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Development Review Procedures


Development Review Procedures

This section of the manual is the longest and most detailed because it addresses the wide range of development review procedures that the City of Fayetteville employs to manage growth and development. These procedures range from building permits to zoning certifications.

This section is organized by describing the City’s development review procedures from the most common to the most specialized or unusual. Most of these procedures simply involve the submittal of an application, a review of that application for completeness and for compliance with applicable codes and technical design standards, followed by issuance of a permit or other official document.  Many subdivision and site plan applications require review by the Technical Review Committee before development can go forward.  Certain types of applications require special steps to be taken, such as public hearings, pre-application conferences and neighborhood meetings.  When there are many steps in a particular development review procedure, a flowchart is provided to complement the description by illustrating the steps in a graphic format.

Special steps in certain development review procedures include public hearings, pre-application conferences, and neighborhood meetings.  These steps are covered in the following subsections.

Public Hearings

Public hearings are held by various City boards involved in the development review process.  The procedures involved in noticing, advertising and holding public hearings are specified by laws adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly.  City reviewing boards and City staff are required to follow these procedures, ensuring fair and transparent treatment of applicants and the general public.

There are two types of public hearings – “legislative” and “quasi-judicial.”  While notice and advertising requirements are basically the same for these two types, the other procedures that are followed before and during the hearings are significantly different.  

Legislative Hearings – These types of hearings are relatively simple.  The Mayor or board chair introduces the item, a staff report is provided, and the public hearing is opened for comment.  Generally, the applicant speaks first, followed by any interested party.  After all comment has been received, the public hearing is closed and board deliberations occur, followed by a decision or a recommendation.  Other than the limitations provided in the State Open Meetings Law, Board members are able to discuss the items involved in legislative public hearing with the applicant or with other members of the public prior to the item coming to public hearing.  Most development review procedures that require public hearings are legislative hearings.

Quasi-Judicial Hearings – The public hearings for a Special Use Permit, Variance, Subdivision Waiver, Historic Resource Commission and most appeals are quasi-judicial.  State law requires these types of hearings to be managed as though they were hearings before a judge. Under these types of hearings, board members cannot receive information outside of what is provided to them by City staff in advance of the hearing.  Additionally, the hearings themselves must be evidentiary in nature, requiring sworn testimony from all speakers and that information presented in support or opposition must come from expert witnesses (for example, comments concerning impacts on property values must be presented by real estate professionals and comments regarding noise volume impacts must be presented by acoustical engineers).  In most cases, all evidence and testimony must be able to be rebutted, so petitions, written statements and similar material from people who are not present are generally inadmissible. Actions by board members must include reference to specific findings of fact with regard to the standards of approval set forth in the UDO.

Pre-Application Conferences (UDO Sec. 30-2.B.5)

The pre-application conference is intended as a way for the applicant to become familiar with the City’s development review process, the range of standards that will be applied to the application, and how the proposed development may be modified to better comply with UDO requirements.  The pre-application conference is also an opportunity for the City staff to become familiar with a site and pending development application.  Added value to the resulting design may be achieved by identifying and considering natural attributes of the site and the identification of existing trees as a resource feature in fulfillment of part of the UDO requirements prior to advancement of the development plans. The pre-application conference is intended to provide guidance in this regard.

Depending on the complexity of the application, the pre-application conference may be conducted as a telephone conference, a physical meeting with one or more staff members, or informal consideration at a TRC meeting.

A pre-application conference is required for the following development applications:

  • Map Amendment (Rezoning)
  • Planned Development
  • Conditional Rezoning
  • Major Site Plan
  • Subdivision Plan
  • Special Use Permit
  • Variance
  • Subdivision Waiver

Pre-application conferences are strongly encouraged but are voluntary for all other application types, and are not required for City-initiated applications.

