A Conservation Overlay District is meant to protect important environmental and cultural resources. The effective date of the ordinance (Section 59.4) is December 1, 1984.

  • What are considered important resources?
    • Important resources include swamp forest, Pocosin, Savannah, natural ponds, freshwater marsh, brackish marsh, primary nursery areas, barrier island-beach complex, maritime shrub thickets, salt marsh, animal and plant natural areas of special significance, and archaeological and historical resources including cemeteries.
  • How do I know if my parcel of land is associated with a COD?
    • Mapping tools are available to help determine if a COD resource exists on or near a property. Planning & Land Use staff are also available for on-site determinations.
  • What is the distance of the COD setback?
    • The COD setback distance for buildings and impervious surfaces varies from 25 feet to 100 feet from the edge of the resource depending on the type of resource.
  • What can I do within the conservation space?
    • Conservation space must not be cleared of vegetation and must not be developed in any manner that would negatively impact the resource, with the following exceptions:
      • Improvements that would protect or enhance the enjoyment of the resource including walkways, self-guided trails, protective fences, and docks.
      • Access to other parts of the parcel designed to the greatest extent practical to minimize impact to the resource.
      • Decks may encroach up to six feet if they are uncovered, allow water to drip through, and the ground below is left undisturbed or planted with ground cover.

Subdivision regulations are rules and standards adopted by the New Hanover County Board of County Commissioners that establish how land is divided into lots for development. Subdivision regulations also identify the county’s requirements for appropriate public infrastructure within the subdivision, such as access and streets, lot layout, utilities, water supply, and stormwater drainage.

View the county’s current subdivision regulations »

Zoning regulations are rules and standards adopted by the New Hanover County Board of County Commissioners that establish the basic, common requirements for property development on an individual lot. Zoning regulations establish the different types of development districts in the county, such as residential, commercial or industrial, and identify appropriate standards for lot size, building placement, height of structures, and uses in those districts. Zoning regulations typically include standards for the basic design of features such as parking lots, landscaping, parks and open spaces, commercial lighting, and rural character conservation.

View the county’s current zoning regulations »

New Hanover County’s new Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) will provide the community with a combined set of zoning, subdivision, stormwater, flood, and erosion control regulations in a single document. The creation of the combined UDO is not a new way to regulate development, but a better way to organize documents for the many developers, site designers, reviewers, residents, and decision-makers who use them. The combination of the county’s multiple sets of regulations in one document ensures that the rules of development in the county are easy to access, work in tandem with one another, and provide for the kind of development anticipated in the county’s adopted plans.

The county zoning map indicates the zoning of all properties in the county. View the interactive zoning map »

No, please contact New Hanover County Animal Control Services at 910-341-4197.

No, please contact the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department at 910-798-4206 with noise complaints.

Yes, a permit is required to operate a Residential Care Facility. A Residential Care Facility is defined as a home with support and supervisory personnel that provides room and board, personal care, and rehabilitation services in a family environment for not more than six resident handicapped persons. Residential care facilities require zoning approval and must be at least 2,000 feet apart.

No, the county’s zoning ordinance does not regulate fences.  However, you should verify that the fence does not encroach into any access, stormwater, or utility easements, and if applicable,  check with your neighborhood homeowner’s association (HOA) for any restrictions on fences.

Most signs are regulated by the county’s Zoning Ordinance and some require a permit.  For more information about sign regulations, refer to Sections 90-96 (pages 204-218) of the New Hanover County Zoning Ordinance.

Yes, the setbacks for a pool are dependent on the size. Pools under 600 sq. ft. can be up to 5 ft. from the side and rear property lines. Pools that are 600 sq. ft. and larger must meet setbacks based on the zoning classification of the property. The setbacks apply to the pool depression of an in-ground pool and not to the concrete slab surrounding the pool.

Home occupations may be permitted provided the following criteria are met:

