Project Introduction

Welcome to New Hanover County’s Unified Development Ordinance Project. Over the next several months, the project team will be working to update the county’s land development regulations, including zoning, sub-division, stormwater, flood, and erosion control regulations. One goal of the update project will be to blend these regulations into a Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).  A UDO is a single document that includes all of the county’s land development regulations combined into an easy-to-use format. This format allows community members, applicants, and decision-makers to see what regulations will apply to a project without looking through multiple county ordinances.

In addition to reformatting the regulations into a UDO, the project will also be focused on providing the county with a more modern set of development rules and standards that will help implement adopted county plans and guide future growth and redevelopment in the county.

New Hanover County’s Unified Development Ordinance Project Blueprint Report has been developed by the consultant. This report summarizes a detailed audit of the county’s current regulations and identifies the specific steps that will be taken to prepare new regulations for county review. The report is available on the project website, at a New Hanover County Library, or in the Planning and Land Use office.

Updating the regulations now is important in order to move the community’s hard work with Plan NHC, the county’s Comprehensive Plan, forward. The current regulations have been in place since 1969 and are due for an overhaul. As local development patterns and preferences change over time, zoning regulations start showing signs of aging. Important standards that guide new development types may be missing from the code and the existing standards may actually (and inadvertently) create a barrier to development that the community wants to encourage. Updating the entire code at once ensures that all of the moving pieces of the regulatory process are designed to function together and don’t end up working at cross purposes or creating language conflicts.

In the Blueprint Report, the consultant has recommended changes to the current county ordinances that include:

  • Regulations designed to allow the creation of appropriate place types across the county.
  • A modernized zone district line up and updated assignment of uses to districts.
  • A standards-based regulatory process that establishes objective, measurable development design requirements.
  • Clear and objective subdivision standards and infrastructure criteria.
  • Improved and user-friendly formatting, graphics, and illustrations in the regulations.
  • Coordination and compatibility, where applicable, with Wilmington’s processes and standards.

The county’s desire to strengthen New Hanover County by incorporating mixed-use development, increasing walkability across the county, and encouraging site design that is created with an understanding of long-term buildout will guide the UDO process.  Among others, the following topics will be addressed during the UDO update:

  • Residential development patterns and opportunities for a mix of housing types and density
  • Mixed-use development types (e.g., residential and commercial)
  • Commercial and industrial design standards
  • Non-vehicular mobility and connectivity
  • Protection of natural resources and environmentally sensitive areas
  • New or updated regulations for landscaping, screening, and buffering, tree preservation, lighting, parking, site layout, stormwater, and building massing

The New Hanover County UDO project will be led by the county’s consultant and take place in the following phases:

  1. Understand and define issues and opportunities through discussions with the community and county staff.
    Completed in late 2016.
  2. Create a Project Blueprint Report to identify a detailed approach to drafting the new UDO.
    Completed in April 2017. The report is available on the project website, at New Hanover County Public Libraries, or in the Planning and Land Use office.
  3. Phase I (Summer 2018): Districts, Table of Uses, Definitions
  4. Phase II (Early 2019): Permitted Use Standards; Dimensions (setbacks, building heights, etc.); general standards (signs, parking, lighting, landscaping, etc.); Subdivisions; Stormwater
  5. Phase III (Spring/Summer 2019): Procedures & City/County alignment
  6. Formal Adoption Hearings (Summer 2019)

There will be many opportunities  for citizens to participate in the UDO process as the project moves forward. During each phase of the project, the public will be notified of opportunities to review and comment on the UDO work and recommendations. Public outreach meetings will be scheduled at several intervals throughout the drafting process, as described in the Blueprint Report and Public Engagement Strategy.

We look forward to hearing from you as the project proceeds.  If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to:

Ken Vafier
Planning Manager
Planning & Land Use – Planning & Zoning
Phone: 910-798-7281

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