Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about zoning:


Can I conduct a certain activity at a given location?
The zoning classification of a parcel of land will dictate what use can be made of that property. To ascertain the zoning classification for a particular parcel of property, contact Zoning Administration at 704-336-3569. The zoning classification for a parcel of property is set by the governing body for the jurisdiction in which the property lies. That same governing body has the authority to rezone the property. There is a formal process which must be followed in doing so. A property owner can initiate the rezoning process by contacting the agency designated by the governing body for processing such a request. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission is the designated agency for the City of Charlotte and unincorporated Mecklenburg County.

Can the zoning of a certain parcel of property be changed?
The zoning classification for a parcel of property is set by the governing body for the jurisdiction in which the property lies. That same governing body has the authority to rezone property. There is a formal process which must be followed in doing so. A property owner can initiate the rezoning process by contacting the agency designated by the governing body. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission is the designated agency for the City of Charlotte and unincorporated Mecklenburg County.

Can you tell me what is going on the property near where I live?
If given the street address or tax parcel number for a particular parcel of property, Zoning Administration staff can access information to determine if any construction permits have been obtained.

Can I operate a business out of my home?
Yes, but you must comply with the requirements as set forth in the zoning ordinance as adopted by the respective jurisdiction in which you reside.

Did a property owner get the required permits for construction that is already underway?
Departmental records can easily be accessed by Zoning Administration officials to determine if the required permit for an activity underway has been obtained.

Applications and How to File

How do I file for a variance or an appeal from decision?
The Zoning Board of Adjustment hears variance requests to waive part or all of a zoning ordinance requirement. The application form for a variance(PDF, 301KB) may be obtained from this website. The application must be completed and include the required fee before application will be accepted.

How do I rezone my property?
Every zoning classification requires a minimum lot size. Each piece of property has a zoning classification with minimum development requirements listed in the city and county zoning ordinances. Subdivision regulations govern how a property can be subdivided. Therefore, you would need to contact rezoning staff at 704.336.2205.

Commercial and Business Property

Does the zoning classification at a particular address allow my type of business?
Consult Mecklenburg County's GIS Real Estate System. Click on "Tax Parcel" and search by the owner's name or property address. The search results will include the zoning classification, parcel ID number and municipality. Once the zoning classification is determined, view the Zoning Districts Table to see if the use is permitted in your zoning district.

How do I find out the zoning of my property?
Consult Mecklenburg County's GIS Real Estate System. Click on "Tax Parcel and Map Sheet Search" and search by owner's name, address, or tax parcel number. The search results will include zoning classification, parcel ID number and municipality.

What type of zoning will I need to establish a named business activity?
If you are uncertain about what zoning classification is needed for a particular activity — automotive service station, professional office, or restaurant, for example — contact Zoning Administration at 704.336.3569. In most cases, a use can be established in different zoning classifications.

Development Standards

Where can I locate an accessory structure, shed, pool or garage on my property?
These structures generally may be placed in the side and rear yard, provided they are far enough from the property lines. These structures are not allowed in the established setback (front yard).

What is a buffer?
A buffer is a strip of land with existing or planted vegetation used to protect a less intense land use. For example, trees and shrubs planted in a buffer on an industrial property may protect a residential property.

Who maintains a buffer?
Maintenance is the responsibility of the property owner. The zoning inspector can require the property owner to replace any dead plant material and repair any damaged fence or wall.

What are my building setbacks and yard requirements?
A building setback is the required distance a building or structure must be from the adjacent property lines. Typically, setbacks and yard requirements are determined by the zoning classification; verify the zoning of your property.

Do dumpsters require screening?
Yes. Both the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County zoning ordinances require certain uses to be screened from abutting property and from public view from a public street. The six towns in Mecklenburg County have similar provisions in their ordinances.

Where can I purchase a copy of a zoning ordinance?
City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County zoning ordinances are available from the Charlotte Planning, Design & Development Department. Contact the planning department at (704) 336-2205 or visit their office at 600 E. Fourth St. in Charlotte. You can also view the City of Charlotte Zoning Ordinance online. Ordinances for the towns of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville are available at their respective town halls.

Can I subdivide my property?
Yes. Most properties can be subdivided if the minimum zoning requirements for subdivision and any other restrictions, are met.


What is a watershed or impervious area?
An impervious area, or impervious ground cover, is any structure or ground cover consisting of asphalt, concrete, gravel, brick, terrazzo, roofing, ceramic tile or any other natural or man-made material that prevents the absorption of surface water into the soil. A watershed is a certain percentage of land that can be covered with impervious area. This affects any building permitted on a lot. To determine if a lot is in the watershed area, consult the Water Quality Program at 704.336.5500.


What happens when a violation continues after the specified time to correct the violation?
The zoning inspector can issue civil citations (from $50 up to $500) or issue a criminal summons to take someone to environmental court where a judge can sentence jail time or penalties if the alleged violator is found guilty. The zoning office can also use civil remedies such as an order of abatement or an injunction.

What can the zoning Department do about illegal uses on a property, such as illegal drug activity?
Properties where illegal drug activities take place may have multiple violations of the city codes. A team, with representatives from police, community relations, housing, and land use and environmental services offices, for example, would be formed to investigate any violations.


