LUMO Update: Neighborhood Character Standards

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Neighborhood Character Standards

Status Update: On November 23rd, 2015 the Council closed the public hearing and took no action on this possible ordinance amendment.

Neighborhood Character Standards are a possible zoning tool that could be used to protect the character of a neighborhood and also allow flexibility, room for reinvestment, and change that is compatible with surrounding homes.

If adopted into the LUMO, the Neighborhood Character Standards would be contextual - For example, when new construction or an addition is proposed, the applicant would need to demonstrate that the new construction/addition is compatible with the surrounding structures.            

These Standards are currently in draft form and will be considered by the Council during the Council Business Meeting on November 23, 2015. 


Staff Recommendation for Neighborhood Character Standards

The following staff recommendation was endorsed by the Planning Commission during the November 5, 2015 Planning Commission meeting. This recommendation will be presented to the Town Council during the November 23, 2015 Business Meeting.

Recommendation #1: Not to adopt as a part of the Land Use Management Ordinance

  • We are recommending that the proposed Neighborhood Character Standards are not adopted as a part of the Land Use Management Ordinance.  
  • Our recommendation is that the Town, as a part of the future phase of the LUMO update process, evaluate the underlying residential zoning districts for possible improvements to the regulations.


  • Since the public input process began in June of 2015, we have not received strong support for these regulations.
  • In April 2014, the Council requested that regulations be developed which could apply to the Roosevelt Drive neighborhood. Staff emailed and sent postcards to the Roosevelt Drive neighbors to gauge interest in the proposed NCS applying to this neighborhood. The postcard was sent to 45 property owners, and we received two responses from neighbors, both of whom were not in support of developing new Standards.
  • Due to the passage of NC Senate Bill 25, the Town's ability to enforce some zoning elements has been restricted which limit the usefulness of these Standards.
  • We recognize that these proposed Standards would serve as a "Band-Aid" - they provide some additional neighborhood protections but do not solve the underlying issue which is that many of the residential districts do not adequately represent the characters of the homes in the neighborhoods.


Recommendation #2: Guidelines for Historic Districts

  • We recommend that these Standards be used as guidelines in the local Historic Districts.


  • We received support for using the NCS as guidelines from the Historic District Commission, Planning Commission, and community members.
  • As guidelines, these Standards could help Town staff and the Historic District Commission when reviewing applications for new development or additions.



What would the proposed Standards regulate?

Note: Staff is recommending that these Standards not be adopted as a part of the LUMO. The proposed Standards currently include the following topics. The Council has not yet adopted these Standards. For a copy of the latest draft, click here.

  • Height
  • Setbacks
  • Garages/Carports
  • Porches
  • Ground Floor Elevation
  • Lot width for new subdivisions


Would these impact existing Neighborhood Conservation Districts?

Note: Staff is recommending that these Standards not be adopted as a part of the LUMO. No - If adopted, these Standards would serve as an alternative option to the Town's Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD) zoning overlay and would not affect existing NCDs. Existing Neighborhood Conservation Districts would remain in place. 



Possible Community Benefit

  • Preservation of neighborhood character




Every city has a set of development regulations that serve as the rulebook for things like where a building can be located on a property, how tall it can be, or even how close the structure can sit to the nearest road. This same set of rules also govern the design of streets, the streetscape, parking lots, site lighting, signage, water quality and landscaping.

In Chapel Hill, these regulations are contained in the Land Use Management Ordinance or "LUMO" for short. Updating the LUMO was one of the community's goals expressed in Chapel Hill 2020, the comprehensive plan that guides our community's vision for the future.

Phase One of the project includes a look at the following topics: bed and breakfasts, signage, accessory apartments, neighborhood character standards, parking lot landscaping and water quality.




Topic Area Lead - Have questions? Contact John!
John Richardson, Planning Manager for Sustainability
Phone: 919-969-5075


Review the Draft Standards and Public Feedback!



Public Comments



Connections to Chapel Hill 2020


Technical and Reference Data

  • On April 21st, 2014, the Council passed a resolution to proceed with the development of Town-wide Neighborhood Character Standards (also known as "Contextual Infill Standards") that could be applied specifically to the Roosevelt Drive neighborhood.

Excerpt about Neighborhood Character Standards (also known as "Contextual Infill Standards") from page 25 of the Land Use Management Ordinance Critique & Technical Report:

The idea of neighborhood conservation districts is not unique to Chapel Hill. Many communities have special rules for neighborhoods that may not meet the criteria for historic district protection. These districts typically focus on scale, massing, and other site dimensional standards. Another approach is to incorporate these types of infill protection into contextual infill standards. Contextual infill standards apply generally and address issues of lot width, setback, height, and garage or front porch placement. They base their standards on the established pattern on a given block face. In Chapel Hill these infill standards might be useful in limiting the number of neighborhoods that feel it necessary to have specially crafted neighborhood conservation districts.

Click here for more information about the entire LUMO Update Project, including a full list of topic areas.


Past Events

  LUMO Stakeholder Meeting to Gather Public Input 
  5:30 PM at the Library
  (Materials: presentation)

  LUMO Stakeholder Meeting to Review Public Drafts  
  1:00-2:30 PM at the Library (midday session)
  5:00-6:30 PM at the Library (evening session)
  (Materials: handoutposteroverviewpresentation)


  Community Design Commission
  (Materials: presentation


  Planning Commission Reviews (All Topics)   
  (Materials: memopresentation

  Council Public Hearing (All Topics)
  (Materials: presentation)

  Planning Commission Reviews (All Topics) 
  (Materials: memopresentation)


  Council Business Meeting

  • All Topics 

  (Materials: memopresentation)




  Council Business Meeting

  • All Topics 

  (Materials: memopresentation)


Materials from the Public Information Meetings - August 3 and 31, 2015

Thank you to all who attended the Neighborhood Character Standards Public Information Meetings on August 3 and 31, 2015. During the meeting, staff provided an overview of the proposed Standards, listened to input, and responded to questions.

The following are materials from the August 3rd Public Information Meeting:

The following are materials from the August 31st Public Information Meeting:


Have questions or ideas? Contact John Richardson, Planning Manager for Sustainability, at or 919-969-5075.




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