Erwin Road - Compact Design District Zoning

Did you know that between 2015 and 2045, Durham County is expected to grow by almost 140,000 residents and 76,000 jobs? Because our residential and employment populations are increasing, it is imperative we direct this growth into strategic locations that are well-designed, walkable, and have access to transit, infrastructure, and jobs. Failure to be thoughtful and proactive about growth management will result in inefficient development patterns, creating longer commutes, costlier service delivery, and sprawl into our rural and natural areas. 

At the direction of the Durham City Council, the Planning Department has begun the process of rezoning the Erwin Road area (“project area”) to support mixed-use, higher density, and pedestrian friendly development (referred to as “compact design district zoning”). The current zoning districts in the project area are not adequate for Durham’s future needs. This rezoning process will dovetail with several other expected rezonings in Durham near proposed light rail stops, such as Leigh Village, Patterson Place, South Square, and Alston Avenue. Ultimately, these collective rezonings will help to create more walkable, transit-supportive, and vibrant neighborhoods within Durham.
More information about this project can be found below, including a “frequently asked questions” section as well as dates for upcoming public workshops. For additional information contact: Michael Stock by email or call 919-560-4137, ext. 28227; or Matthew Filter by email or call 919-560-4137, ext. 28271.

Project Update – June 30, 2017

On June 27, 2017, the City-County Planning Department hosted a Kick-Off Workshop for this project at the Sarah Duke Gardens. Materials from this workshop are posted below, including the PowerPoint presentation, handout, and poster boards.

Currently, Planning staff are reviewing the comments submitted and working towards developing a “preliminary zoning framework” for public discussion later this year. This framework would outline the broad parameters of the future regulations, including sketching out sub-district boundaries, identifying special regulatory challenges unique to the project area, evaluating future road connections, and more. Planning staff are also working with property owners and stakeholders along the Hillsborough Road portion of the project area (“Area B”) to determine whether it should be separated from this project and integrated into the existing Ninth Street compact design district zoning. 

Please stay tuned to this website for additional updates in the coming months. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact the project managers listed at the top of this webpage. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is zoning?

Zoning is the set of local rules that regulate land use and development. Zoning shapes many aspects of new development in Durham, including what land uses are permitted, the height of buildings, the massing/shape of buildings, the siting of buildings on a property, landscaping, parking, vehicular access, pedestrian/bike infrastructure, and more. The City’s zoning regulations can be found in the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). 

What area is being considered for rezoning? 

The map of the Erwin Road project area is provided below. It is 412 acres in size and includes two geographically separate areas: (1) Area A, roughly the area north of Erwin Road between 15-501 in the west to 147 in the north and east, and (2) Area B, roughly the area along Hillsborough Road from Hillandale Road in the west to Trent Drive in the east. Area A is defined mostly by large multi-acre parcels containing suburban style development. Current development includes institutional, medical, hospitality, office, and multi-family uses. Area B contains smaller, somewhat more urban parcels that are mostly neighborhood commercial in usage. 

What is the current zoning in the project area? 

Currently, there are several different zoning districts within the project area, ranging from residential to commercial to light industrial. While these zoning districts may have served the area well in the past, they are not in alignment with the future needs of the community. Many of the current zoning districts in this area place too great an emphasis on the automobile and lack the necessary design requirements to ensure a walkable and vibrant mixed-use neighborhood. 

Why is this particular area being considered for rezoning? 

This particular geographic area is being considered for rezoning due to several reasons, including its proximity to transit stops along the proposed Durham-to-Orange light rail line (D-O LRT), strategic location, ability to accommodate future growth, and availability of existing infrastructure. Currently, the project area has access to two planned transit stops (LaSalle Street and Medical Center).  

How were the boundaries created?

The project area boundary itself was developed as a component of a multi-year planning effort. In 2015 and 2016, the Planning Department worked with the community to update the Future Land Use Map within the City’s Comprehensive Plan. This document is the City’s official development and planning guide, and informs zoning, investment, and other public policy initiatives. The update included establishing new boundaries for several “compact neighborhoods,” which are areas near light rail investment which are envisioned to become high density, walkable, and mixed-use in the future. One of these “compact neighborhoods” is the Erwin Road project area. Essentially, this rezoning project aims to translate the community priorities and policies within the Comprehensive Plan (a policy guide) into tangible zoning regulations (actual legal rules) that shape new development.

What is a Compact Design (CD) District, the proposed zoning district?

The name of the proposed new zoning district is Compact Design (CD) District. Similar districts have already been established in 9th Street and Downtown. Relative to other zoning districts, the CD places greater emphasis on the form of the building and the relationship between the pedestrian and the built environment. The CD includes regulations to ensure that buildings contribute to good urban form, support cyclists and walkers, and provide for higher-density development. Examples include specifying that buildings be built close to the street, reducing parking requirements, and requiring amenities such as bike parking and pedestrian benches. The CD prevents auto-oriented, low-density development patterns that have no relationship to the pedestrian and do not maximize transit-oriented development opportunities.  
The project area is fairly large in size.

How will CD zoning be applied?  

The Erwin Road project area is not “one-size-fits-all.” The Erwin Road CD will likely be divided into several different “sub-districts,” such as Core, Support 1, and Support 2. This ensures that development patterns within the project area are tailored to unique geographic needs; for example, that development is most intense near proposed transit stops and least intense near established residential areas. 
Additionally, the portion of the project area along Hillsborough Road faces different issues than that of the main project area, such as proximity to residential homes in Old West Durham. It can be expected that this area may be treated differently than other, more intense areas. 

Are there examples of this type of zoning elsewhere in Durham?

Yes. The exact zoning regulations for the project area have yet to be drafted, although they will be based on efforts elsewhere in Durham. For example, both Downtown and the 9th Street area have design-based zoning districts. It is anticipated that the Erwin Road “version” of this type of zoning district will follow many of the same principles, although specific elements, such as building heights, will likely be adjusted based upon unique local conditions. 

What is the rezoning process?

The project has three main phases. First, the City-County Planning Department will engage residents, property owners, and stakeholders to share information about compact design district zoning and discuss ideas, concerns, and opportunities related to the project. Discussion may include intensities, heights, the boundaries of “sub-areas,” environmental hazards, and the need for new road connections.  Secondly, based upon community feedback, the Planning Department will draft preliminary zoning regulations for public review and comment. Lastly, the rezoning will be presented to the Planning Commission for their recommendation and City Council for their approval or denial. It is anticipated that this process will take between 1-2 years.

Will this process address other issues and topics?

Possibly. The primary purpose of this project is rezoning, however, additional policy recommendations or plans may be generated to inform and support the rezoning process. 

How can I get involved?

Over the course of the project, the Durham community will have many different opportunities to get involved. Stay tuned to this project page for announcements regarding upcoming meetings and information sessions. You may also email or call either of the project managers, Michael Stock (919-560-4137, ext. 28227) or Matthew Filter (919-560-4137, ext. 28271). 


Documents related to the project are attached below.

Kick-Off Workshop (June 27, 2017)
Comment Sheet
Poster 1: Existing Conditions
Poster 2: Sub-Districts
Poster 3 - Placement, Height and Density
Poster 4 – Streets and Blocks
Poster 5 – Building Frontage Types
Poster 6 – Design Standards 
Poster 7 – Parking and Services 
Poster 8 – Next Steps 

General Documents
Project Area Map – Current Zoning
Project Area Map – Aerial