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Development Review Process Overview

The Development Review Section and the Urban Design Section of the Durham City-County Planning Department review site plans and plats, and serve as case managers and the central distribution point for plans going to each operational department in the City and/or the County.
Pre-Submittal Meetings
Applicants are encouraged to meet with City and County departments prior to submittal to determine what is required for each project. Pre-submittal conferences are recommended but not required, except for Conservation Subdivisions, pursuant to Section 3.2.2.B of the Unified Development Ordinance. There are two types of pre-submittal meetings:
1. A “Concept Meeting” is a meeting limited to Planning staff only. These meetings are offered on Thursday afternoons in 30 minute intervals on a first come first serve basis upon request received a minimum of 48 hours in advance. The meeting is meant to explain, in general terms, the development review process, what is allowable, and what may be required to accomplish the development in question.
2. A “Pre-submittal Conference” is a meeting involving multiple departments. Meetings are held on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month and must be requested a minimum of one week in advance. The meeting is not meant to be fully comprehensive, it is meant to provide direction and give an applicant an idea of the requirements for review as applicable to the proposal and site.  These meetings are most effective when a design professional to be present.
Pre-submittal meetings can be scheduled by using one of the online request forms:
Types of Site Plans Approved Administratively
Level 1 Site Plans – typically involve requests with no increase in impervious surfaces, new land disturbance, building area, or changes that would require review by any agency or department except Planning.
Level 2 Site Plans – typically involve requests that require review by multiple department or agencies.  There are two types of Level 2 site plans: 1) Level 2A site plan, which involves than 200 square feet of new impervious and no change in stormwater management; or 2) Level 2B site plan, which involves 200 square feet or more of new impervious surface and no change in stormwater management.
Level 3 Site Plans – typically involves requests that require new stormwater management or a change to existing stormwater management.
Level 4 Site Plans – typically involves requests requiring a traffic impact analysis (TIA).
Site Plan Amendment – site plan amendments are reviewed based on the ordinance that was in effect during the time that the site plan was approved.  Site plans and preliminary plats to be submitted as amendments must receive a confirmation from the Planning Department prior to being submitted for review.  Site plans and preliminary plats that have not received amendment confirmation will be placed on hold for up to one week to allow the submission to be reviewed for an amendment determination.

Approved by Governing Body
Major Site Plans – typically involve requests that, according to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) requires governing body approval; requires a major special use permit (UDO Section 3.9); or are located in a Watershed Protection Overlay Critical Area, with impervious surface that exceeds the maximum permitted by the Low Density Option under Sec. 8.7, Watershed Protection Overlay Standards.
Application Submittal
Developers or their representatives submit site plans and subdivisions, drawn by registered professionals with proficiency in site or subdivision design, to the Planning staff. Submittals, except for Level 1 site plans and exempt plats, are made by appointment up to one week in advance, but no later than 48 hours in advance. Appointments are available weekly and submittals are batched at the end of the week and distributed to other departments for review.

All supporting information, including the latest appropriate application, applicable departmental checklists, landscape calculations, stormwater impact analyses (and required maps), traffic impact analyses, specimen tree surveys, tree coverage calculations, the correct number of folded plans, and fees, must be included for the submittal to be considered complete. Additional submittals and fees may be required by other City or County departments, including, but not limited to, Stormwater, Fire Marshal, and Sedimentation and Erosion Control as part of the plan approval process. All submittals must be folded to fit in a standard legal folder (maximum 8.5 inches in width by 14 inches in length).
Tracking the Status of Reviews
Status and comments on submittals may be found in the Land Development Office (LDO) website, which is searchable. The required login is 0000 and the password is 0000. Once logged in, click on Plans Review and then enter the application number.
Applicants should thoroughly address any comments and are encouraged to contact the person making the comment if there are questions. Corrected plans, with changes highlighted, and a written response to each of the comments, should be resubmitted to the Planning staff no later than Tuesday by 4 p.m. Re-submittals may be made at any time, but will be held until the next distribution cycle if the Tuesday deadline is missed.
Re-submittals must also be made within 90 days after the comments are received, and re-submittals associated with a Notice of Violation must be made within 30 days of receiving comments.  If re-submittals are not made within the specified timeframe the plans will be considered administratively withdrawn. Extensions may be granted due to circumstances beyond the control of the applicant, at the discretion of the Planning Department staff. Requests for extensions should be made in writing to planning staff in advance of the re-submittal deadline.
Re-submittals made directly to other departments are not considered valid. Re-submittals must include a detailed response memo describing how and where each review comment was corrected. The Planning staff will then distribute the plans to the commenting departments for a two and one half week re-review period.
If repeat comments are not addressed, or changes made by the applicants require a re-review beyond the 3rd review, a re-review fee will be charged plus any applicable surcharges. Re-review fees are due at the time of each re-submittal.
Coordination With Other Approvals
Occasionally site plans and subdivisions require additional approvals other than site plan or plat approval. Depending upon the request and/or location of the proposed development, additional applications may also require approval. The following are the most common additional applications, but applicants are encouraged to schedule pre-submittal meetings to determine what, if any, additional approvals would be necessary for a particular proposal:
Board of Adjustment (minor use permits and/or variances)
Historic Preservation Commission (local historic districts)
Major and Transportation Special Use Permits
• Zoning Map Change
Plan Approval
Once a plan is determined consistent with all applicable ordinances, it may be approved by staff if it is a Level 1, 2, 3, or 4 site plan, or if it is an exempt or final Plat. Final determination on Major Site Plans are made by the appropriate governing body (Durham City Council or the Durham County Board of Commissioners). Meetings of each governing body are open to the public.