Updates to Durham's Design District Zoning Regulations


Durham’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) implements Design District zoning districts to emphasize development “form” instead of “use,” along with an emphasis in creating a relation to the public realm or streetscape. These districts focus on an urban, pedestrian and transit-oriented type of development seeking to encourage multi-modal transportation with development intensities to support this activity. 

These districts were adapted and inspired from Durham’s first “form based” codes called Downtown Design Overlay districts (-DDO). The Downtown Design District (DD) was first established in 2010, and replaced the –DDO zoning district. The second design district, the Compact Design District (CD), was adopted in 2012 and established within the Ninth Street Compact Neighborhood area.  Compact Design Districts will also be proposed in the coming years around other future light rail stations with Compact Neighborhood Tier designations.

Since the adoption of these zoning regulations, staff has monitored the effectiveness of the regulations, seeking to clarify and update the standards through feedback from city and county staff, the private sector, and community stakeholders. In 2014, as part of an overall set of technical amendments to the UDO, a number of technical amendments were made to the design district standards that focused on clarification of existing text and codification of certain interpretations of text. Staff also began development of a more comprehensive set of amendments that are more substantial in nature and the subject of this set of amendments.

Proposed Updates

Staff has worked with other departments to develop and review the proposed changes, which include changes to height calculations, new street typology standards, new open space requirements, and new/revised automobile and bicycle parking requirements, to name a few. Staff has also enlisted the help of two focus groups consisting of local design professionals to seek additional feedback regarding proposed changes.

Another significant proposed change is not regulation-oriented, but format-oriented. Staff has received comments regarding the way Design District regulations are written throughout the UDO, indicating a desire for the regulations to be found in one location. Staff has therefore attempted to consolidate the regulations applicable to design districts into one new Article (a new Article 8). Thus, the links to sections 8.1 through 8.7 below represent this proposed consolidation of regulations. Staff will review feedback regarding this format, along with comments on the draft regulations, prior to initiating the public hearing process. 

These updates focus on the current regulations as applied to Downtown and the Ninth Street Compact Neighborhood. Future amendments in the coming years are anticipated, as necessary, as staff work on establishing the Design District zoning on the future light rail station areas with Compact Neighborhood Tier designations.

Public Meetings and Providing Comments

Two public information meetings will be held to discuss the proposed changes and allow for additional public input. The meetings will be held at the following locations:

Meeting #1
When: September 22, 2016, at 6:30 pm.
Where: Asbury United Methodist Church,
Basement Fellowship Room,
806 Clarendon Street, Durham, 27705

Meeting #2
When: September 27, 2016, at 6:30 pm.
Where: City Hall Council Chambers,
101 City Hall Plaza, Durham, 27701
September's Meeting Presentation for Design District Zoning Regulation Updates (PDF)

To provide comments, please email UDOComments@DurhamNC.gov  Please specify the following:

  1. Section number and/or title; 
  2. The comment; 
  3. The reasoning for the comment; and 
  4. Any proposed change.
For more information please contact Michael Stock, Senior Planner, at 919-560-4137 ext. 28227 or email Michael.Stock@DurhamNC.gov

Initial Draft for Public Review – September 2016

The following are the consolidated design district regulations with draft revisions. Any text proposed for revision will be indicated by underlining or strikethroughs. In October, staff anticipates developing a new set of draft revisions based upon comments received through September.

  1. Sec. 8.1: Applicability and Uses (PDF)
  2. Sec. 8.2: Site Design (PDF)
  3. Sec. 8.3: Building Design (PDF)
  4. Sec. 8.4: Streetscape (PDF)
  5. Sec. 8.5: Block and Right-of-Way Standards (PDF)
  6. Sec. 8.6: Landscaping, Buffers, and Environmental Protection (PDF)
  7. Sec. 8.7: Parking (PDF)
  8. Sec. 16.3: Defined Terms (PDF)
  9. Miscellaneous Revisions