How to keep abreast of proposed development projects

Mountain Xpress Development Guide

When residents organize to influence a proposed development in their neighborhood, they can sometimes feel like they’re starting on the back foot. By the time a project makes its way into the public eye, it’s often been through several layers of review by government staff or appointed boards, and issues such as building size and parking availability have already been considered. Although that doesn’t prevent officials from seeking changes to development plans, they’re often content just to go with what’s been recommended.

But both Asheville and Buncombe County offer a number of tools to help residents avoid getting caught off guard. The following resources give early notification of development proposals and provide more information about each project’s movement through the overall approval process.


  • The city’s Notifications service ( enables residents to sign up for email alerts concerning large-scale development proposals filed with the Development Services Department, as well as new projects that include affordable housing or are targeted for steep slopes. These emails can be sent for projects anywhere in the city or within up to 3 miles of a given city address.
  • All large-scale projects for which a permit application has been filed since Dec. 1, 2018, are shown on a city map at Older proposals filed from 2015 on are included in a different city map at
  • SimpliCity (, the city’s open data portal, provides a search tool to find all development permits for sites within a mile of a given city address. Another search tool ( returns all development permits filed for a specific address.
  • The full SimpliCity map ( lists all development permits filed with the city, including those not involving major new construction. Among the types included are residential building alterations, changes to historic structures and event-related temporary use permits. Further permits and planning records are available through the city’s Citizen Access Portal at
  • An employee of the city’s Development Services Department, designated the “planner of the day,” is on call during business hours to answer questions about development projects. More information is available by calling 828-259-5450 or emailing

Buncombe County

  • The county’s Planning and Development Department doesn’t currently have a notification tool, and no neighborhood meetings are required prior to submitting a development plan. However, developers are required to mail all property owners within 1,000 feet for special use permits, variances and zoning map amendment requests.
  • All projects submitted since May 2020 for which a rezoning, special use permit or subdivision approval is necessary are shown on a county map at, with planning documents linked to each project name. Users can search for all projects within a given distance from any county address.
  • The map doesn’t cover projects submitted prior to May 2020; information concerning these must be requested from county staff via an online form ( or by phone at 828-250-4830.
  • The county’s online permits portal ( enables users to search for all permits filed for a given address, whether they pertain to building, planning or environmental health.
  • Buncombe County’s geographic information systems website ( provides data on specific parcels of land, including ownership, zoning designation and property value.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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