Frequently Asked Questions
These are general FAQs only. Refer to the UDO for the full set of regulations.
The FAQs and the UDO are subject to change.
- What is the UDO and how will it affect my property?
The Unified Development Ordinance was created to increase the development standards in the zoning jurisdiction of Gaston County . The UDO was developed with the municipalities to draft an ordinance that promotes highly consistent development processes. Each municipality may adopt the UDO in whole or part to create the development consistency throughout the County. All land use ordinances have been condensed into one document that includes: Zoning, Subdivision, Manufactured Home Park, Watershed Water Supply, and Flood Damage Prevention. The UDO also addresses certain development requirements such as but not limited to land use/zoning of property, design of commercial buildings, subdivision and residential development design, landscaping and open space designations, and water quality protection.
- How can I get a copy of this ordinance?
A copy of this ordinance can be viewed online, purchased on paper for $60 (color) and $55 (black and white), on disk for $25, or a copy may be viewed for no charge at the Gaston County Planning Office ( 128 W. Main Ave. , Gastonia, NC 28054).
- What is Planning and Zoning? What are there essential functions?
Planning is a local government function to achieve current and long term land use goals.
Zoning is a tool of Planning and is implemented to achieve the Planning goals. An ordinance is setup to establish Zoning Districts to foster designations for certain types of development and / or uses (i.e. single family homes, business parks, retail centers, etc.) and to establish regulations for each district such as setbacks, etc.
- Who do I contact with questions regarding this ordinance?
Questions pertaining to the UDO should be directed to the Gaston County Planning and Development Services Department. The Planning department is located at the Gaston County Administration Building. Please call 704-866-3075 or email email@example.com for additional information.
- What instances require a zoning permit?
A zoning permit will be needed:
- For an accessory building / pool / pier / etc.
- If you are changing the structural integrity
- The footprint is being changed
- The usage is being changed
- New Construction
- What are the basic procedures for obtaining a building permit?
1. Obtain zoning permit
2. Obtain health department approval (well and septic)
3. Obtain building permit (submit plans for approval)
- What are the procedures to subdivide my property?
Chapter 13 deals with property subdivision. There are two different types of subdivisions: minor and major. Minor subdivisions involve five or fewer lots, no new streets and no new public utilities. They can be approved by the Administrator. All other subdivisions are considered major subdivisions. They must first be reviewed by the Technical Review Committee (TRC) which makes recommendations to the Planning Board. The Gaston County Planning Board makes preliminary plat approval for major subdivisions. A Public Hearing with the Board of Commissioners is required for subdivisions exceeding two hundred-fifty (250) lots. Table 13.8-1 summarizes the approval process for all plats.
- How do I file a complaint? (building code, zoning, and minimum housing)
For complaints concerning zoning, minimum housing, and junk cars call 704-866-3075. For building code violations call 704-866-3155.
- What Watershed am I in? What are those regulations?
To verify what watershed you are located in, if any, please refer to the interactive web site at http://egov1.co.gaston.nc.us/website/ParcelDataSite/viewer.htm.
The regulations for the Watershed areas are located in Chapter 15 of the UDO:
- Is my property in the floodplain?
For more information, please refer to Environmental Planning. Chapter 16 of the UDO has the regulations pertaining to flood prone areas.
- What do I do if my property doesn't comply with the UDO regulations?
Refer to Section 3.5 for Non-Conforming Situations.
- What will happen if I violate the UDO?
Failure to comply with any provision of this Ordinance is hereby declared unlawful.
Any violation occurring once within a twelve (12) month period shall be considered a first offense. A notice of violation shall be issued by the Administrator and shall provide for a warning period as provided for in Section 18.5(C) to correct the violation. Upon the expiration of the warning period, the violator shall be subject to a civil penalty of one hundred ($100.00) dollars for each day that the violation remains on the property. Should a violation continue to exist by the twenty-first (21 st ) day past the date of original notification, the County may seek to recover the penalty together with all costs by filing a civil action in the General Court of Justice in the nature of a suit to collect a debt. The collection of a penalty pursuant hereto shall not foreclose further proceedings for penalties coming due subsequent to the date of the filing of a prior proceeding. The provisions of this section may also be enforced through any other appropriate remedies as prescribed in Section 18.4 herein.