When is a permit required?
A permit is required for all construction activity (building, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing). For an existing building, a change in use (office to restaurant, retail to beauty salon, etc.) will require a change of use permit. Operating a business from your home will also require a change of use permit. Consult with Zoning Administration at 704.336.3569 regarding your plans, and obtain confirmation of any necessary permits.

Do I need a permit for a fence?
A fence constructed along a city street requires a no-cost fence and wall certificate from the Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT) in lieu of a permit. See the CDOT fence and wall certificate application form.(PDF, 249KB)

Do I need a permit for a shed or "temporary" structure?
Yes, a zoning use permit is required for structures 12 feet or less in any dimension. This permit assures that the structure is located far enough from property lines. A building permit is required for anything measuring more than 12 feet in any dimension.


Can I operate a business from my residence?
To operate a home-based business, you must obtain a zoning customary home occupation permit and a business license. Apply in person for the permit at the Hal Marshall Service Center, 700 N. Tryon St. in Charlotte. The zoning counter is located on the main floor.

There is a one-time flat fee of $125 for this permit. The permit is valid as long as you live at the location being permitted. Complete the zoning use application and the customary home occupation compliance form. These forms are available in the lobby. The zoning staff member will need these two forms as well as the business license application to process your permit request.
After obtaining zoning approval and a local business license, the home business proprietor should also contact the following offices:

  • City of Charlotte General Services Department permit writing division, if modifications to the structure are required. Phone 704.336.3803.
  • Register of Deeds, 720 E. Fourth St., to register the business name. Phone 704.336.6095.
  • Business Listing Department, 720 E. Fourth St., to list business property. Phone 704.336.6382.
  • North Carolina Department of Revenue, 500 W. Trade St., to obtain a state sales tax number if goods are to be sold. Phone 704.342.6121.
  • Internal Revenue Services to obtain information for a federal tax ID number. Phone 1.800.829.1040.

How do I find out the zoning of my property?
By phone: A tax parcel number is required. This is an eight-digit number found on your tax bill or receipt that assists the zoning staff in locating your property on any of the county's 189 zoning maps. Contact the zoning office at 704.336.3569. By computer: Visit the GIS Real Estate System and use your tax parcel number, an address or the property owner's name.

How many people may live in a house?
In a residential district, up to six unrelated individuals may live in a house as a family. There is no zoning restriction for the number of family members related by blood, marriage or adoption living in a home.

Who enforces my restrictive covenants or private deed restrictions?
The homeowner's association, management company or individual homeowner(s) may enforce these restrictions.

What is an "as-built" survey and how do I get one?
A survey by a registered surveyor showing all structures, driveways, basements, walkways, gravel coverage, impervious areas, etc., of a site as it has been built. Obtain a survey from a registered surveyor.

Violations and Complaints

How do I report a zoning violation?
Call Zoning Administration at 704-336-3569 and provide the address and a detailed description of the nature of the violation. Include details such as names, dates, times, license plates and any information that can be given as evidence of the violation.

Where do I report a junk car or trash on a property?
If the property in question is inside the Charlotte city limits, call the City of Charlotte Community Improvement Department at 704-336-2573. If outside the city limits, call the Mecklenburg County Land Use & Environmental Services Agency at 704.336.3835.

What is the difference between an unlicensed vehicle and a junked vehicle?
The City of Charlotte Zoning Ordinance allows for no more than two unlicensed vehicles that are not fully enclosed in a permanent structure to be on any premises. Unlicensed vehicles are not permitted to be located within any required setback or yards in the street right-of-way. One junked motor vehicle can be located in the rear yard if it is covered with an acceptable canvas covering.
According to the City of Charlotte's Code of Ordinances, a junked motor vehicle is an unlicensed vehicle that meets one of these three definitions:

  • Is partially dismantled or wrecked.
  • Cannot be self-propelled.
  • Is more than five years old and appears to be worth less than $100.

How is zoning enforced?
Once the zoning office receives a complaint, the zoning inspector will investigate the alleged violation with one to three days. If a violation is detected, a notice of violation is sent by certified mail to the property owner and/or occupant. The violation letter gives a specified time (currently 30 days for Charlotte and Mecklenburg County) to correct the violation.
City of Charlotte Solid Waste Services enforces the junked motor vehicle ordinance. Please contact customer service at 704.336.2673.

What constitutes a sign violation?
A detached sign may be in violation if the sign is too tall, exceeds the amount of sign face area, is too close to the road. Too many signs on one property also may constitute a violation. A wall sign may be in violation if it exceeds the amount of signage allowed on a wall, projects too far from a wall or is on the roof. Each sign must have a sign permit.
Additional prohibited signs include:

  • Signs extending into the public right-of-way, other than those approved by the Charlotte Department of Transportation.
  • Roof signs.
  • Portable signs.
  • Except those in the Uptown mixed-use district, flashing, fluttering, swinging, or rotating signs other than time and/or temperature signs.
  • Signs that are similar in color, design and appearance to traffic control signs.
  • Vehicular signs as defined in Section 13.102.
  • Off-premise signs other than those permitted in Section 13.111.
  • Nonconforming signs, except as permitted in Section 13.112.
  • Other signs not expressly allowed by regulations.


For More Information About Zoning

Please contact Planning, Design & Development Department staff: