Policies & Programs

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Resource Conservation

Carbon Reduction Program

In 2006, the Town of Chapel Hill became the first U.S. municipality to Carbon Reduction Programcommit to a 60 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 through the Carbon Reduction Program. The Council authorized the pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from Town municipal operations on a per capita basis, beginning with an initial goal of 5 percent reduction by 2010.

As of 2015, emissions per capita for Town operations are 6.7% below 2005 levels. The Town population has increased by 20% over the same 10-year period. These results indicate that the Town has lowered emissions from operations relative to an increase in population size and corresponding service demand.
Comparatively, absolute emissions from Town operations are 11.5% higher than in 2005; however, this number is down 7.5% since an emissions peak in 2010. Click here for a more complete summary of the 2015 emissions inventory.


LEED-Based Energy Ordinance

Any new or expanded building constructed by and for the town and meeting LEED-Based Energy Ordinancethe applicability criteria in section 5-123 shall employ the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System throughout their design, construction, and operation unless the town council determines that such certification is not in keeping with the use or purpose of the building or is otherwise inappropriate. The LEED Green Building Rating System refers to the most recent version of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Commercial Green Building Rating System, or other related LEED Rating System, approved by the U.S. Green Building Council. Read more about the LEED-Based Energy Ordinance.


Joint Chapel Hill-Carrboro-Orange County Greenhouse Gas Emissions Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and Reduction PlanInventory and Reduction Plan

This plan is part of ICLEI’s Cities for Climate Protection Campaign. Read more about the Memorandum of Agreement for the Joint Chapel Hill-Carrboro-Orange County Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and Reduction Plan.


Energy Bank

In the November 4, 2003, bond referendum, the citizens of the Town of Energy BankChapel Hill voted in favor of a $500,000 (current balance is $475,000) bond for creation of an Energy Bank. The purpose of these bond funds is to acquire, construct, equip and install energy efficient facilities in certain existing public buildings, including, without limitation, the acquisition of lighting, heating, ventilating, air conditioning and related fixtures, machinery and equipment. It is envisioned that the documented savings attributable to projects completed with these funds will be used to reimburse the fund for the cost of the project. Energy Bank Policies and Procedures Manual.

Renewable Energy Planning in Rezoning Applications

It is the expectation of the Council that applicants seeking approval of Renewable Energy Planning in Rezoning Applicationsconditional use rezoning with accompanying special use permits will demonstrate site planning, landscaping, and structure design which maximize the potential for energy conservation and use of renewable energy by reducing the demand for artificial heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting, and facilitating the use of solar and other energy resources. The Council expanded this policy in April 2007 to encourage applicants to include a “20 percent more energy efficient” feature in their development plans.



Environmental & Public Health

Resource Conservation District

In 1985, Chapel Hill established the Resource Conservation District as an overlay zoning district. Underlying general-use zoning (e.g., Residential-1, Neighborhood Commercial, etc.) establishes what uses are permitted on a property, along with dimensional standards for structures. Overlay zones, such as the Historic Districts, Airport Hazard District, and Resource Conservation District, place additional restrictions on properties because of special considerations.

In the case of the Resource Conservation District, those special considerations are the protection of stream corridors and prevention of property damage from floods. RCD regulations were significantly modified on January 27, 2003, with the adoption of the new Land Use Management Ordinance.


Watershed Protection District

The Watershed Protection District (printable map) is a sensitive area of land that drains to Jordan Lake Reservoir, a drinking water source for thousands of North Carolinians, and a potential future drinking water source for Chapel Hill. As part of the NC Division of Water Quality's Water Supply Watershed Development Regulations, land use within this area has strict requirements for density, Resource Conservation Districts, use of toxic materials, and construction standards.


Protecting Trees in Chapel Hill

The Council has initiated proposed changes to the Tree Protection Ordinance that would establish a new vision statement that calls for no net loss of trees/canopy cover and an increase in trees proportional to population growth. Regulations propose a permitting process for tree removal on private property, including residential. The first step of the phased proposal would require a permit to remove trees in a cumulative area of more than 5,000 square feet. Changes are also proposed to lower the threshold size of trees that must be surveyed. The ordinance revision is linked to a Townwide commitment to sustainability with the potential to reduce carbon emissions and decrease the urban “heat-island” effect.





Fare Free Transit

In January 2002, Chapel Hill Transit began providing fare-free bus Fare Free Transitservices to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro-University community. Chapel Hill created a Town-operated bus service in 1974 in response to increased concerns about traffic on Town streets, inadequacy of parking at the University and UNC Hospitals, and environmental issues. The University contracted with Chapel Hill to help support the system and has been a partner in the operation for the past 30 years. Carrboro joined the partnership in 1977 and has participated continuously since that time.

Green Fleets Policy

The Council established a Green Fleets Policy in 2005 that requires the Green Fleets PolicyTown to obtain energy efficient vehicles and to operate its fleets in a manner that is energy efficient and minimizes emissions. The Town endeavors to decrease energy expenditures for its fleets by 3 percent at the end of 2007-08. The policy expresses the Council’s commitment to reducing energy consumption and dependence on foreign oil, and to improving air quality.



Economic Development

Downtown Economic Development Initiative

The Town Council has initiated a $75 million development project to construct a three-section building complex combining condominiums, retail, and parking on Town-owned Parking Lot 5 in downtown Chapel Hill.

Town Creates Economic Development Officer Position (April 2007)

The economic development officer will work with the Town Manager and Council to develop a clear economic development strategy using the Town’s adopted plans; work with the Town Manager and staff to seek improvements in the Town’s development process that maintain excellent results; and identify potential projects and begin conversations to forge redevelopment.




Open Space & Land Use

Rural Buffer

An area surrounding Chapel Hill and Carrboro that will remain at lower density. The Rural Buffer defines the urban services boundary and the limit of Chapel Hill and Carrboro’s growth.

Chapel Hill ETJ Planning Jurisdiction

This area is subject to Chapel Hill’s Land Use Management Ordinance for development activities. Map of Chapel Hill Planning Areas




Affordable Housing

Affordable Housing Ordinance

For information about the Town's Affordable Housing policies, click here






Community Education & Civic Participation

Town Sustainability Committee

A permanent Town committee was established in May 2007 to address all forms of renewable energy and energy efficiency. May 7, 2007, Council Memorandum



Human Dignity

Justice in Action Committee

The Justice in Action Committee (renamed from Continuing Concerns Committee) held its first meeting in early 2006. It was formed by the Council to address concerns surrounding race, class, power, economics and social justice that currently face the Town of Chapel Hill. Read more about the Justice in Action Committee.



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