of the rezonings use conditional zoning.” Read more from Owens here:


Conditional Zoning is Proposed Only in the following Districts


  • R-5 (Residential District that permit multi-family dwellings)
  • R-6 (Residential District that permit multi-family dwellings)
  • Town Center (TC-1, TC-2, and TC-3)
  • Community Commercial (CC)
  • Neighborhood Commercial (N.C.)
  • Office/Institutional (OI-1, OI-2, OI-3)
  • Mixed Use –Village (MU-V)


Conditional Zoning overview


  • Conditional zoning is a rezoning with conditions. In other words, conditional zoning allows a governmental body to rezone a parcel subject to certain conditions, mutually agreed to by the applicant and the governmental body, that are designed to protect the surrounding area.


  • Conditional zoning is a legislative process, not a quasi‐judicial one. Therefore, the rules governing ex parte conversation allow for more conversation, making it easier for the general public to provide input. In addition, the approval process can be more efficient because development applications need only to seek a rezoning, not a rezoning and a special use permit, which is the Town’s current process for conditional use districts.


Using the tool


  • In considering a request for a conditional zoning district, the Town Council may approve conditions or use limitations that are mutually agreeable to the applicant and the Town. A typical application for a conditional zoning district will include a list of only those land uses permitted on the subject site as well as a rezoning plan that includes pertinent development details such as the number of dwelling units, the number and location of parking lots, building massing, site layout, building envelopes, open space, vehicular and pedestrian circulation, etc.


  • Conditional zoning does not predetermine the form of development, such as with a form based code.  The approach proposed for Chapel Hill would use the conventional zoning standards in the LUMO, and would permit the applicant and the Town to customize them given the subject site’s surroundings and particulars.


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