Cary is the place for businesses of all sizes, from international corporations to the smallest startups. We want your business opening to go smoothly. If you’re unfamiliar with Town procedures, our development liaisons will guide you through the appropriate development plans, permits and approvals.  

Additionally, read the Chamber of Commerce/Town of Cary Guide to Starting a Business.  

Development Liaison Service

  • Free service for all residential and nonresidential development customers. 
  • An assigned staff member will assist you as your primary point of contact throughout the life of your project.
  • Liaisons have expertise in the areas of planning, zoning, permitting, building code and inspections.
  • Work closely with all Town staff involved in the development process.

Before Buying Property or Signing a Lease

  • Request a Zoning Verification Letter to ensure a lot or building meets Town requirements and is zoned for how you intend to use it.
  • This formal letter outlines permitted uses, environmental factors, open zoning violations and more.  
  • There is a fee for a zoning verification letter.   
  • Processing may take up to two weeks.

Locating in a New or Renovated Building

Development Plan approval is required prior to construction of a new building or making alterations to the exterior or facade of an existing building. Changes may include landscaping, parking, awnings, lighting, building colors, etc. 

Apply for a Commercial Building Permit after your Development Plans are approved, and before you begin construction or renovations, inside or outside.

Include the following documents with your permit application (print, complete and upload):

  • Commercial Building Permit application (electronic submittal)
  • A Building Code Summary (or Abbreviated Building Code Summary, if applicable).
  • A floor plan of the space to be occupied, drawn to scale, showing and identifying each room, bathrooms, doorways, exits, reception areas, etc.
  • An overall building plan, drawn to scale, clearly identify the name, address, and type of business for each tenant space.
  • Food services and certain day care facilities will need to include a menu if the project needs to be reviewed by Wake County Environmental Services (Health Department).  
  • Submit your permit application directly to  Wake County Environmental Services . Application and fees for Wake County Environmental Services permits must be made directly with Wake County.
  • A sign permit is required before you install a permanent or temporary sign. Many non-residential developments have approved Master/Uniform Sign Plans which set parameters for the size, location and design of signs on property constructed or managed as a single development.

Locating a New Tenant in an Existing Building with No Changes to the Property or Space

A Commercial Building Permit is required anytime a new tenant moves into a space. These permits are classified as:

  • Change of Tenant (moving into a space previously permitted for the same building occupancy type, such as business use to business use) 
  • Change of Occupancy (moving into a space previously approved for a different building code occupancy type, such as from a business use to an educational use).  

Once a permit has been issued, the required building and fires inspections will need to be scheduled and approved before the Certificate of Occupancy can be issued.

Fees may vary, please see the Inspections & Permits Department Fee Estimation Guide.  

Include the following documents with your permit application.  (Print, complete and upload.)    

  • Commercial Building Permit application
  • Building Code Summary (or Abbreviated Building Code Summary, if applicable).
  • A floor plan of the space to be occupied, drawn to scale, showing and identifying each room, bathrooms, doorways, exits, reception areas, etc.
  • An overall building plan, drawn to scale, clearly identify the name, address, and type of business for each tenant space.
  • Food services and certain day care facilities will need to include a menu if the project needs to be reviewed by Wake County Environmental Services (Health Department).  
  • Submit your permit application directly to  Wake County Environmental Services . Application and fees for Wake County Environmental Services permits must be made directly with Wake County.
  • A sign permit is required before you install a permanent or temporary sign. Many non-residential developments have approved Master/Uniform Sign Plans which set parameters for the size, location and design of signs on property constructed or managed as a single development.

Locating a Business in Your Home

Home-Based Businesses are permitted in most residential zoning districts and sometimes require approval of an Accessory Use Permit.

Changing Residential Property into Commercial Property

Converting a house or other residential structure into commercial property may require rezoning and/or development plan approval prior to obtaining a building permit to begin construction or renovation, inside or outside.

Some state building code requirements are more stringent for commercial property than those for homes. Examples include:

  • Handicapped access for the site and the bathrooms
  • Weight-bearing limits of floors
  • Width of hallways and corridors
  • Firewalls

Privilege (Business) License

Effective July 1, 2015, a privilege license is no longer required.  

Business Link NC (BLNC), an extension of the N.C. Department of Commerce, has details on state licenses, permits and regulatory requirements. (North Carolina has no single business license covering all requirements)

How to Obtain an ABC License

Businesses that serve alcoholic beverages must receive approval from the North Carolina Alcohol Beverage Control Commission. To obtain your license, follow the process below:

  1. Download and complete an NC Alcohol Beverage Control Permit form.
  2. Apply for a Commercial Building Permit (type in ABC Inspection in the scope of work line).
  3. Schedule a building and fire inspection. 
  4. Complete an online North Carolina Background Report on the license holder. Type "NC Background Check" into any search engine. 
  5. Bring your completed paperwork to the Cary Police Department, 120 Wilkinson Avenue. 

All the above referenced forms will need to be submitted to North Carolina ABC Commission for final approval.

After your receive your ABC approval, you will need to apply for a Town of Cary Beer and Wine Permit.

Contact: North Carolina Alcohol Beverage Control Commission at (919) 779-0700

Water & Sewer Service

A Water and Sewer Service Application will be required with your building permit application for new service.  

Garbage Collection

In addition to water and sewer service, we provide once-a-week collection to small businesses whose garbage:

  • Will fit into four 32-gallon cans
  • Is similar to general household waste with no special disposal requirements

We also collect flattened corrugated cardboard from these businesses.

Other Utilities

Electricity, gas, telephone and cable TV

County, State & Federal Requirements

See an overview and contacts for licenses and permits, business name registration, tax listing, etc.

Resources for Small Businesses

Cary Chamber of Commerce
Wake County information for businesses
Small Business Center Network (N.C. Community College System)
N.C. Small Business and Technology Development Center
Business Link North Carolina (NC Commerce)
U.S. Small Business Administration
SCORE
Foreign Trade Zones in North Carolina