§ 160D-701. Purposes.
Zoning regulations shall be made in accordance with a comprehensive plan and shall be designed to promote the public health, safety, and general welfare. To that end, the regulations may address, among other things, the following public purposes: to provide adequate light and air; to prevent the overcrowding of land; to avoid undue concentration of population; to lessen congestion in the streets; to secure safety from fire, panic, and dangers; to facilitate the efficient and adequate provision of transportation, water, sewerage, schools, parks, and other public requirements; and to promote the health, safety, morals, or general welfare of the community. The regulations shall be made with reasonable consideration, among other things, as to the character of the district and its peculiar suitability for particular uses and with a view to conserving the value of buildings and encouraging the most appropriate use of land throughout the local government's planning and development regulation jurisdiction. The regulations may not include, as a basis for denying a zoning or rezoning request from a school, the level of service of a road facility or facilities abutting the school or proximately located to the school. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-702. Grant of power.
(a) A local government may adopt zoning regulations. Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c) of this section, a zoning regulation may regulate and restrict the height, number of stories, and size of buildings and other structures; the percentage of lots that may be occupied; the size of yards, courts, and other open spaces; the density of population; the location and use of buildings, structures, and land. A local government may regulate development, including floating homes, over estuarine waters and over lands covered by navigable waters owned by the State pursuant to G.S. 146-12. A zoning regulation shall provide density credits or severable development rights for dedicated rights-of-way pursuant to G.S. 136-66.10 or G.S. 136-66.11. Where appropriate, a zoning regulation may include requirements that street and utility rights-of-way be dedicated to the public, that provision be made of recreational space and facilities, and that performance guarantees be provided, all to the same extent and with the same limitations as provided for in G.S. 160D-804 and G.S. 160D-804.1.
(b) Any regulation relating to building design elements adopted under this Chapter may not be applied to any structures subject to regulation under the North Carolina Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings except under one or more of the following circumstances:
(1) The structures are located in an area designated as a local historic district pursuant to Part 4 of Article 9 of this Chapter.
(2) The structures are located in an area designated as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.
(3) The structures are individually designated as local, State, or national historic landmarks.
(4) The regulations are directly and substantially related to the requirements of applicable safety codes adopted under G.S. 143-138.
(5) Where the regulations are applied to manufactured housing in a manner consistent with G.S. 160D-908 and federal law.
(6) Where the regulations are adopted as a condition of participation in the National Flood Insurance Program.
Regulations prohibited by this subsection may not be applied, directly or indirectly, in any zoning district or conditional district unless voluntarily consented to by the owners of all the property to which those regulations may be applied as part of and in the course of the process of seeking and obtaining a zoning amendment or a zoning, subdivision, or development approval, nor may any such regulations be applied indirectly as part of a review pursuant to G.S. 160D-604 or G.S. 160D-605 of any proposed zoning amendment for consistency with an adopted comprehensive plan or other applicable officially adopted plan.
For the purposes of this subsection, the phrase "building design elements" means exterior building color; type or style of exterior cladding material; style or materials of roof structures or porches; exterior nonstructural architectural ornamentation; location or architectural styling of windows and doors, including garage doors; the number and types of rooms; and the interior layout of rooms. The phrase "building design elements" does not include any of the following: (i) the height, bulk, orientation, or location of a structure on a zoning lot, (ii) the use of buffering or screening to minimize visual impacts, to mitigate the impacts of light and noise, or to protect the privacy of neighbors, or (iii) regulations adopted pursuant to this Article governing the permitted uses of land or structures subject to the North Carolina Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings.
Nothing in this subsection affects the validity or enforceability of private covenants or other contractual agreements among property owners relating to building design elements.
(c) A zoning or other development regulation shall not do any of the following:
(1) Set a minimum square footage of any structures subject to regulation under the North Carolina Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings.
(2) Set a maximum parking space size larger than 9 feet wide by 20 feet long unless the parking space is designated for handicap, parallel, or diagonal parking. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, ss. 15, 51(a), (b), (d); 2022-11, s. 10(a).)
§ 160D-703. Zoning districts.
