Part 3. Zoning.
§ 153A-340. Grant of power.
(a) For the purpose of promoting health, safety, morals, or the general welfare, a county may adopt zoning and development regulation ordinances. These ordinances may be adopted as part of a unified development ordinance or as a separate ordinance. A zoning ordinance may regulate and restrict the height, number of stories and size of buildings and other structures, the percentage of lots that may be occupied, the size of yards, courts and other open spaces, the density of population, and the location and use of buildings, structures, and land for trade, industry, residence, or other purposes. The ordinance may provide density credits or severable development rights for dedicated rights-of-way pursuant to G.S. 136-66.10 or G.S. 136-66.11.
(b) (1) These regulations may not affect property used for bona fide farm purposes; provided, however, that this subsection does not limit regulation under this Part with respect to the use of farm property for nonfarm purposes.
(2) Except as provided in G.S. 106-743.4 for farms that are subject to a conservation agreement under G.S. 106-743.2, bona fide farm purposes include the production and activities relating or incidental to the production of crops, grains, fruits, vegetables, ornamental and flowering plants, dairy, livestock, poultry, and all other forms of agriculture, as defined in G.S. 106-581.1. Activities incident to the farm include existing or new residences constructed to the applicable residential building code situated on the farm occupied by the owner, lessee, or operator of the farm and other buildings or structures sheltering or supporting the farm use and operation. For purposes of this subdivision, "when performed on the farm" in G.S. 106-581.1(6) shall include the farm within the jurisdiction of the county and any other farm owned or leased to or from others by the bona fide farm operator, no matter where located. For purposes of this subdivision, the production of a nonfarm product that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recognizes as a "Goodness Grows in North Carolina" product that is produced on a farm subject to a conservation agreement under G.S. 106-743.2 is a bona fide farm purpose. For purposes of determining whether a property is being used for bona fide farm purposes, any of the following shall constitute sufficient evidence that the property is being used for bona fide farm purposes:
a. A farm sales tax exemption certificate issued by the Department of Revenue.
b. A copy of the property tax listing showing that the property is eligible for participation in the present use value program pursuant to G.S. 105-277.3.
c. A copy of the farm owner's or operator's Schedule F from the owner's or operator's most recent federal income tax return.
d. A forest management plan.
e. Repealed by Session Laws 2017-108, s. 8(a), effective July 12, 2017.
(2a) A building or structure that is used for agritourism is a bona fide farm purpose if the building or structure is located on a property that (i) is owned by a person who holds a qualifying farmer sales tax exemption certificate from the Department of Revenue pursuant to G.S. 105-164.13E(a) or (ii) is enrolled in the present-use value program pursuant to G.S. 105-277.3. Failure to maintain the requirements of this subsection for a period of three years after the date the building or structure was originally classified as a bona fide purpose pursuant to this subdivision shall subject the building or structure to applicable zoning and development regulation ordinances adopted by a county pursuant to subsection (a) of this section in effect on the date the property no longer meets the requirements of this subsection. For purposes of this section, "agritourism" means any activity carried out on a farm or ranch that allows members of the general public, for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes, to view or enjoy rural activities, including farming, ranching, historic, cultural, harvest-your-own activities, or natural activities and attractions. A building or structure used for agritourism includes any building or structure used for public or private events, including, but not limited to, weddings, receptions, meetings, demonstrations of farm activities, meals, and other events that are taking place on the farm because of its farm or rural setting.
(3) Repealed by Session Laws 2017-108, s. 9(a), effective July 12, 2017.
(c) The regulations may provide that a board of adjustment may determine and vary their application in harmony with their general purpose and intent and in accordance with general or specific rules therein contained, provided no change in permitted uses may be authorized by variance.
(c1) The regulations may also provide that the board of adjustment, the planning board, or the board of commissioners may issue special use permits or conditional use permits in the classes of cases or situations and in accordance with the principles, conditions, safeguards, and procedures specified therein and may impose reasonable and appropriate conditions and safeguards upon these permits. Conditions and safeguards imposed under this subsection shall not include requirements for which the county does not have authority under statute to regulate nor requirements for which the courts have held to be unenforceable if imposed directly by the county. Where appropriate, the conditions may include requirements that street and utility rights-of-way be dedicated to the public and that recreational space be provided. When deciding special use permits or conditional use permits, the board of county commissioners or planning board shall follow quasi-judicial procedures. Notice of hearings on special or conditional use permit applications shall be as provided in G.S. 160A-388(a2). No vote greater than a majority vote shall be required for the board of county commissioners or planning board to issue such permits. For the purposes of this section, vacant positions on the board and members who are disqualified from voting on a quasi-judicial matter shall not be considered "members of the board" for calculation of the requisite majority. Every such decision of the board of county commissioners or planning board shall be subject to review of the superior court in the nature of certiorari consistent with G.S. 160A-388.
