Development Regulations

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The state Legislature has given towns authority to regulate land development for public health, safety and welfare. Development regulations also apply within Cary’s extra-territorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, which state law says may extend up to three miles beyond Town limits.

What We Regulate

Regulations include the Land Development Ordinance, Cary Code of Ordinances and municipal laws that the Town Council has adopted.

Report a violation by emailing us or by calling the Planning and Development Services Department at 311 or (919) 469-4046.

View frequently requested information on annexation petitions, fences, home occupations, buffers, signs, tree cutting, zoning and much more

What We Don't Regulate

The Town does not control or regulate whether homes are occupied by the owners or by renters.

The Town does not control such things as the color or size of the house. However, your homeowner's association may have such restrictions.


Guidelines are official policies that provide recommendations as specified by Town Council directive, the Land Use Plan or another element of the Comprehensive Plan.

Developing, Using, or Clearing Vacant Land

Before grading or other land-disturbing activities, property owners should contact the Planning and Development Services Department to determine what work, if any, may occur without an approved development plan.

The Town has extensive tree protection and other environmental rules. These apply in the Town's planning jurisdiction and to property that may be brought into the Town’s jurisdiction within five years.

Contact the Planning and Development Services Department at 311 or (919) 469-4046 or visit plan review and design for additional information.

Except for single-family dwellings, development of vacant property requires a development plan approval before any land disturbing activities. Properties that are being initially developed are typically reviewed as a Major Site Plan submittal or a Town Council submittal. Development plans require a meeting before any plan submittal. Please call 311 or (919) 469-4082 to schedule a pre-submittal meeting.

Changing the Use of a Building or Property

File an up-fit permit application with the Inspections and Permits Department when proposing a land use change within an existing building. All changes of use are subject to all zoning regulations including land use, parking, landscaping, signage etc. The Town will review changes of use for compliance with these zoning standards.

For questions regarding zoning and whether your proposed change of use will comply, call the Planning and Development Services Department at 311 or (919) 469-4082.

Expanding a Development (Commercial, Office, Industrial, Residential, etc.)

Existing developed properties, excluding single family dwellings that propose expansions to the existing development, are required to submit a development plan prior to any land disturbing activity. Expansions to existing sites that involve less than a 50 percent building or parking expansion are reviewed as a Minor Site Plan submittal.