(a) Types of Zoning Districts. - A local government may divide its territorial jurisdiction into zoning districts of any number, shape, and area deemed best suited to carry out the purposes of this Article. Within those districts, it may regulate and restrict the erection, construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, or use of buildings, structures, or land. Zoning districts may include, but are not be limited to, the following:
(1) Conventional districts, in which a variety of uses are allowed as permitted uses or uses by right and that may also include uses permitted only with a special use permit.
(2) Conditional districts, in which site plans or individualized development conditions are imposed.
(3) Form-based districts, or development form controls, that address the physical form, mass, and density of structures, public spaces, and streetscapes.
(4) Overlay districts, in which different requirements are imposed on certain properties within one or more underlying conventional, conditional, or form-based districts.
(5) Districts allowed by charter.
(b) Conditional Districts. - Property may be placed in a conditional district only in response to a petition by all owners of the property to be included. Specific conditions may be proposed by the petitioner or the local government or its agencies, but only those conditions approved by the local government and consented to by the petitioner in writing may be incorporated into the zoning regulations. Unless consented to by the petitioner in writing, in the exercise of the authority granted by this section, a local government may not require, enforce, or incorporate into the zoning regulations any condition or requirement not authorized by otherwise applicable law, including, without limitation, taxes, impact fees, building design elements within the scope of G.S. 160D-702(b), driveway-related improvements in excess of those allowed in G.S. 136-18(29) and G.S. 160A-307, or other unauthorized limitations on the development or use of land. Conditions and site-specific standards imposed in a conditional district shall be limited to those that address the conformance of the development and use of the site to local government ordinances, plans adopted pursuant to G.S. 160D-501, or the impacts reasonably expected to be generated by the development or use of the site. The zoning regulation may provide that defined minor modifications in conditional district standards that do not involve a change in uses permitted or the density of overall development permitted may be reviewed and approved administratively. Any other modification of the conditions and standards in a conditional district shall follow the same process for approval as are applicable to zoning map amendments. If multiple parcels of land are subject to a conditional zoning, the owners of individual parcels may apply for modification of the conditions so long as the modification would not result in other properties failing to meet the terms of the conditions. Any modifications approved apply only to those properties whose owners petition for the modification.
(b1) Limitations. - For parcels where multifamily structures are an allowable use, a local government may not impose a harmony requirement for permit approval if the development contains affordable housing units for families or individuals with incomes below eighty percent (80%) of the area median income.
(c) Uniformity Within Districts. - Except as authorized by the foregoing, all regulations shall be uniform for each class or kind of building throughout each district but the regulations in one district may differ from those in other districts.
(d) Standards Applicable Regardless of District. - A zoning regulation or unified development ordinance may also include development standards that apply uniformly jurisdiction-wide rather than being applicable only in particular zoning districts. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, ss. 16, 50(b), 51(a), (b), (d); 2021-180, s. 5.16(a).)
§ 160D-704. Incentives.
(a) For the purpose of reducing the amount of energy consumption by new development, a local government may adopt ordinances to grant a density bonus, make adjustments to otherwise applicable development requirements, or provide other incentives within its planning and development regulation jurisdiction, if the person receiving the incentives agrees to construct new development or reconstruct existing development in a manner that the local government determines, based on generally recognized standards established for such purposes, makes a significant contribution to the reduction of energy consumption and increased use of sustainable design principles.
(b) In order to encourage construction that uses sustainable design principles and to improve energy efficiency in buildings, a local government may charge reduced building permit fees or provide partial rebates of building permit fees for buildings that are constructed or renovated using design principles that conform to or exceed one or more of the following certifications or ratings:
(1) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification or higher rating under certification standards adopted by the U.S. Green Building Council.
(2) A One Globe or higher rating under the Green Globes program standards adopted by the Green Building Initiative.
(3) A certification or rating by another nationally recognized certification or rating system that is equivalent or greater than those listed in subdivisions (1) and (2) of this subsection. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-705. Quasi-judicial zoning decisions.
(a) Provisions of Ordinance. - The zoning or unified development ordinance may provide that the board of adjustment, planning board, or governing board hear and decide quasi-judicial zoning decisions. The board shall follow quasi-judicial procedures as specified in G.S. 160D-406 when making any quasi-judicial decision.