(d) A county may regulate the development over estuarine waters and over lands covered by navigable waters owned by the State pursuant to G.S. 146-12, within the bounds of that county.
(e) For the purpose of this section, the term "structures" shall include floating homes.
(f) Repealed by Session Laws 2005-426, s. 5(b), effective January 1, 2006.
(g) A member of the board of county commissioners shall not vote on any zoning map or text amendment where the outcome of the matter being considered is reasonably likely to have a direct, substantial, and readily identifiable financial impact on the member. Members of appointed boards providing advice to the board of county commissioners shall not vote on recommendations regarding any zoning map or text amendment where the outcome of the matter being considered is reasonably likely to have a direct, substantial, and readily identifiable financial impact on the member.
(h) As provided in this subsection, counties may adopt temporary moratoria on any county development approval required by law, except for the purpose of developing and adopting new or amended plans or ordinances as to residential uses. The duration of any moratorium shall be reasonable in light of the specific conditions that warrant imposition of the moratorium and may not exceed the period of time necessary to correct, modify, or resolve such conditions. Except in cases of imminent and substantial threat to public health or safety, before adopting an ordinance imposing a development moratorium with a duration of 60 days or any shorter period, the board of commissioners shall hold a public hearing and shall publish a notice of the hearing in a newspaper having general circulation in the area not less than seven days before the date set for the hearing. A development moratorium with a duration of 61 days or longer, and any extension of a moratorium so that the total duration is 61 days or longer, is subject to the notice and hearing requirements of G.S. 153A-323. Absent an imminent threat to public health or safety, a development moratorium adopted pursuant to this section shall not apply to any project for which a valid building permit issued pursuant to G.S. 153A-357 is outstanding, to any project for which a conditional use permit application or special use permit application has been accepted, to development set forth in a site-specific or phased development plan approved pursuant to G.S. 153A-344.1, to development for which substantial expenditures have already been made in good faith reliance on a prior valid administrative or quasi-judicial permit or approval, or to preliminary or final subdivision plats that have been accepted for review by the county prior to the call for public hearing to adopt the moratorium. Any preliminary subdivision plat accepted for review by the county prior to the call for public hearing, if subsequently approved, shall be allowed to proceed to final plat approval without being subject to the moratorium.
Any ordinance establishing a development moratorium must expressly include at the time of adoption each of the following:
(1) A clear statement of the problems or conditions necessitating the moratorium and what courses of action, alternative to a moratorium, were considered by the county and why those alternative courses of action were not deemed adequate.
(2) A clear statement of the development approvals subject to the moratorium and how a moratorium on those approvals will address the problems or conditions leading to imposition of the moratorium.
(3) An express date for termination of the moratorium and a statement setting forth why that duration is reasonably necessary to address the problems or conditions leading to imposition of the moratorium.
(4) A clear statement of the actions, and the schedule for those actions, proposed to be taken by the county during the duration of the moratorium to address the problems or conditions leading to imposition of the moratorium.
No moratorium may be subsequently renewed or extended for any additional period unless the city shall have taken all reasonable and feasible steps proposed to be taken by the county in its ordinance establishing the moratorium to address the problems or conditions leading to imposition of the moratorium and unless new facts and conditions warrant an extension. Any ordinance renewing or extending a development moratorium must expressly include, at the time of adoption, the findings set forth in subdivisions (1) through (4) of this subsection, including what new facts or conditions warrant the extension.
Any person aggrieved by the imposition of a moratorium on development approvals required by law may apply to the appropriate division of the General Court of Justice for an order enjoining the enforcement of the moratorium, and the court shall have jurisdiction to issue that order. Actions brought pursuant to this section shall be set down for immediate hearing, and subsequent proceedings in those actions shall be accorded priority by the trial and appellate courts. In any such action, the county shall have the burden of showing compliance with the procedural requirements of this subsection.
(i) In order to encourage construction that uses sustainable design principles and to improve energy efficiency in buildings, a county may charge reduced building permit fees or provide partial rebates of building permit fees for buildings that are constructed or renovated using design principles that conform to or exceed one or more of the following certifications or ratings:
(1) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification or higher rating under certification standards adopted by the U.S. Green Building Council.
