Permitted Choice and Vested Rights Determination

A vested right is the right to complete a project based on how it was originally approved, even if the development regulations have changed since that original approval. Vested rights are intended to promote fairness and protect property owners who have relied on specific approvals for a project. 

Site-Specific Vested Rights 

Vested rights are claimed after a development approval is issued.  In the case of site-specific vested rights, the applicant already has a valid approval. They have relied on that approval (and as a result spent money on the project) and are allowed to continue development in accordance with the approval even if rules are subsequently changed.  

Under state law (NCGS 160D-108.1) and the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO 3.20.4) the types of development approvals that qualify for site-specific vesting include:  a plat, a site plan or a development plan (associated with a zoning map change) approved as a site plan or preliminary plat.  

Site-specific vested rights require approval by the governing body (either City Council or the Board of County Commissioners) after a public hearing. These vested rights expire anywhere from two to five years after their approval, depending on what timeframe the governing body sets. 

Permit Choice 

Permit Choice is claimed before a permit is approved. Under state law (NCGS 160D-108) if an applicant submits a development permit application, and a land development regulation is amended after the application was submitted but before the permit is approved, the applicant may choose which adopted version of the rule or ordinance will apply to the permit. That is, they can choose whether the original rule (applicable at the time of application) or the new rule (as amended) applies to their development application. Permit choice vesting determinations are made by the Planning Director. 

When a development project requires multiple permits, it may be vested under the chosen regulations for subsequent permits within an 18-month time period from the initial permit vesting. The vesting continues in effect as long as the permits remain valid and expires 24 months after work on the project stops.  This provision recognizes that many developments require multiple permits that may be sequenced for approval. With this permit choice provision, the project is considered as a whole, allowing the entire project to be reviewed under the regulations in effect at the time of the original application.   

Permit choice is not indefinite. Pursuant to NCGS 143-755(b1), permit choice is waived if the applicant places an application on hold for six consecutive months or if the applicant fails to respond to comments or provide additional information requested by the government agency for six consecutive months. In those cases, when the applicant renews the application, the new regulations will apply. 

PROCESS:

A Permit Choice (PDF) or Site-Specific Statutory Vested Rights Determination (PDF) may be requested by an applicant at any time.  Statutory Vested Rights and Permit Choice do not apply to legislative rezonings or annexations. 

Applications and Submittal 

  1. Permit Choice Application (PDF)
  2. Site-Specific Statutory Vested Rights Determination Application (PDF)

PAYMENT AND SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS 

Payment Portal 

  1. Navigate to the Payment Portal 
    • Please be sure to submit payment using payment type 4-Planning. 
  2. Use the DSC Fees and Payment Menu, section 11.11, for fees and guidelines. 
  3. Save your receipt and payment number to reference in your application. 

Submittal Portal 

Use the portal below to complete your request for a Permit Choice or Vested Rights Determination (PDF). If the online form is not working, please use the direct portal link.