Skip to Main Content

COVID-19 Updates and Testing

Stay up to date

Conservation Development Protects Land, Adds Design Flexibility

Conservation Development

Buncombe County’s mountain views, waterside scenery, outdoor amenities, and overall aesthetic makes it a desirable place to live, play, work, and visit. With that popularity comes the need to be intentional about balancing preservation with sustainable growth. To that end, Buncombe County’s Planning & Development Department is actively working on options for new construction and green space to exist in harmony. “These types of conservation solutions can help us to meet the development demands of a growing population while preserving our valued farmland and environmentally sensitive areas,” explains Planning Director Nathan Pennington.

Through our Conservation Development tool, Buncombe County is promoting the preservation of green space in new developments that are 15-acres and larger. In short, Conservation Development gives developers design flexibility and setback incentives in return for leaving at least half of property undisturbed. Or, in the case of active agriculture space, it will leave 25 percent of the land undisturbed. “The conservation development standards can provide design flexibility to help developers get the most out of their building site while preserving our valued farmland and environmentally sensitive areas,” says Pennington.

Ultimately, Buncombe County’s Conservation Development option will help preserve open spaces, farmland, ridgetops, steep slopes, and more. And it’s a great way to balance housing while preserving green space with minimal recreational opportunities such as trails for bikes, running, and hiking and other low impact, non-motorized activities.

Conservation Development requirements include:

  • Property must be at least 15 acres.
  • At least 50 percent of contiguous land must be preserved.
  • Agriculture of 10 or more acres is credited as double. For example, a 30-acre tract of land with 10 acres of conserved active agricultural land, will allow for a 20-acre development envelope. For developers, this is a great way to preserve land that is inherently difficult to develop as primary conservation can be applied to:
    • Moderate and high risk landslide areas.
    • Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA’s). Surface waters and surface water buffers.
    • Wetlands.
    • Steep slopes land with average slope greater than or equal to 25 percent.
    • Active present use farmland.

Conserved land must remain undeveloped or as active agriculture space. To ensure this, the land must be owned and maintained by a homeowner’s association, conservation easement, government organization, or other arrangements that guarantee perpetual conservation.

Ultimately, Conservation Development preserves our natural resources, helps maintain the beauty of our region, and is beneficial for the developer via design flexibility bonuses, making the land attractive for potential buyers and reducing infrastructure costs.

For more information or to find out if your proposed project is eligible for Conservation Development Contact Gillian Phillips at (828) 250-4852 or at You can read more about eligibility requirements by viewing the Conservation Development Requirements document below.

Table: News Item Documents
File NameSizeTypeDate & Time Added
Conservation Development Requirements 249 KB 07/24/2018 10:13 AM