Minor Special Use Permit, Reasonable Accommodation, Variance , & Other BOA Applications

Requests for Minor Special Use Permits, Reasonable Accommodations, Appeals, and Variances must all go through the Durham City-County Board of Adjustment to seek approval. Below are brief descriptions of each request type, followed by the steps and consolidated application to submit one or more of these applications for staff review. If you have questions about whether you need one of these approvals, the approval process, or if you need assistance, please contact staff at [email protected] or by calling 919-560-4137.

A pre-submittal meeting is required before an application for any of the case types may be submitted, with the exception of an appeal of an administrative decision. To schedule a pre-submittal meeting with Planning staff to discuss the procedures, standards, and regulations applicable for submittal of an application, see the link below under “Next Steps and Applications, Pre-submittal Meeting.” It is very helpful if applicants upload a site sketch or preliminary plan of the proposal before the pre-submittal meeting. Plans should be transmitted at the same time the meeting is scheduled as step 2 of the scheduling process. 

The approval process for each of these requests requires a quasi-judicial public hearing (that is, a courtroom-like procedure) where the applicant must prove specific findings in order for the approving body to grant an approval. This usually requires the hiring of experts to provide expert witness testimony.

Minor and Major Special Use Permit

Special use permits are required when specified in the Unified Development Ordinance, and generally indicates that the proposed development or use may be appropriate but needs additional review and approval due to the potential impact of the proposed use or development on the surrounding area. There are three types of special use permits:

  • Minor special use permits are heard and decided by the Durham City-County Board of Adjustment (BOA).
  • Major and Transportation Special Use Permits are heard and decided by the governing body (City Council or Board of Commissioners) with jurisdiction. 

Unified Development Ordinance Section 3.9, Special Use Permit, describes the requirements for these applications.

Reasonable Accommodation

A reasonable accommodation is available to individuals who are defined as disabled or handicapped under Federal law. A request for a reasonable accommodation may include a modification or exception to the rules, standards, and/or practices for the siting, development, and use of housing or housing-related facilities in the Unified Development Ordinance, that would eliminate regulatory barriers and provide a person with a disability or handicap an equal opportunity to a dwelling of their choice. 

Unified Development Ordinance Section 3.23, Reasonable Accommodation, describes the requirements for these applications. 


A variance is a request to receive an exception to a standard in the Unified Development Ordinance based primarily on a proven unique hardship that prevents compliance with the ordinance standard. 

Unified Development Ordinance Section 3.14, Variance, describes the requirements for these applications.

Appeals of Administrative Decisions

If a citizen disagrees with a final order, interpretation, or decision of any administrative official based on the language in the Unified Development Ordinance, an appeal of that action may be submitted to the Planning Department and the appeal will be heard by the Board of Adjustment (BOA), unless otherwise directed by the Unified Development Ordinance or State statute. An appeal application must be made in writing by a party with standing, must specify the grounds for the appeal, and must be submitted within 30 days of notice of the final decision to be appealed, pursuant to NCGS§160D-405(d).

The BOA may reverse or agree with the decision, either wholly or partly, or may modify the decision appealed from. Appeal from the BOA action can be taken by filing a petition with the Durham County Superior Court.

NEXT STEPS and Applications  

Presubmittal Meeting 

Board of Adjustment for Minor Special Use Permit, Variance, and Reasonable Accommodation Applications

Board of Adjustment for Appeal of Administrative Decision or Zoning Boundary Application 

Additional Information  


Payment Portal

Submittal Portal

Use the portal below to complete your request below. If the online form is not working, please use the direct Submit Minor Special Use Permit, Variance, or Other BOA Application or Re-submittal link.