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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 parcel with a zoning designation and for parcels within zoning overlay districts. Properties in the Open Use Zoning District, with no overlays present are not required to obtain a Zoning 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, and so on.

A Special Use Permit is required for conditional uses as outlined in the Permitted Use Table of the Zoning Ordinance. A meeting with the Zoning Administrator is required as part of the submission process.

IMPORTANT! Applications for a Variance or Special Use Permit require a public hearing before the Board of Adjustment.

Applications for Variances & Special Use Permits must be submitted in full thirty (30) days prior to the Board of Adjustment meeting at which the applicant wishes to be heard.

Overlay Districts

Properties located within an overlay district may be subject to additional permitting requirements or development restrictions. When applying for a zoning permit for a project that will contain disturbance or construction within an overlay district, please ensure that all applicable items from the Permit checklist below are provided. Additional forms may be required.

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 call 250-4822.

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 wishing to have their property designated as a different zoning district (an amendment to the Zoning Map) would need to 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, please note that per North Carolina General Statutes the applicant must certify to the Board of Commissioners that the owner(s) received notice for each public hearing. An owner's affidavit should be submitted with the application, and certification of notice must be provided by the applicant once notice has been made for each public hearing at least 5 days prior to the hearing date.

Fees for Map Amendments vary based on the number of parcels and parcel size; please see the zoning section of the fee schedule for more information. Applications must be submitted in full thirty (30) days prior to the Planning Board meeting.

Amending the Zoning Ordinance Text

Individuals who wish to amend the text of the Zoning Ordinance itself (i.e. the Permitted Use Table) need to apply using the Application to Amend the Buncombe County Zoning Ordinance Text.

A pre-application conference is strongly encouraged to ensure that the application completely addresses your desired changes.

The fee for a Text Amendment application is $500. Applications must be submitted in full thirty (30) days prior to the Planning Board meeting.

Requests to amend the Zoning Map or Zoning Ordinance will generate a public hearing before the Planning Board, at which point the Planning Board would make a recommendation to the Buncombe County Commissioners. Once the Board of Commissioners has received the Planning Board's recommendation, a public hearing will be scheduled before the Commissioners so that they may take action on the application.

Questions & Answers

About Zoning and the proposed county-wide expansion of zoning

In order to request a rezoning of your property, an application must be submitted to the Planning Department at least thirty (30) days prior to the Planning Board meeting at which you wish to be heard. Once the Planning Board has reviewed your request and voted to make a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners, the Board of Commissioners will hear your request at a regularly scheduled meeting, and vote to approve or deny the request. Prior to each meeting, notices will be sent to adjoining property owners, a legal ad will be run in the paper, and a sign will be placed on the property. Changes to a zoning designation constitute an amendment to the zoning maps.

Property designated NS, CS, PS, R-1, R-2, or BDM does not allow the placement of additional manufactured homes for residential use; however, existing manufactured homes are allowed to remain and may be replaced with certain limitations.

In the Open Use District, Special Use Permits must be obtained from the Board of Adjustment for the following:

  • six or more multi-family units on a single lot;
  • adult entertainment establishments;
  • amusement parks; asphalt plants;
  • chip mills;
  • concrete plants;
  • hazardous waste facilities;
  • incinerators;
  • junkyards;
  • landing strips;
  • mining and extraction operations;
  • motor sport facilities;
  • outdoor commercial shooting ranges;
  • slaughtering plants;
  • and solid waste facilities.

The Buncombe County Comprehensive Land Use Plan update made recommendations for the placement of zoning districts throughout the County. Maps were created based upon these recommendations, in coordination with the Planning Board, Commissioners, and County residents.

An existing use on the property that was in place prior to the adoption of zoning would be grandfathered unless removed from the property for more than 180 days.

Deed restrictions and covenants will not be made less restrictive by the proposed zoning ordinance. The County enforces zoning regulations, but cannot enforce deed restrictions or subdivision covenants.

County zoning cannot prevent annexation.

Home occupations are allowed in a person's residence or in an accessory building in any zoning district, as long as they meet the ordinance's conditions. The regulations regarding home occupations can be found under the "definitions" section of the ordinance.

Yes, farming is exempt from any county zoning ordinance in North Carolina.

View the information flyer for a summary of the requirements for Vacation Rentals, minimum building code requirements for habitable structures, and regulations for permitting of RV's, Travel Trailers, Park Models, and other types of tiny homes as dwelling units.

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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