Old West Durham – Neighborhood Protection Overlay

The City-County Planning Department is currently working with the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association, residents, and stakeholders to develop a Neighborhood Protection Overlay (NPO) for the Old West Durham neighborhood. 

For additional information contact: Matthew Filter by email or call  919-560-4137, ext. 28271. 

Project Update – January 12, 2018

The Old West Durham Neighborhood Association (OWDNA), with the technical assistance of the City-County Planning Department, has updated the draft Neighborhood Protection Overlay (NPO) ordinance for Old West Durham. This updated draft and project area map incorporate feedback received during various outreach efforts since the initial draft was released in October 2017, including from the third publicly-noticed meeting held at E.K. Powe on November 8th, 2017. The updates also include minor technical changes recommended by staff to increase the clarity and enforceability of the draft ordinance. 

The updated draft and updated project area boundary map are provided at the bottom of this page in the Documents section. Two versions of each are available: a “clean” version that does not show tracked changes, and a “marked-up” version that shows where content was edited, added, or deleted. The previous/initial NPO draft, dated October 25, 2017, is also available for reference. 

At this time, the OWDNA is anticipating that the updated draft NPO will be submitted to the Planning Commission for their review at the March 2018 meeting, with an anticipated vote before City Council at a meeting in May 2018. Both meetings will include a public hearing and applicable property owners will receive notice of such via US Mail. When a meeting schedule is finalized, it will be posted on this project website. 

If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact either Matthew Filter, Senior Planner with the City-County Planning Department, at 919-560-4137 x 28271 or email Dan Welch with the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association.  

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is a Neighborhood Protection Overlay (NPO)?
A Neighborhood Protection Overlay (NPO) is a planning tool that helps preserve the established physical character of existing neighborhoods as redevelopment and new investment occurs. The zoning overlay builds upon the underlying zoning district(s) by providing added protections for a particular neighborhood. Any draft overlay will be carefully calibrated to ensure it meets the unique needs of the neighborhood but still accommodates new investment.

What can an NPO regulate?
Application and usage of NPOs is authorized by Article 4, Section 4.6 of the Durham City-County Unified Development Ordinance. Specifically, it can modify:

  • What uses are permitted (Article 5); 
  • The intensities of structures, such as heights and densities (Article 6); 
  • Lot and site requirements, such as minimum/maximum lot sizes and lot widths (Article 7); 
  • The design of multi-family and commercial structures, where applicable (Article 7); 
  • The protection of trees and the establishment of tree coverage standards (Article 8); 
  • Landscaping and buffering standards (Article 9); and 
  • Standards for signage (Article 11).
It is important to note that just because a potential NPO can regulate these items does not mean that it must or will. 

What can’t an NPO regulate?
While neighbors may have a range of concerns that they would like to see addressed, what can be regulated is limited in scope by the Unified Development Ordinance as well as state and federal law.  Additionally, other more effective mechanisms may exist to address certain issues other than through the NPO process. 

Examples of items that an NPO cannot regulate include:

  • Noise levels;
  • Cut-through traffic; 
  • Whether properties are owner-occupied or renter-occupied; and 
  • Building and architectural elements of one- or two-family structures, such as color, type of exterior cladding material, style or materials of roof structures or porches, exterior nonstructural architectural ornamentation, location of windows and doors including garage doors, and the number and types of rooms. (Note: this is a result of North Carolina Session Law 2015-86 / Senate Bill 25, which limits the ability of counties and municipalities to regulate home design. The law does provide some exceptions, such as homes within a historic district or those designated as a historic landmark). 
Why is Old West Durham a candidate for an NPO? 
In 2014, the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association submitted an application for the City-County Planning Department to explore an NPO for the neighborhood. It identified the neighborhood’s unique design elements and noted its history as workforce housing for mill workers. The application cleared the staff sufficiency review and was granted priority by the Joint City-County Planning Committee (JCCPC) in 2014. 

Are there other NPOs in Durham County?
Yes. An NPO was established for the Tuscaloosa-Lakewood neighborhood in 2008. The overlay text can be located in Article 4, Section 4.6.5 of the Unified Development Ordinance.  

What geography is being considered for an NPO?
The draft boundaries for an NPO are depicted in the map provided below. The focus of the NPO is on residential blocks, not commercial areas. Generally speaking, the study area is bounded by the Watts Hospital-Hillandale Local Historic District to the north, the Commercial General (CG) zoning district to the west, the Compact Design – Support 2 (CD-S2) district to the south, and the Office and Institutional (OI) district to the east. The boundary may evolve based upon public input.

What is the process for this project?  
This project has two main phases. First, the City-County Planning Department will work with the Old West Durham community to collect public input and data on whether an NPO is appropriate and what issues a potential NPO might address. If it is determined that an NPO is appropriate for Old West Durham, the City-County Planning Department will then help craft an NPO that responds to the needs of the neighborhood. Ultimately, approval of any potential NPO will follow the standard approval process for text and map amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance, including public hearings, a recommendation by the Planning Commission, and approval or denial by the City Council. 

How can I provide input?  
There will be multiple avenues for residents and stakeholders to get involved in the project. Stay tuned to this project page for announcements regarding upcoming public meetings and information sessions. The project petitioner, the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association, is also a resource for neighborhood residents. Please feel free to contact Matthew Filter, a Senior Planner with the Durham City-County Planning Department, by email or call 919-560-4137, ext. 28271, with any questions, concerns or ideas.


Documents related to this project are attached below.

Updated Draft NPO - Version 2.0 (January 10, 2018)
Draft OWD NPO Ordinance 1-10-2018 (clean)
Draft OWD NPO Ordinance 1-10-2018 (mark-up)

Draft OWD NPO Proposed Boundary 1-10-2018 (clean)
Draft OWD NPO Proposed Boundary 1-10-2018 (mark-up)

Initial Draft NPO - Version 1.0 (October 24, 2017)
Draft OWD NPO Ordinance 10-24-2017
Draft OWD NPO Proposed Boundary 10-24-2017

Third Workshop Documents (November 8, 2017)
Workshop Summary
Notice Letter
Draft NPO for 11/8 Meeting

Second Workshop Documents (May 23, 2017) 
Workshop Summary
Notice Letter

Kick-Off Workshop Documents (January 31, 2017)
Station # 1 - Introduction to NPO's

Station # 2 - OWD Existing Conditions
Station # 3 - Uses and Trees
Station # 4 - Dimensional Regulations
Station # 5 - Next Steps

Other Documents

Preliminary Study Area Boundaries (PDF)