Chapter 160D: Municipalities must amend zoning ordinances by upcoming deadline

Chapter 160D: Municipalities must amend zoning ordinances by upcoming deadline

The development world in North Carolina has been abuzz with the talk of “160D.” As municipalities and counties across the state prepare to implement these legislative changes prior to the July 1, 2021 deadline, it is important you know why these changes were made, what the changes are, and what to expect.

Chapter 160D consolidates the previous enabling legislation for counties (Chapter 153A) and cities (Chapter 160A) into one, single unified chapter for development regulations. The intent is to have a uniform set of statutes, removing ambiguity and inconsistencies between cities and counties and to create a well-organized and user-friendly document. Local governments have until July 1 to update and amend their zoning and subdivision ordinances and until July 1, 2022 to create or update their Comprehensive or Land Use Plans.

Our WithersRavenel team is deeply knowledgeable of the 160D legislative updates and is poised to assist all our clients through the transition. Our Planning department has been busy addressing the needs of many of our municipal clients updating zoning, unified development, and subdivision ordinances.

However, our private clients have also benefited from our knowledge and understanding of 160D. In one such instance, Tucker McKenzie, Director of Commercial and Multi-Family Development, was able to leverage our Permit Choice knowledge. “Having an understanding of 160D regulations has saved our clients time and money when navigating through the ever-changing municipal rules,” he said.

Some of the important changes brought about by Chapter 160D include:

  • “Conditional Uses” and “Conditional Use Zoning” are being eliminated and replaced with Special Use Permits and/or Conditional Districts, with different rules and procedures.
  • Permit Choice allows an applicant to choose which version of a development regulation applies if the regulation changes after the application has been submitted and prior to the decision being made. If acting on a current version of regulation, the applicant no longer needs to wait for final action on the proposed change.
  • Vested Rights no longer requires a separate hearing or for the applicant to declare a vested right at time of application. A municipality can render any development approval a site-specific vesting plan (formerly called site-specific development plan) with vesting for a period of two to five years.
  • Minor Modifications to development approvals can be administratively approved or even exempted by local governments as long as the ordinance authorizes and defines the specific revisions that are permitted and that major modifications, such as change in use or change in density, trigger reapplication.
  • For additional Chapter 160D information, visit the UNC’s School of Government website.

Chapter 160D provisions will be applied July 1, even if local governments have not approved their amendments. Applicants and governments should understand the implications if these updates are not carried out in a timely manner. Further, because many localities are using this opportunity to update their entire ordinances, applicants should be aware that other procedures and processes outside of 160D may change as well.

WithersRavenel can help you assist in the Chapter 160D transition. For private clients, contact Brendie Vega at bvega@withersravenel.com and for our public clients, contact Meredith Gruber at mgruber@withersravenel.com.