Chapel Hill, NC, Code of Ordinances

Updated October 2019

By: Town of Chapel Hill Plng Dept

https://library.municode.com/nc/chapel_hill/codes/code_of_ordinances
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Table of Contents

Accessory Dwelling Units

The city's code of ordinances permits single-family dwelling units with accessory apartments by right in most districts (Appendix A, Table 3.7-1). The definition for “dwelling units, single-family with accessory apartment” limits unit size and occupancy (Appendix A). The off-street parking standards address parking for accessory apartments (§5.9.7).

Green Building

The city’s code of ordinances requires new public buildings of a certain size to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification and meet the energy reduction benchmarks of the Architecture 2030 Challenge. This requirement is applicable to new public buildings over 5,000 square feet and additions to public buildings over 5,000 square feet must satisfy at least half of the 2030 Challenge reduction benchmarks (§5-123). 

Inclusionary Housing

The city's code of ordinances addresses inclusionary zoning and begins with a purpose statement (§3.10).

The inclusionary requirements apply to developments of at least five single-family or two-family dwelling units or lots, as well as new developments, redevelopments, or vertical mixed use buildings that create at least five new multifamily units. A set-aside of 10 percent of units in town center districts and 15 percent of units in all other districts affordable to low- to moderate-income households applies; the code provides instructions on calculating required affordable unit numbers. The town offers density and floor area bonuses, as well as other development cost offsets.

Standards for affordable units address minimum square footage for affordable unit types, location of units, phasing of construction, exterior appearance, and bedroom mix. The regulation provides standards for establishing unit or lot prices and establishes a 99-year affordability requirement. 

It also offers alternatives to on-site affordable unit construction, including land dedication, dedication of existing units, off-site unit construction, and in-lieu fees. Development proposals must include an affordable housing plan addressing compliance with the code, and an affordable housing performance agreement is required.

The town’s Inclusionary Housing Program website offers additional information and documentation of requirements.

Residential Infill Development

The city's code of ordinances authorizes the establishment of neighborhood conservation districts to protect established residential neighborhoods from incompatible infill (§3.6.5). Under these provisions, the town or a majority of property owners can apply for a neighborhood conservation district designation. Neighborhood conservation districts are subject to special design and development standards to protect the existing character (§1.1). 

Solar Energy

The city's code of ordinances specifies solar setbacks for a range of solar access, from rooftop access in higher-density districts to south wall access in low-intensity districts (Table 3.8-1.J). Planned developments shall be located with respect to solar access; applicants are encouraged to consider the use of solar roofs (§6.18.1.e). Subdivisions may not include covenants that restrict or prohibit the use of solar collection devices (§4.6.7.d). It also identifies a minimum solar setback requirement which can be reduced to zero (0) in special circumstances (§3.8.2.j).

Student Housing

The city's code of ordinances defines and regulates multiple student-housing-related uses. It defines “fraternity or sorority dwelling,” “residence hall,” and “rooming house” (Appendix A). It permits residence halls and rooming houses in multiple districts by right (Table 3.7-1).

It permits fraternity or sorority dwellings by right in certain districts and with a discretionary use permit in others, subject to use-specific standards (§3.7). These standards address minimum floor area per resident (§6.3).

All students occupying dwelling units must meet the code’s definition of “family,” which does not place any absolute limit on the number of unrelated occupants (Appendix A).

Tree Preservation and the Urban Forest 

The city's code of ordinances includes tree protection standards that establish tree preservation, planting, and maintenance requirements for public and private property (§5.7). These standards address tree canopy coverages by land use, landscape protection plans, trees in public rights-of-way, significant tree stands, rare and specimen trees, and administration.


Chapel Hill, NC

2010 Population: 57,233

2010 Population Density: 2,710.02/square mile