A land use designated as a "special use" in a particular zoning district is one that – because of its inherent nature, extent and external effects – generally is not appropriate in the district, but might be if subject to special standards and review that will ensure it is located, designed and operated in a manner that is in harmony with neighboring development and does not adversely affect the public health, safety and general welfare. Development associated with a land use designated as a special use, therefore, is allowed only pursuant to a Special Use Permit, which may be issued only after the Board of Adjustment has approved a Special Use Permit petition in accord with the special hearing and review process set forth in the Unified Development Ordinance.

View the Special Use Permits Database

Required Conclusions

Before the Board of Adjustment can approve any Special Use Permit petition, it must first reach each of the following conclusions: 

  1. The proposed development will not materially endanger the public health or safety.
  2. The proposed development will comply with all regulations and standards generally applicable within the zoning district and specifically applicable to the particular type of special use or class of special uses.
  3. The proposed development will not substantially injure the value of adjoining property, or is a public necessity.
  4. The proposed development will be in harmony with the area in which it is located.
  5. The proposed development will be consistent with the Wake County Land Use Plan.
 
Review Process
It is strongly recommended that any person considering seeking a Special Use Permit first contact Zoning Administration staff, who will explain the review process, applicable requirements and standards, and potential issues, and provide the necessary forms and checklists.
 
Review of Special Use Permit petitions occurs in accord with defined cycles that accommodate comprehensive review by County staff and outside agencies, preparation of a staff report and recommendation, a public hearing and review by the Board of Adjustment, and public notice of the hearing.
 
Initiation: After preparing a petition (including plans), the petitioner must submit it to Zoning Administration staff by one of the prescribed submittal deadlines, using the submittal checklist to ensure completeness (see Special Use Permit Application and Submittal Checklist, and traffic impact analysis guidelines (version 05/26/04)). A complete petition must be delivered to the Zoning Administration office (Permits/Plans Review Center, Mall level, Wake County Office Building, Suite 101, 336 Fayetteville St., downtown Raleigh) by 2 p.m. on the date of the submittal deadline. The Zoning Administration staff will review the petition for full compliance with all submittal requirements. If it does not fully comply, they will notify the petitioner of submittal deficiencies and allow him/her until 5 p.m. that day to correct the deficiencies and avoid deferral of the petition's review to a later review cycle.
 
Note: The fee for review of a Special Use Permit petition is $375.
 
Staff Review: After a petition is accepted as complete, Zoning Administration staff post notice of the petition on the Planning web site (see Pending and Recent Special Use Permit Petitions) and distribute the petition to staff of County and outside agencies involved in development review (Development Review Staff, or DRS) who review it for compliance with all applicable standards, as well as in relation to the five required conclusions.
 
Zoning Administration staff notifies the petitioner of the Development Review Staff findings and, if appropriate, invite him/her to revise the petition to address them. The petitioner must submit any revised petition to Zoning Administration staff by the prescribed deadline. Relevant staff members then review the revised petition.
 
Zoning Administration staff prepare a staff report containing the final staff findings and recommending approval or denial of the petition, then submit the petition and staff report to the Board of Adjustment. During this time, they also post notice of the upcoming hearing on the petition at the proposed development site and on the County's website (see Pending and Recent Special Use Permit Petitions), and send such notice to owners of adjacent property.
 
Board of Adjustment Review: In reviewing Special Use Permit petitions, the Board of Adjustment acts much like a panel of judges. It holds a hearing to allow the staff, petitioner and other interested parties to present competent, substantial and material factual evidence relating to the required conclusions. It then discusses the petition and makes findings of fact supported by the presented evidence. Based on those findings, the Board decides whether or not it can reach each of the required conclusions. It may approve a petition only if it reaches all of the required conclusions. The Board may approve a petition subject to conditions reasonably necessary to allow it to reach the required conclusions.
 
Board meetings begin at 9 a.m. in Room 2700 of the Wake County Justice Center, 301 S. McDowell Street, downtown Raleigh.
 
Note: The petitioner bears the burden of presenting sufficient factual evidence to support findings of fact that allow the Board to reasonably reach each of the required conclusions.
 
Note: Because the Board may only consider evidence presented at the hearing, it is improper for the petitioner or other interested parties to communicate with Board members outside the hearing.
 
After hearing presented evidence and the Board's discussion, the petitioner may ask the Board's permission to revise the petition to address raised concerns. If the Board grants that request, the review process starts over (albeit accelerated) with submittal of the revised petition to Zoning Administration staff.
 
If the petition is approved, Zoning Administration staff prepares and issues the petitioner a Special Use Permit. The Permit runs with the land and – for a two-year period – authorizes submittal of an application for approval of final plans by Zoning Administration staff, and issuance of necessary land use and building permits for the approved development.
 
The petitioner or other aggrieved party may appeal the Board's decision to Superior Court, provided the appeal is made within 30 days after the written notice of the decision is delivered to the petitioner and is filed in the Zoning Administration offices.
 
For more information about Special Use Permits and the petition review process, contact Brenda Coats: 919-856-6215; FAX: 919-856-5824; Wake County Zoning and Subdivision Administration, PO Box 550, Raleigh, NC 27602-0550.
 
Zoning Administration staff are located at the Permits/Plans Review Center, Mall level, Wake County Office Building, 336 Fayetteville St., downtown Raleigh.