Chatham-Cary Joint Land Use Plan

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The Chatham-Cary Joint Land Use Plan covers more than 18,000 acres east of Jordan Lake in Chatham County. The area is bordered by White Oak Creek to the south, Wake County to the east, Durham County to the north and Jordan Lake to the west. The Plan is an official policy document adopted by the Chatham County Board of Commissioners and Cary Town Council meant to guide future land use regulations, public infrastructure improvements and development. By guiding and limiting future development and infrastructure improvements, the Plan aims to maintain the rural form and character of most of the area, while still accommodating a limited amount of suburban growth in the area closest to Research Triangle Park and the Western Wake Freeway. The plan also seeks to protect water quality in Jordan Lake.


The Town and County have been working together on the Plan since joint resolutions were passed by both jurisdictions in December 2005.

The Board of Commissioners adopted the Plan on June 18, 2012, with the Town Council adopting it on June 28, 2012,. The Plan became effective for the Joint Plan area July 1, 2012.

Adopted Chatham-Cary Joint Plan

Land Use Plan
Land Use Plan Map
Interlocal Agreement
Joint Land Use Plan Interpretation 1
Joint Land Use Plan Interpretation 2

Executive Summary

The Plan includes a land use map that designates two land use categories for most of the Plan area and the potential location of a mixed use area. The area generally along and west of NC 751 is designated as Very Low Density Residential, with lot sizes ranging from one to five acres. The area generally east of NC 751 is designated Low Density Residential, which will allow smaller lots if public utilities are extended from the Town. The map also includes a Rural Buffer Boundary line running north to south through the Plan area. This line is used to indicate the limits of where public utilities (water, sewer) may be extended to serve future growth. Very low density residential development is planned on the west side of the boundary (where public utilities would not be available), and higher residential densities or mixed use development is envisioned on the east side of the boundary (where public utilities may be provided).

Chapter Two of the Plan begins with a discussion of the introduction and purpose of the Plan, and continues with an overview of the plan vision, guiding principles used in the development of the Plan, and details on the planning process used by Chatham County and the Town of Cary to develop the Joint Land Use Plan. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the legal status and standing of the of the Plan and a recommended timeline for updating the Joint Land Use Plan.

Chapter Three of the Plan includes guidance on the land uses and residential densities allowed in the different land use categories and the proposed mixed use area, or node. For the Mixed Use Node, the Plan includes general guidance on the mix of land uses and includes a discussion of existing developments that are considered comparable to the proposed node. Chapter Three also includes guidance on buffers that should be provided adjacent to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land and the American Tobacco Trail, which runs through the northeastern portion of the Plan area. Chapter Three concludes with recommended transition techniques between land uses and densities and the principles of plan interpretation both jurisdictions have agreed to use.

Chapter Four of the Plan discusses the Rural Buffer Boundary and the potential provision of public utilities in portions of the plan area. This chapter includes guidance on the Town’s utility extension policies and guidance for the jurisdictions and property owners on a “rescue” policy for a property having a failed private water or sewage treatment system (including private and community wells and septic systems). Chapter Five discusses water quality issues facing the Jordan Lake Watershed, and describes approaches being taken to protect and improve lake water quality.

Chapter Six of the Plan includes some recommended steps that the jurisdictions should take to implement the Plan. These include zoning the land to match the Plan, updating transportation plans for the area, and working on future sites for parks, greenways and schools.


Debra Grannan
Assistant Planning Director
Town of Cary Planning and Development Services Department
(919) 460-4980