Requests for a pre-application conference shall be initiated by a prospective applicant, who must contact the Planning and Zoning Division to schedule the pre-application conference.  Applicants may file an optional pre-application conference checklist with the Planning and Zoning Division.  These checklists will assist the City in providing detailed guidance on the applicable review standards and procedures.  There is no fee required for a pre-application conference.  The staff in attendance at a pre-application conference may vary based upon the complexity of the proposal or known site issues that must be addressed as part of the application.

The pre-application conference is a process designed to inform potential applicants about the development review process and help minimize delays.  Complex development issues, however, may require additional staff research.  In these cases, City staff will provide research results within the timeframe discussed during the pre-application conference.  In general, the more detailed the information brought to the meeting, the more thorough and specific the response from City staff.

Applicants seeking approval of a Planned Development, Conditional Rezoning, Major Site Plan, Subdivision Plan, or Special Use Permit are required to submit a sketch or conceptual drawing for review during the pre-application conference.  An exception to this requirement is for Conditional Rezoning applications which involve conditions or limitations that are expressed only as text, such as a proposal in which only a limited number of land uses allowed in the base zoning district will be allowed in the proposed conditional zoning district.

Applicants are reminded that the pre-application conference is a preliminary meeting, and is not binding on the City.  Comments made during a pre-application conference do not constitute official assurances or representations by the City or its officials regarding any aspect of the plan or submittal.  City staff cannot guarantee all relevant issues will be discussed or that initial staff reactions will reflect the ultimate staff recommendation.

During the pre-application conference, City staff will explain the relevant development review procedure(s), the associated review schedule, required application fees, application submittal requirements, and any applicable City policies.  The applicant is encouraged, but not required, to keep notes of the meeting, and provide those notes to the City along with other application materials.

The optional Pre-Application Conference Request Checklist (see Appendix B) describes information useful for a pre-application conference.  If submitted, these materials must be provided to the City staff at least seven business days in advance of the pre-application conference.  In general, the amount of detail on pre-application conference submittals should increase with the complexity of the type of project being proposed.

Neighborhood Meetings (UDO Sec. 30-2.B.6)

The purpose of the neighborhood meeting is to inform owners and occupants of nearby lands about a proposed development application, and provide the opportunity to receive comments and identify and address concerns about the development proposal so that applicants may resolve conflicts and outstanding issues before formal consideration of an application.

A neighborhood meeting is mandatory before submission of the following types of applications and optional for all others:

  • Map Amendments (Rezonings) and Conditional Rezonings proposing reclassification from a Conservation (CD) zoning district to a base or conditional Mixed Residential 5 (MR-5) or business zoning district
  • Conditional Rezonings proposing reclassification of three acres of land or less from one residential or business zoning district to another more intense residential or business zoning district
  • Planned Developments
  • Site Plans or Subdivision Plans that result in a new street connection to a street or street stub serving an existing single-family residential neighborhood

Mandatory neighborhood meetings shall be held no later than 12 days prior to the first Board or Commission review or the decision-making body’s first consideration of the application, whichever occurs first.  Meetings shall be scheduled after 5:00 P.M. on a weekday and held at a place that is accessible to neighbors that reside in close proximity to the land subject to the application.

Mailed notice of neighborhood meetings stating the time, place, and general nature of the meeting must be mailed by the applicant at least 10 days prior to the meeting, and sent to the Planning and Code Enforcement Director and all landowners required to receive public notice as required by the UDO. 

In cases where a Site Plan or Subdivision Plan results in a new street connection to a street or street stub in an existing single-family neighborhood, the applicant shall also post a sign of the neighborhood meeting beside the proposed new street connection, at least 10 days prior to the meeting.

City staff may attend to provide advice about review procedures, but shall not be involved in facilitation or other direction during a neighborhood meeting.

Within five business days after the neighborhood meeting, the applicant shall provide a written summary of the meeting to the City that includes a list of meeting attendees, a summary of attendee comments, an overview of discussions related to the development proposal, and any other information the applicant deems appropriate.  The meeting summary shall be included with the application materials and be made available to the public for inspection.  Anyone attending the neighborhood meeting may submit a written response to the applicant’s meeting summary, which shall also be included in the application materials.