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The purpose of the Zoning Ordinance is to ensure orderly, attractive, and economically sound development, and to protect existing property values within Buncombe County. In addition, the Zoning Ordinance strives to protect and preserve the area's scenic beauty, natural resources, parks, and open spaces.

Regulations are intended to guide development within areas that have access to public sewer service by concentrating commercial, industrial, and multi-family developments along major transportation corridors.

Zoning Permits

Zoning Compliance, Variances, Special Use Permits, & Overlay Districts

Certificate of Zoning Compliance Permit

A Zoning Permit is required in order to obtain a Building Permit for any piece of land that has a zoning district, and for areas within overlay districts, such as the Steep Slope Overlay. Properties in the Open Use Zoning District, with no overlays present may not be required to obtain a Zoning Permit for certain types of development. In order to obtain a Zoning Permit, visit the Permits Portal and submit an application for a Site Plan Review (SPR) permit.

Variances & Special Use Permits

A Variance Application is required in order to obtain an exception from an ordinance requirement, such as minimum lot sizes, height limits, setback requirements, or parking standards.

A Special Use Permit is required for some uses as outlined in the Permitted Use Table of the Zoning Ordinance. A pre-application conference with Planning Department staff is required as part of the submission process. Schedule a pre-application conference.

Overlay Districts

Properties located within an overlay district are subject to additional permitting requirements or development restrictions. When applying for a Site Plan Review (SPR) permit for a project that will contain disturbance or construction within the steep slope or protected ridge overlays, please include all applicable items from the overlay checklist.

Types of Overlay Districts

  • Blue Ridge Parkway Overlay District
    Construction adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway property.
  • Steep Slope/High Elevation Overlay District
    Development in areas above 2,500 feet in elevation and with natural slopes of 35 percent or greater grade.
  • Protected Ridge Overlay District
    Development in areas within the designated protected ridge buffer for properties above 3,000 feet in elevation and whose elevation is 500 or more feet above the adjacent valley floor.

Zoning Inspections

A zoning inspection is required prior to receiving a Certificate of Occupancy or temporary CO.

  • Zoning inspections should be requested a minimum of 5 business days in advance of requesting a Certificate of Occupancy from Buncombe County Permits and Inspections.
  • We recommend that you call for your zoning compliance inspection following a successful framing inspection from Buncombe County Permits and Inspections.
  • We require that all decks, porches, steps, and roof overhangs be completed before the zoning compliance inspection.

To request a zoning compliance inspection, or if you have questions regarding your zoning compliance inspection, email

Zoning Inspection Questions

A zoning inspection generally checks that the property is being used in the manner described in the Certificate of Zoning Compliance and that the structure meets the required setbacks from property lines and right-of-ways as well as height limitations. If the use is not single family residential, additional items such as parking provided, required buffering, or conditions of approval may also be checked during the inspection.

A zoning inspection can be requested after the framing of the structure is complete and any decks, porches, stairs, or other attachments to the structure have been added. If you are unsure of the conformity of the placement of your structure prior to completion of framing, please contact the Planning Department, and someone will be happy to help clarify any questions you might have.
Setbacks are measured from the structure to the property line or road right-of-way. Property lines are determined either by markers in place on site or with the aid of Buncombe County's aerial photography. The orientation of the setbacks is determined by the structure itself (i.e. the wall surface containing the main entrance will be used to determine the front setback). Setbacks are measured from the furthest extending portion of the structure (this includes all attachments such as patio walls, decks, and roof overhangs. Corner lots and lots which front on multiple roads must maintain the required setback from each road right-of-way regardless of structure placement.

Failure to meet the setbacks or failure to call for an inspection will prevent you from obtaining final approvals from Buncombe County Permits and Inspections (this will be required before you can have permanent electrical power run to your structure per building code). Additionally, failure to comply with the Zoning Inspection process will cause your project to be non-compliant and can result in fines or additional legal repercussions. If at anytime during the course of your project you find that you will not meet the setbacks or are unsure about how setbacks are determined, cease work and call the Planning and Development Department immediately to determine the appropriate course of action.

Yes, you are required to meet whichever setback is more stringent. Buncombe County does not enforce the rules of individual subdivisions or homeowners' associations, nor do we enforce any restrictions set forth by deed restrictions or covenants. All projects must adhere to the Buncombe County Zoning Ordinance.

No, you must meet setbacks and any other geometrical requirements placed on your structure by other governmental offices. If you know that you will be unable to meet the setbacks before beginning your project, speak with the Planning Department Staff about ways in which you may achieve compliance prior to beginning construction.

If the structure was constructed before May 2007, then there may have not been setback requirements in place depending on which zoning district it was built in. Also, different areas of Buncombe County have different zoning setback requirements. You can check with staff about specific cases. If you believe the structure to be over the property line (and it was built prior to the institution of zoning setbacks), then the matter is a civil case between you and your neighbor; in that case it is best to consult a surveyor and/or an attorney. Non-structural property line encroachment (such as the installation of driveways) is not handled by our department and is considered to be a civil case.

Variances are granted only in rare cases where the property owner is able to justify an undue burden associated with their project that is not a result of their own actions. The property owner must further justify that the zoning requirements prohibit them from realizing a reasonable economic return from their property. Requests for variances are heard before the Buncombe County Board of Adjustment. There is an application fee associated with applying for a variance. All adjacent property owners will be notified and can attend the public hearing for a variance request.

Zoning Amendments

Changing the Zoning Ordinance Maps & Text

Amending the Zoning Ordinance Map

Property owners wanting to change the zoning district for their property (an amendment to the Zoning Map) must apply using the Application to Amend the Buncombe County Zoning Ordinance Maps.

If the applicant for the rezoning request is not the owner of the property, or is applying on behalf of multiple owners, per North Carolina General Statutes the applicant must certify that the owner(s) received notice for each public hearing, and an owner's affidavit must be submitted with the application.

A pre-application conference is required.

Amending the Zoning Ordinance Text

Individuals who wish to amend the text of the Zoning Ordinance itself must apply using the Application to Amend the Buncombe County Zoning Ordinance Text.

A pre-application conference is required.

Applications to amend the Zoning Map (rezonings) or Zoning Ordinance Text will first require a public hearing before the Planning Board, and then a public hearing before the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.

Locate & Contact

Planning & Development


Planning & Development
P: (828) 250-4830

Nathan Pennington, CFM

Hours of Operation

Monday - Friday
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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