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 – November 14, 2017

On November 8, 2017 a public meeting was held at E.K. Powe to review the draft NPO authored by the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association (OWDNA). Roughly 100 community members attended this meeting. This was the third public meeting for this project, building off two previous public meetings held on January 31st and May 23rd of this year. 

Planning staff collected and summarized the submitted worksheets from this meeting and the official summary is posted below (along with summaries from the two previous workshops). 

Support among workshop participants for various NPO components varied between 70% - 84%. The OWDNA is currently reviewing these worksheets and other forms of feedback to determine what modifications to make to the draft, based upon community feedback. The OWDNA is also working with the Planning Department regarding the timing of next steps, such as future outreach opportunities and the submission of the NPO to the Planning Commission and City Council. Please monitor this website, as well as the OWDNA neighborhood listserv, for additional information as it becomes available.

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.

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)