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What makes our development ordinance different than the rest?

A very practical and common-sense approach to development ordinances and the standards they contain is based upon “the 5-wins” scenario.  Whether it’s the citizen, local business, natural resources, leadership or those seeking to invest in the community the best approach is the mutually beneficial approach. At N-Focus we like to say if there is a winner and a loser, then it’s not a good plan.  So how do we create opportunity and success for the tree huggers and the tree cutters?  First of all, we focus on what many ordinances don’t – people.  Simply put the late Richard Pryor, a famous 20th century comedian once stated “this is a neighborhood, not a residential district” resonating with our founder and promoted for decades as a call for the human element to be factored into development standards.


By recognizing that human behavior can disrupt the outcomes that development policy aspires to achieve we emphasize an approach to set people up for success, not failure.  A great development ordinance will balance expectations early in the process by clearly reflecting the potential yield of property in any given district rather than stating standards that when taken together actually fail to produce the desired outcome – resulting in political push-back.  Take subdivision development for example. A balanced development ordinance addresses the practicality of a citizen knowing they can utilize their property to the fullest extent possible all while setting aside the public spaces and environmentally sensitive areas to support such neighborhood development. 

​Just a sampling of techniques that make our development ordinances different from the rest:

Decisive Power to Elected Officials

Official Zoning Maps are prepared to reflect existing land uses rather than speculation of future land use.  Placing a legislative decision in the pathway for all change, eliminating the subjectivity in growth management and relying on the elected official to determine the new direction for the subject property through the zoning map amendment process.  Afterward the developer enjoys the ability to follow the ordinance to design the outcome with staff level approvals of all administrative decisions. If a certain type of development is not desired in a given area, then don’t zone it for such use.

Environmental Awareness

A “managed retreat” from flood hazards by categorizing all 1% flood risk areas, wetlands, and stream buffers and prohibiting them as part of new lots created in major subdivisions. Providing the developer with clear expectations that their lot yield will be a factor of developable land, rather than the entire site containing sensitive areas.

Utilities Outside of Private Property

Requiring off-street utility easements to be placed within common areas rather than applied to new home lots, while requiring those off-street easements to be platted for utility and pedestrian use. Providing a homeowner the ability to fence all of the lot without limitations due to easements traversing their property.

Trading Density for Quality

Establishing districts designed for new development at a maximum density for single family neighborhoods at 3 units per acre (not counting accessory dwellings) while providing a quality alternative available to the developer allowing for higher density provided design standards detailed in the development ordinance are met.  Providing developers a trade: density for quality through a conditional zoning overlay eligible for certain projects.

Create Enduring Character

Creating character driven districts separating non-compatible uses where needed. So lesser desired uses have their own district to provide the participants in softer business activities a separation from those comfortable in a harsher setting.  Providing as an example, the auto-repair and contactor service industries with their own district to avoid conflict with other traditional commercial uses like restaurants and shopping.

Clear Sign Standards

Recognizing the equality of speech in signage and setting copy area standards consistent with the needs of local businesses while incentivizing signs desired by the community and disincentivizing those less popular in the community.  Providing businesses with effective options not tied to property ownership.

Modernize Manufactured Housing

Eliminating the catch-22 of manufactured housing to provide consistent and carefully structured policy on both new and replacement manufactured housing. Providing a path forward for replacing homes rather than forcing older homes and their occupants to remain as-is indefinitely, while also providing a legislative pathway to create new development of this housing type where deemed appropriate to truly address affordability options and answer the call of the NC legislature to address this need.

Logical & User-Friendly Format

Avoiding subjective language so board members, staff and development professionals may quickly understand what to expect. Moving away from academic narratives, value statements and suggested techniques to provide clear standards and specifications that enable development professionals to determine what to address in their designs.

Allowing N-Focus to craft your development ordinance policy to support your vision for the community places the emphasis on outcomes over processes.  Just ask Jason Hord, Manager of Granite Quarry or Michael Ambrose, Manager of Landis about their local investments in quality growth since adoption of their new development ordinances.

Click Below To See Our Most Recently Adopted Development Ordinance
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