Any violation of reoccurring on the same property by the same violator more than once within a twelve (12) month period shall be considered a repeat offense provided the reoccurrence is a violation of the same Section of this Ordinance. A notice of violation shall be issued by the Administrator and shall have an immediate civil penalty of three hundred ($300.00) dollars. No warning period shall be granted since this provision applies only to violations that occur more than once in a twelve (12) month period and proper notice was given for the initial violation as prescribed under Section 18.5. For each day the repeat violation remains, the violator shall be subject to a civil penalty of three hundred ($300.00) dollars. Should a violation continue to exist by the seventh (7 th ) day after such notification, the County may seek to recover the penalty together with all costs by filing a civil action in the General Court of Justice in the nature of a suit to collect a debt. The collection of a penalty pursuant hereto shall not foreclose further proceedings for penalties coming due subsequent to the date of the filing of a prior proceeding. The provisions of this section may also be enforced through any other appropriate remedies as prescribed in Section 18.4 herein.
The project / job will be delayed if violations exist and it should be in your best interest to comply with the ordinance initially.
Refer to Chapter 18 of the UDO for more information.
- Where can I find a list of terms / definitions?
A helpful list of relevant terms can be found in Chapter 2 of the UDO.
- What is the fee schedule?
Charges vary for different applications and permits. Refer to the Fee Schedule.
- What is a Conditional Use Permit?
Certain uses are subject to the issuance of a conditional use permit. The purpose is to ensure that a certain use is compatible with surrounding development and is in keeping with the general zoning district in which it is located. Such Conditional Use Permit is contingent upon the property owner meeting fair and reasonable conditions, associated with the issuance of a conditional use permit, that ensure the compatibility of the use with surrounding properties and promote the general welfare of the community. Refer to Section 5.11.
- What is Parallel Conditional Use Zoning (PCUP)?
Parallel conditional use districts are established to consider situations where a particular use may be acceptable on a lot or tract of land but the other uses permitted in a general zoning district would not be acceptable. Such rezoning is made contingent upon the property owner meeting fair and reasonable conditions, associated with the issuance of a conditional use permit, that ensure the compatibility of the use with surrounding properties and promote the general welfare of the community. Refer to Section 5.16.4.
- What is a Conditional Zoning (CD) District
The Conditional Zoning (CD) District process allows for the establishment of certain uses that, because of their nature or scale, have particular impacts on both the immediate area and the community as a whole. The development of these uses cannot be predetermined or controlled by general district standards. In order to accommodate these uses, this Section establishes the conditional zoning district process.
Any area rezoned to a CD district shall be in general compliance with the goals, objectives and implementation strategies of the adopted Comprehensive or Land Use Plan and all other plans and regulations officially adopted by the Board of Commissioners. Refer to Section 5.16.5.
- What is a text amendment?
It is an application to amend the Ordinance to add or remove regulations. Any proposed amendment to the text of this Ordinance may be initiated by the governing board, Planning Board, by any owner of a legal or equitable interest in a piece of property located within the geographical boundaries of this Ordinance, by a local government agency, or by any other person in accordance with the procedures set forth herein. See Section 5.17.2 I_Ch5_Permit_Approval
- How do I get a variance?
A variance is an adjustment to the regulations as listed in the UDO. Two different Boards hear variance cases. The Planning Board hears variances only for Chapter 13, subdivision regulations. The Board of Adjustment hears variances for all other chapters of the UDO.
You will need to fill out the appropriate application, pay a fee, and submit with the required documentation.
For subdivision variances refer to Section 13.7.
For all other variance issues refer to Section 5.14.
- What is an appeal? / How do I file an appeal?
Except as provided herein, the Board of Adjustment shall hear and decide appeals from and review any order, requirement, decision, interpretation or citation made by the Administrator and apply such interpretation to particular fact situations. In addition, the Administrator may ask the Board of Adjustment to interpret the Official Zoning Map and to pass upon disputed questions of lot lines or district boundary lines and similar questions that may arise in the administration of this Ordinance.
Refer to Section 5.13.
Notwithstanding the above, any decision made by the Administrator relative to Chapter 13 shall first be appealed to the Planning Board per Section 13.6. Any such decision made by the Planning Board may be appealed to the governing board in accordance with Section 13.6.
Refer to Section 13.6.
- What is a Special Exception? / How do I request a Special Exception?
A permit, issued by the Board of Adjustment that would allow the property owner to develop or make use of his/her property with prescribed minor deviations to the terms of this Ordinance.
Special Exceptions follow the same procedures as a variance. Refer to Section 5.12.
- Are there deadlines for submitting requests?
Refer to the calendars for dates located on the Planning Department webpage at Calendars
- What is the process of constructing a residential structure on a piece of property?
