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State of North Carolina Zoning Enabling Act

Zoning    Local Boards    State Land Use Law   
Urban | Suburban | Rural
Grant of power

Section 153A-340 permits, but does not require, counties to pass zoning ordinances for the purpose of promoting health, safety, morals, or the general welfare of the community. These ordinances may regulate and restrict the size, location, and use of buildings and other structures; the percentage of lots that may be occupied; the size of yards and other open spaces; and population density. This section also allows counties to provide density credits or severable development rights pursuant to § 136-66.10 or § 136-66.11, and to regulate development over estuarine waters and land covered by navigable water, an authority not given to cities. A county’s zoning regulations may not affect bona fide farm purposes, with the exception of large-scale swine farming. And although counties are allowed to regulate large-scale swine farms, they are not allowed to exclude them entirely.

Purposes in view

Section 153A-341 requires that a county’s zoning regulations be made in accordance with a comprehensive plan and designed to control traffic; secure safety; promote health and the general welfare; provide adequate light and air; prevent overcrowding of the land; avoid undue population concentration; and to facilitate and provide for public requirements such as transportation, schools, parks, water, and sewerage. The regulations should take into account the character and suitability of districts for particular uses and should be aimed towards conserving the value of buildings and encouraging the most appropriate use of land. Additionally, a county’s zoning regulations must be made with “reasonable consideration to the expansion and development of any cities within the county, so as to provide for their orderly growth and development.”

Districts; zoning less than entire jurisdiction

Section 153A-342 permits counties to divide their territorial jurisdiction into districts of any size, shape, and number necessary to carry out the purposes of zoning. A county may choose to zone only portions of its jurisdiction, provided that the zoned areas originally meet certain acre and ownership requirements. Within such districts, counties may regulate and restrict the construction and use of buildings, other structures, and land. The types of districts a county may create include, but are not limited to, general use districts; overlay districts; and special use or conditional use districts. An area may be designated as a special or conditional use district only if all of the property owners to be included in the district have petitioned for such a designation. Building regulations must be uniform within individual districts, but may differ across districts.