Buncombe County development process

Mountain Xpress Development Guide

Compared with the city of Asheville, Buncombe County has a much simpler process for development review. Many smaller projects have no public input opportunities. Larger commercial and multifamily projects, as well as requests to deviate from existing rules, are reviewed by the Board of Adjustment. The elected Board of Commissioners only reviews property rezoning requests and zoning text amendments — not specific project plans.

County staff have exclusive review of most developments, making sure they comply with technical requirements for construction, steep slope protection and other aspects. Other levels of review come into play for large subdivisions or requests to deviate from existing rules.

The flowchart linked here tracks the course of the development process for different project types, each of which is explained below. More information is available through the Buncombe County website at avl.mx/b3w.

Application types

Special Use Permit

Some types of development projects, such as large apartment complexes, manufactured home parks, commercial developments and recreation facilities, are allowed in certain zoning districts only after additional review by the Board of Adjustment. The board holds a quasi-judicial hearing to determine if the proposed use would detract from the surrounding neighborhood’s quality of life or the general public welfare.

  • A full table of projects requiring an SUP by zoning district can be found in the county’s zoning ordinance at avl.mx/b3x.

Subdivision/Zoning Variance

In other cases, a developer may want to build a project permitted by right in a zoning district but not adhere to all of the legal regulations. Common examples include constructing houses on smaller lots than usually permitted or not setting a building back from a road by the required distance. These variances are considered by the Board of Adjustment in a quasi-judicial hearing.

Major Subdivision

New Buncombe County subdivisions of 10 or fewer lots are reviewed only by staff, but the Planning Board acts as an advisory review panel for those of 11 or more units. County staff then continue to review the project as it is constructed and ensure it complies with development ordinances.

  • A flowchart showing the full process for major and minor subdivisions can be found on the county’s website at avl.mx/b3z.

Zoning Amendments

Developers who want to use property in a way not currently permitted can submit a request to change the county’s zoning map or regulations. For example, a residential property might be rezoned as commercial to allow a business use. The Planning Board reviews all zoning map and text amendment requests and provides recommendations to the Board of Commissioners, which has the final say.

  • Zoning map amendments are tied to the land itself, not a specific project. Although developers may have plans for a certain use, once the zoning has been changed, they are allowed to build anything permitted by uses allowed in the new zoning district.

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