(b) Appeals. - Except as otherwise provided by this Chapter, the board of adjustment shall hear and decide appeals from administrative decisions regarding administration and enforcement of the zoning regulation or unified development ordinance and may hear appeals arising out of any other ordinance that regulates land use or development. The provisions of G.S. 160D-405 and G.S. 160D-406 are applicable to these appeals.
(c) Special Use Permits. - The regulations may provide that the board of adjustment, planning board, or governing board hear and decide special use permits in accordance with principles, conditions, safeguards, and procedures specified in the regulations. Reasonable and appropriate conditions and safeguards may be imposed upon these permits. Where appropriate, such conditions may include requirements that street and utility rights-of-way be dedicated to the public and that provision be made for recreational space and facilities. Conditions and safeguards imposed under this subsection shall not include requirements for which the local government does not have authority under statute to regulate nor requirements for which the courts have held to be unenforceable if imposed directly by the local government, including, without limitation, taxes, impact fees, building design elements within the scope of G.S. 160D-702(b), driveway-related improvements in excess of those allowed in G.S. 136-18(29) and G.S. 160A-307, or other unauthorized limitations on the development or use of land.
The regulations may provide that defined minor modifications to special use permits that do not involve a change in uses permitted or the density of overall development permitted may be reviewed and approved administratively. Any other modification or revocation of a special use permit shall follow the same process for approval as is applicable to the approval of a special use permit. If multiple parcels of land are subject to a special use permit, the owners of individual parcels may apply for permit modification so long as the modification would not result in other properties failing to meet the terms of the special use permit or regulations. Any modifications approved apply only to those properties whose owners apply for the modification. The regulation may require that special use permits be recorded with the register of deeds.
(d) Variances. - When unnecessary hardships would result from carrying out the strict letter of a zoning regulation, the board of adjustment shall vary any of the provisions of the zoning regulation upon a showing of all of the following:
(1) Unnecessary hardship would result from the strict application of the regulation. It is not necessary to demonstrate that, in the absence of the variance, no reasonable use can be made of the property.
(2) The hardship results from conditions that are peculiar to the property, such as location, size, or topography. Hardships resulting from personal circumstances, as well as hardships resulting from conditions that are common to the neighborhood or the general public, may not be the basis for granting a variance. A variance may be granted when necessary and appropriate to make a reasonable accommodation under the Federal Fair Housing Act for a person with a disability.
(3) The hardship did not result from actions taken by the applicant or the property owner. The act of purchasing property with knowledge that circumstances exist that may justify the granting of a variance is not a self-created hardship.
(4) The requested variance is consistent with the spirit, purpose, and intent of the regulation, such that public safety is secured and substantial justice is achieved.
No change in permitted uses may be authorized by variance. Appropriate conditions may be imposed on any variance, provided that the conditions are reasonably related to the variance. Any other development regulation that regulates land use or development may provide for variances from the provisions of those ordinances consistent with the provisions of this subsection. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, ss. 17, 50(b), 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-706. Zoning conflicts with other development standards.
(a) Unless otherwise prohibited by G.S. 160A-174(b), when regulations made under authority of this Article require a greater width or size of yards or courts, or require a lower height of a building or fewer number of stories, or require a greater percentage of a lot to be left unoccupied, or impose other higher standards than are required in any other statute or local ordinance or regulation, the regulations made under authority of this Article govern. Unless otherwise prohibited by G.S. 160A-174(b), when the provisions of any other statute or local ordinance or regulation require a greater width or size of yards or courts, or require a lower height of a building or a fewer number of stories, or require a greater percentage of a lot to be left unoccupied, or impose other higher standards than are required by the regulations made under authority of this Article, the provisions of that statute or local ordinance or regulation govern.
(b) When adopting regulations under this Article, a local government may not use a definition of building, dwelling, dwelling unit, bedroom, or sleeping unit that is inconsistent with any definition of those terms in another statute or in a rule adopted by a State agency, including the State Building Code Council. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, ss. 18, 50(b), 51(a), (b), (d); 2021-168, s. 2(a); 2022-11, s. 17(a); 2022-46, s. 27; 2022-62, s. 61.)