  1. Only one person, other than members of the family residing on the premises, can be engaged in such occupation;
  2. The use of the dwelling unit for the home occupation must be clearly incidental and subordinate to its use for residential purpose by its occupants, and not more than 25% of the floor area of the dwelling unit can be used in the conduct of the home occupation;
  3. There must be no change in the outside appearance of the building or premises, or other visible evidence of the conduct of such home occupation other than one non-illuminated sign, not exceeding 2.25 sq. ft., mounted flat against the wall of the principal building;
  4. No home occupation can be conducted in any accessory building, such as a detached garage or shed;
  5. Traffic must not be generated by such home occupation in greater volumes than would normally be expected in a residential neighborhood, and any need for parking generated by the conduct of such home occupation must be met off the street and other than in any required yard. Vehicles used primarily as passenger vehicles including pickup trucks and step-type vans only may be permitted in connection with the conduct of the customary home occupation;
  6. No equipment or process can be used in such home occupation which creates noise, vibration, glare, fumes, or electrical interference detectable to the normal senses off the lot. In the case of the electrical interference, no equipment or process can be used which creates visual or audible interference in any radio or television receivers off the premises, or causes fluctuations in line voltages off the premises;
  7. Display of products must not be visible from the street. The selling of merchandise or the manufacture of merchandise for sale, except baking, sewing, and/or handicrafts normally made in the home, cannot be the primary function of the home occupation; and
  8. Instruction in music, dancing, or tutoring of academic subjects must be limited to four students at a time.

If you are moving into an existing building, you will need to confirm if the property is zoned correctly for the business you would like to open. You will also need to apply for a change of use or occupancy certification permit with the Building Safety Inspections division. If your building requires any new construction, you will need to apply for a building permit with the Building Safety Department.​​

A variance is a relaxation of the terms of the Zoning Ordinance. Variances may only be authorized for height, area, and size of structures, or size of yards and open spaces.  An application to obtain a variance can be found under Zoning Applications on the Current Planning and Zoning Overview page.  Variances may be approved by the Zoning Board of Adjustment when the variance will not be contrary to the public interest, and, where due to the peculiar conditions of the property, literal enforcement of the Ordinance would result in unnecessary and undue hardship.

CAMA is the Coastal Area Management Act.  It was passed into law in 1974 and is meant to protect coastal resources in our state through an integrated system of land and water management.

  • When is a CAMA permit required?
    • A CAMA major or minor permit is required for most development within an AEC.
  • What is an AEC?
    • An AEC is an Area of Environmental Concern. Four groups of AECs are defined by CAMA:
      • Estuarine System – this includes coastal wetlands, estuarine waters, public trust areas and coastal shoreline.
      • Ocean Hazard Areas – this includes ocean erodible areas, high hazard flood areas, inlet hazard areas, and unvegetated beach.
      • Public Water Supplies – which are small surface supply watersheds or public water supply well fields in the Wilmington area.
      • Natural and Cultural Resource Areas –this includes complex natural areas, unique geological formations, significant archeological and historic architectural resources.
  • What is considered development?
    • The Coastal Area Management Act defines development as “any activity in a duly designated area of environmental concern … involving, requiring or consisting of the construction or enlargement of a structure; excavation; dredging; filling; dumping; removal of clay, silt, sand, gravel or minerals; bulkheading; driving of pilings; clearing or alteration of land as an adjunct of construction; alteration or removal of sand dunes; alteration of the shore, bank or bottom of the Atlantic Ocean or any sound, bay, river, creek, stream, lake or canal; or placement of a floating structure in an Area of Environmental Concern identified in G.S. 113A-113(b)(2) or (b)(5){NCGS 113A-103(5)(a)}.”

A structure may be built in a floodway only if it can be demonstrated through an engineering analysis, commonly referred to as a “No-Rise” study, that the development will not result in any increase in the flood levels during the occurrence of the base flood. A floodway is defined as the channel of a river, or other watercourse, and the adjacent land areas that must be reserved in order to discharge the base flood without cumulatively increasing the water surface elevation more than one foot.

You can access the county’s flood maps on the GIS mapping website on the “Where does it Flood” tab. Floodplain information can also be found on the Flood Risk Information System website, or by contacting a member of New Hanover County’s Planning and Land Use staff.

Private companies are not contacted for address or parcel changes; New Hanover County has no bearing on when private companies update their information.

We do send updates to the United States Postal Service for address changes. If USPS can’t find your address, please contact the appropriate addressing coordinator for your jurisdiction.

You can view parcel information and address changes on the “Parcel Look-Up” map on the GIS mapping website. Parcel data is updated every 24 hours. Contact Katherine May at kmay@nhcgov.com for help or additional information regarding the parcel map.

Unincorporated county (outside city limits) – contact Katherine May at kmay@nhcgov.com

City of Wilmington – contact Michelle Hutchinson at michelle.hutchinson@wilmingtonnc.gov.

Wrightsville Beach – contact Danielle Vegas at dvillegas@towb.org

Carolina Beach – contact Gigi Baggarley at gigi.baggarley@carolinabeach.org

Kure Beach – contact John Batson at j.batson@townofkurebeach.org


Planning and Land Use: 230 Government Center Dr, Suite 110 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-7165 • Fax 910-798-7053
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