(2) A One Globe or higher rating under the Green Globes program standards adopted by the Green Building Initiative.
(3) A certification or rating by another nationally recognized certification or rating system that is equivalent or greater than those listed in subdivisions (1) and (2) of this subsection.
(j) An ordinance adopted pursuant to this section shall not prohibit single-family detached residential uses constructed in accordance with the North Carolina State Building Code on lots greater than 10 acres in size in zoning districts where more than fifty percent (50%) of the land is in use for agricultural or silvicultural purposes, except that this restriction shall not apply to commercial or industrial districts where a broad variety of commercial or industrial uses are permissible. An ordinance adopted pursuant to this section shall not require that a lot greater than 10 acres in size have frontage on a public road or county-approved private road, or be served by public water or sewer lines, in order to be developed for single-family residential purposes.
(k) A zoning or unified development ordinance may not differentiate in terms of the regulations applicable to fraternities or sororities between those fraternities or sororities that are approved or recognized by a college or university and those that are not.
(l) Any zoning and development regulation ordinance relating to building design elements adopted under this Part, under Part 2 of this Article, or under any recommendation made under G.S. 160A-452(6)c. may not be applied to any structures subject to regulation under the North Carolina Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings except under one or more of the following circumstances:
(1) The structures are located in an area designated as a local historic district pursuant to Part 3C of Article 19 of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes.
(2) The structures are located in an area designated as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.
(3) The structures are individually designated as local, State, or national historic landmarks.
(4) The regulations are directly and substantially related to the requirements of applicable safety codes adopted under G.S. 143-138.
(5) Where the regulations are applied to manufactured housing in a manner consistent with G.S. 153A-341.1 and federal law.
(6) Where the regulations are adopted as a condition of participation in the National Flood Insurance Program.
Regulations prohibited by this subsection may not be applied, directly or indirectly, in any zoning district, special use district, conditional use district, or conditional district unless voluntarily consented to by the owners of all the property to which those regulations may be applied as part of and in the course of the process of seeking and obtaining a zoning amendment or a zoning, subdivision, or development approval, nor may any such regulations be applied indirectly as part of a review pursuant to G.S. 153A-341 of any proposed zoning amendment for consistency with an adopted comprehensive plan or other applicable officially adopted plan. For the purposes of this subsection, the phrase "building design elements" means exterior building color; type or style of exterior cladding material; style or materials of roof structures or porches; exterior nonstructural architectural ornamentation; location or architectural styling of windows and doors, including garage doors; the number and types of rooms; and the interior layout of rooms. The phrase "building design elements" does not include any of the following: (i) the height, bulk, orientation, or location of a structure on a zoning lot; (ii) the use of buffering or screening to minimize visual impacts, to mitigate the impacts of light and noise, or to protect the privacy of neighbors; or (iii) regulations adopted pursuant to this Article governing the permitted uses of land or structures subject to the North Carolina Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings.
(m) Nothing in subsection (l) of this section shall affect the validity or enforceability of private covenants or other contractual agreements among property owners relating to building design elements.
(n) Fence wraps displaying signage when affixed to perimeter fencing at a construction site are exempt from zoning regulation pertaining to signage under this Article until the certificate of occupancy is issued for the final portion of any construction at that site or 24 months from the time the fence wrap was installed, whichever is shorter. If construction is not completed at the end of 24 months from the time the fence wrap was installed, the county may regulate the signage but shall continue to allow fence wrapping materials to be affixed to the perimeter fencing. No fence wrap affixed pursuant to this subsection may display any advertising other than advertising sponsored by a person directly involved in the construction project and for which monetary compensation for the advertisement is not paid or required. (1959, c. 1006, s. 1; 1967, c. 1208, s. 4; 1973, c. 822, s. 1; 1981, c. 891, s. 6; 1983, c. 441; 1985, c. 442, s. 2; 1987, c. 747, s. 12; 1991, c. 69, s. 1; 1997-458, s. 2.1; 2005-390, s. 6; 2005-426, s. 5(b); 2006-259, s. 26(a); 2007-381, s. 1; 2011-286, s. 1; 2011-363, s. 1; 2011-384, s. 5; 2013-126, ss. 5, 8; 2013-347, s. 1; 2013-413, s. 6(a); 2015-86, s. 2; 2015-246, ss. 3.1(b), 4(a); 2015-286, s. 1.8(b); 2017-102, s. 29; 2017-108, ss. 8(a), 9(a).)