Rules and Regulations

The Planning Department maintains and enforces various rules and regulations for land use in the City and County of Durham. Resources available to maintain and govern this regulations include the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), the Historic Properties Criteria, Landscape Manuals, Zoning Enforcement, Home Occupation Permits, Street Vendors, and various other codes and ordinances.

Unified Development Ordinance (UDO)

Durham UDO Homepage Screenshot Opens in new windowThe Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) is a set of rules adopted by the City Council and Board of County Commissioners for how property can be developed. These rules are often called “zoning” rules or regulations. These rules include items such as allowed uses for property, how land can be subdivided, where buildings can be placed on a property, parking requirements, landscaping requirements, and environmental protections for erosion control, streams, floodplains, tree preservations, and steep slopes.

View the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO)

Durham Landscape Manual

Durham Landscape Manual Cover Opens in new windowThe Landscape Manual is a compilation of the latest accepted horticultural practices. It is meant to be used by development and design professionals, landscape contractors, individual citizens, and City-County Planning Department staff to maximize the chances for success of newly installed landscape plantings. The information included in this Landscape Manual for Durham, North Carolina (Landscape Manual) applies to all new development governed by the permitting process defined in the Durham Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). Property developed or substantially changed under a permit approved by the Durham City-County Planning Department is subject to the Ordinance-based requirements of this Landscape Manual. 

View the Landscape Manual for Durham, NC

Historic Properties Local Review Criteria (for Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) applications) 

Durham Historic Properties Criteria Cover Opens in new window

Historic Properties Local Review Criteria (for Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) applications) The Historic Properties Local Review Criteria is intended to introduce property owners, designers, developers, and applicants to Durham’s historic preservation program and help guide them through the certificate of appropriateness (COA) process for locally designated historic resources (properties within local historic districts or designated as a local historic landmark). 

  • The introductory sections of this document describe Durham’s preservation philosophy and provide information on Durham’s designated landmarks and districts, the National Historic Register, the Durham Historic Preservation Commission, and the COA process. 
  • The criteria sections then follow with separate sections for the residential historic districts and the downtown historic district, with sections  for contributing properties, non-contributing properties, and rights-of-way. Then follows sections on landmark properties, archaeology, and cemeteries

View the Historic Properties Local Review Criteria 

Home Occupations

Image of a Home Occupation Permit ApplicationA Home Occupation Permit is required for any home occupation that is primarily conducted within a residential dwelling unit, and is considered an accessory use of the dwelling unit.

Home Occupation Permits are not required for "home offices" when they are used for tele-working or are not associated with a particular business. They are required when the primary location of a business, or any location where goods and services are provided or shipped, is a residential dwelling unit.

See UDO section 5.4.4, Home Occupations, for the rules about Home Occupations.

Apply for a Home Occupation Permit

Neighborhood Meeting Guidelines

In order to create more opportunities for community members to participate, and to remove barriers to participation in neighborhood meetings, hybrid “in-person and virtual” or “virtual-only” neighborhood meetings are required to be held prior to application submittal.  

For more information on requirements for neighborhood meetings, please see the Neighborhood Meeting Guidelines document. The guidelines were updated on February 2, 2022. 

See more about Neighborhood Meetings, the Guidelines, and Meeting Resources

Street Vendors Guide

Food Truck Startup Roadmap Coverstreet vendor is any individual who sells food or goods in the street right-of-way, either from a commercial vehicle or stall. According to the NC state zoning code, only vendors selling food and periodicals are permitted to sell within the right-of-way of a street. Street vendors are permitted through the Planning Department though, prior to applying, your business will require: a Employer Identification Number (EIN); be registered as a business with Durham County; have conducted a Health Inspection Certificate from Durham County, and/or registered through the State of North Carolina Tax office. Detailed steps are listed in the Office of Economic and Workforce Development Food Truck Start-up Roadmap.

See more about the Street Vendors Guide