Preliminary Site Plans

Planning Commission

Last updated Oct. 27, 2014 - 11:47 am

For the period of time that both the Unified Development Ordinance and the City Code Part 10 are both applicable, certain types of developments may require preliminary site plan approval by the Planning Commission before building or grading permits can be issued. The process includes notification of adjacent property owners and a public hearing under zoning regulations in City Code Part 10 Chapter 2 Section 2132.2.

Projects Requiring Site Plan Approval by the Planning Commission (See City Code Part 10 Chapter 2 Section 2132.2 for complete requirements.):

  • Shopping centers smaller than 130,000 square feet and located more than 400 feet from a residential use or zone
  • Retail uses within 400 feet of a residential use or zone
  • Banks smaller than 25,000 square feet with drive-throughs
  • Banks, offices, institutions, hotels and motels larger than 25,000 square feet
  • Parking lots and garages as a primary use with more than 80 spaces or 25,000 square feet of surface area
  • Residential institutions (such as churches and schools) in residential zoning districts when criteria for administrative approval are not met
  • Residential developments with more than 15 dwelling units per acre in O&I-1, O&I-2 and SC districts.
  • Residential developments exceeding 20 dwelling units per acre in thoroughfare districts
  • Certain multi-family residential and group housing projects smaller than five acres in size and located in residential districts
  • Substantial expansions to any of the projects above

Projects Requiring Site Plan Approval by City Council (See City Code Part 10 Chapter 2 Section 2132.2 for complete requirements.):

  • Shopping centers larger than 130,000 square feet
  • Shopping Center smaller than 130,000 square feet and located within 400 feet of a residential use or zone
  • Free-standing retail larger than 70,000 square feet or located within 400 feet of a residential use or zone
  • Buildings 80 feet or more in height
  • Buildings in the downtown area, except those with six or fewer dwelling units
  • Additional density (above that allowed in the underlying zoning district), conversions to dwelling units, and lodging units with two-burner cooktops in the Pedestrian Business Overlay District
  • Construction in locally-designated Raleigh Historic Districts requires special approval

Site plans for new structures, additions or expansions to existing structures within the Downtown Overlay District and in excess of 10,000 square feet.


Approvals or Permits Issued

Approval of a preliminary site plan

Key Steps in the Process

  1. Planning & Development will assign the project to a Project Coordinator and a Team Lead. The Project Coordinator will be the point of contact for the applicant.
  2. Applicants are encouraged to schedule a Pre-Application conference to discuss issues that may come up in the review process. It is not a requirement.
  3. Applicant submits plans and related documents to the Development Services Customer Service Center.
  4. Plans are routed to a Review Team with a designated Team Lead to manage the review. Plans are reviewed by a team of staff with expertise in planning, transportation, urban design, comprehensive planning, transit, stormwater, utilities, fire, zoning, zoning enforcement, forestry and greenways. Additional staff may be involved, depending on the type and location of the project. The team reviews plans in accordance with regulations in City Code Part 10 Chapters 2 and 3 (Planning & Development), Chapters 8 and 9 of the Unified Development Ordinance as well as policies, procedures and regulations in the Comprehensive Plan, Public Utilities Handbook, Street Design Manual, Stormwater Design Manual and Solid Waste Handbook.
  5. The coordinating planner emails review comments to the applicant, designer or project coordinator and property owner.
  6. The applicant addresses each comment in writing and re-submits a specified number of sets of revised plans for review.
  7. The applicant attends a meeting of Development Review Committee of the Appearance Commission after the 1st review. During this meeting, the plans are evaluated for aesthetics as listed in the Preliminary Development Plan Checklist. (Attendance at this meeting is required).
  8. The Team Lead assigns a date for the applicant to attend a Planning Commission meeting. Applicant refers to the project review comments sheet to prepare for the Planning Commission meeting and public hearing.
  9. Applicant and designer and Team Lead attend the public hearing. The Planning Commission reviews projects in accordance with eight site plan approval standards found in City Code Part 10 Chapter 2 Section 2132.2 and makes a decision.
  10. The applicant receives a letter documenting the action of the Planning Commission and any conditions of approval.
  11. The applicant may appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the City Council for final action, where a quasi-judicial hearing is conducted.

Submittal Requirements

Required for Submittal

Submit application to the Development Services Customer Service Center

  • Preliminary Development Plan Application (doc) (pdf)
Required for Some Projects

Expected Processing Time

Approximately 10-12 weeks, including two or more review cycles. Additional review cycles require approximately 10 business days.


  • Initial fee includes two review cycles (initial and one re-review). Additional fees are required for subsequent re-reviews and must be paid at the time plans are resubmitted for review
  • See Development Fee Schedule for specific fees
  • The Development Services Customer Service Center processes payments
  • Payment types include cash, MasterCard, Visa or check made payable to the City of Raleigh

Next Steps

Obtain permits under Final Site Review, Infrastructure Construction Plans, or a concurrent process.

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