1. Obtain zoning authorization
2. Obtain well and septic permits from Health Department
3. Submit appropriate building plans
4. Obtain residential building permit
Refer to Building Inspections for forms and information for submittal for a Building Permit.
- What are the required setbacks? (residential, commercial, industrial)
This information begins on page 7-21 in Chapter 7 of the UDO. K_Ch7_District_Regs_UseTable1
- Can I start a business in / at my home?
A home occupation permit shall be required to ensure that a proposed home occupation is developed in accordance with all applicable provisions of this Ordinance. Lists of permissible customary and home occupations are found in Section 8.1.14 and 8.1.15.
- How do I establish a particular use?
Verify the use and the allowed zoning district in the Table of Uses in Chapter 7. K_Ch7_District_Regs_UseTable1
Then, if the Use is Commercial, follow the Commercial Site Plan Review procedures found in Section 5.2.
If the Use is Residential, then follow the steps FAQ #23 for single-family dwellings or the Supplement Regulations for other residential uses as listed in the Table of Uses 7.1-1 in Chapter 7.
- What is the Urban Standards Overlay (USO) District?
The USO refers to the areas of land that are considered urban in nature and assumed to remain that way for the next 10 - 15 years.
Refer to 7.6.3 for further information regarding the Urban Standards Overlay District. K_Ch7_District_Regs_UseTable1
- What is the purpose of landscaping regulations?
Landscaping provides Gaston County with numerous benefits such as: reduction in soil erosion, mitigation of certain pollution, screen unsightly equipment, shade impervious surfaces, and preserve native vegetation.
Specific regulations can be found in Chapter 11 at:
- What are signage regulations for?
These regulations encourage the effective use of signs in order to maintain an attractive look to the county, improve pedestrian / bicyclist / motorist safety, and minimize adverse affects of signage to nearby property.
Specific regulations can be found in Chapter 12 at:
- What are parking requirements for?
Parking requirements exist to promote the safety of motorists and pedestrians. Parking requirements insures safer access to businesses, sufficient parking dimensions / capacities, and sufficient storage for recreational vehicles and boats. Specific regulations can be found in Chapter 10 at:
- What is the meaning and purpose of "Open Space"
Open space is a new requirement for subdivisions that aims to preserve open areas of land within subdivisions. See Section 11.7 for additional information concerning:
- The amount of land to be dedicated
- The nature of the land
- The unity, usability, shape, location, topography, access, and landscaping of the land
- Greenway issues
- Fees in Lieu of Land Dedication
- What are the subdivision standards?
Chapter 13 provides information on how to subdivide property, including, but not limited to access, open space, how approved, plan requirements, street design, etc.
Refer to Section 13 for a complete listing of subdivision standards
- What is the Planning Board?
The Board of County Commissioners in 1977, by ordinance, created the County Planning Board to conduct the following activities:
-make recommendations on rezoning cases and text changes;
-render decisions on subdivisions;
-hear variance cases pertaining to only Chapter 13 (Subdivisions);
-make studies of Gaston County and surrounding areas;
-determine objectives in the development of the study area;
-develop and recommend policies, ordinances and/or procedures for obtaining the objectives;
-and other related matters.
Refer to Section 4.4 and Table 4.1-1 for other information and duties of the Planning Board.
- What is the role of the Board of Commissioners?
The Board of Commissioners is the governing body for Gaston County 's unincorporated areas and makes the final decision for all rezoning cases.
Refer to Section 4.2 and Table 4.1-1 for information and duties given to the Board of Commissioners pertaining to zoning matters.
- What is the Board of Adjustment?
The Gaston County Board of Adjustment was established in 1992 by the Board of County Commissioners. It is made up of appointed volunteers to serve the citizens of the County in making decisions pertaining to zoning and land use ordinances.
The Board of Adjustment hears and decides on:
-Appeals from any order, decision, determination, or interpretation made by the Land Use Administrator pursuant to or regarding the regulations in the zoning ordinance;
-Requests for Variances from the requirements of the zoning regulations;
-Make interpretations to any portion of the ordinances;
-Requests for Conditional Use Permits for those uses which require such in certain zoning districts;
-Allow temporary uses in zoning districts where such uses are not normally permitted.
The Board hears and reviews each application/request during a public hearing. Their decision is made by applying specific findings of facts to the testimony and evidence presented at the public hearing. The Board of Adjustment acts in a quasi-judicial status when making these decisions. This status precludes them from political pressure and lobbying prior to hearings since ex parte communications with the Board members is prohibited.
Refer to Section 4.5 and Table 4.1-1 for other information and duties of the Board of Adjustment.