Planning and development services update

Updated May 27, 2020

Resources for application submittal and fee payment

  1. DPlans
  2. External LDO portal
  3. Inspections fee schedules
  4. Small Project Plan Review
  5. Online application guide / application submittal portal
  6. Fee schedule and payment portal 
  7. Development Regulations
  8. Application and case review portal (for employees)

DSC lobby closed to walk-in customers through July 6 

Durham is under an updated Stay-at-Home Order until further notice. 

The Development Services Center remains committed to excellent service to our customers, including answering questions about property and development and processing applications to develop land in Durham in a timely and high quality manner. 

Since the original stay-at-home order issued on April 4th, DSC staff in the Planning, Inspections and Public Works Departments have been fulfilling duties remotely through the telephone and through online (digital) plan submittal, payment and review platforms, as well as providing field inspections on-site for almost all situations, other than owner occupied buildings.  

Providing this digital plan submittal, payment and review capacity was a DSC strategic goal prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Due to care and concern for the health of our customers and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the aforementioned availability of all DSC services through the telephone or digitally, the DSC lobby in City Hall will remain closed to the public through July 6, 2020. DSC management will carefully assess the safety of in-person services and demand for in-person services every 30 days during the COVID-19 crisis, and will announce any changes prior to the 1st of each month. 

If a service cannot be provided via the telephone or a digital platform, appointment-only, in person services will be provided, with strict adherence to social distancing standards, use of a face covering and other health and safety mitigation measures. 

Walk-in Services, Feasibility Questions, and Meetings

At staff’s discretion, an appointment can be arranged if a critical service need cannot be fulfilled remotely. If an appointment is deemed necessary, a staff member will greet the person at the scheduled time near the Mangum Street entrance to City Hall. Strict social distancing of six feet shall remain in effect throughout the transaction.

Concept meetings and pre-submittal meetings will occur on regularly-scheduled days, but will be conducted remotely. 

DSC phone and email support has been increased to maintain service continuity. A few outstanding data fixes remain, and staff will explain the extent to which data access has bearing on a specific property inquiry. 

Phone:         919-560-4137
Email:           dscticket@dsc.mojohelpdesk.com

If calling by phone, choose option 1 for Inspections, 3 for Planning, 4 for Public Works, or 3 if unsure. Employee phone extensions and voice mail boxes for Planning and Inspections have been restored, but not yet for Public Works. Call 919-560-4137 to access the employee dial-by-name directory.

Meeting cancellations

  • The Historic Preservation Commission meeting scheduled for May 5 has been cancelled.
  • The regularly-scheduled May 12 Planning Commission meeting is canceled.
  • Engage Durham outreach is suspended until further notice. A revised schedule will be sent when conditions permit.

Pending meetings

At this time, meetings below are scheduled, and further information regarding cancellation is pending.  This web page will be updated if a cancellation does occur. Please check with the case planner for case-specific information.

  • A tentative Planning Commission meeting has been scheduled for May 28 (City Hall Council Chambers, 5:30 p.m).
  • The Board of Adjustment meeting scheduled for April 28 is pending.

Verification Letters and Records Requests

Please submit Zoning Verification Letters, Street Vendor Registrations, and Home Occupation Permits online. These application processes will be updated, but for now please email dscticket@dsc.mojohelpdesk.com and staff will provide further instructions. 

With regard to public records requests, access to digital records has been restored, and large files can be transmitted via Box dot com file transfer. Scanning of archived paper records is possible if the sheet is letter-sized, however scanning of oversized sheets is still delayed until large format scanning equipment is restored.

Development Approval and Permitting

Planning

All application items are being accepted.

Inspections

Plans review and permitting services are operational. 

Public Works

Plans review and permitting services are operational.

Application Submittal and Fees

  • Application submittals (new applications and re-reviews) and payments are now fully electronic, either through the existing DPlans and LDO system for Inspections, or through new systems developed via Box dot com (file transmittal) and Paymentus (online payment), and Bluebeam (plans review) as shown in the Resources heading below.
  • All development application and permit fees are due at the time of submittal. The March-April 2020 deferral period for selected development applications expired Friday, May 1. Applicants shall include a payment receipt(s) at the time of submittal for all new applications and resubmittals triggering re-review fees. All outstanding fees need to be paid prior to issuance of development approval.
  • The DSC Paymentus one-time payment portal continues to be the payment method for Planning and Public Works applications. A link to the fee schedule is also available at the top of this page (item #6).
  • The Paymentus payment portal utilizes temporary payment types due to COVID-19. The Planning/DSC fee schedule has been revised, and now provides instructions for using temporary payment types. For example, most types of Site Plans are paid using the “Level 1 Site Plan” option, and most Plats are paid using the “Exempt Plat” option. See the right-hand column of the fee schedule to identify which temporary payment type to use. In some instances this work-around requires two rounds of payments to be made within the portal. If this is the case, both sets of payment receipts need to be included with application materials.   
  • Work is currently underway to revise the fee schedule and payment portal to make it more user-friendly and intuitive, and avoid the need to make multiple trips through the portal to complete a payment. These updates are a high priority but a timeline is not yet available.
  • As a reminder, no paper application materials are being accepted, and an online application submittal portal is now available. Please follow the file upload instructions provided. Portals have not yet been established for all application types, but more are arriving each day. In the mean time, contact us at dscticket@dsc.mojohelpdesk.com and staff will provide a direct transmittal link.
  • For security and health reasons, and to limit trips to City Hall, the transmittal of thumb drives and compact discs has been permanently discontinued, regardless of whether they are received in person or via mail. 
  • Please do not send any items via the mail. Most staff are teleworking and are not available on site to process mail. Mailed items will not be returned, and sending mail can slow down application processing time. If staff learns aware that a check has been mailed, the customer will be asked to cancel the check and direct payment online, or, if the payment is eligible for deferral, staff will advise accordingly.

Review Process and Timelines

  • Initial submittals and re-submittals for all Site Plans (Level 2 and above) and Final Plats currently have a 30 day review period. Right-of-way withdrawal plats still have a 15 day review period. This delay is due to the backlog of development review cases that resulted from both the March 6 malware attack, and the uneven distribution of hardware, software, and network access that was brought on by COVID-19. Technology systems are continuing to be restored, and new hardware, software, and digital review processes are being deployed to ensure all DSC staff are fully functional while teleworking. Once the case review backlog is reduced the review timelines will be re-evaluated. 
  • The review process for Exempt Plats is 10 days.
  • Re-reviews for all departments can be submitted electronically. Staff will explain the extent to which any data access issues has bearing on a specific application under review. 
  • All Land Use cases (Annexation, Rezoning, Future Land Use Map Amendments, Street Closings, and Major Certificates of Appropriateness) received on or before March 6 will continue to be reviewed. The review period for these cases has been extended by 30 days.
  • Building plans review expects to be delayed 5-10 working days over the next two weeks are expected as technology systems are restored and new equipment is configured.
  • Site Plan review frequent Inspections comments

Issuance of Approvals and Permits

We are working to convert to a digital approval system. Paper plans currently under review can be signed and issued by staff with an appointment. Please arrange to meet outside with staff, keep the interaction as brief as possible, and maintain six feet of social distance.

Inspections and Sign-offs

Certificate of Occupancy sign-off can occur if customers can provide verification that of approval by all disciplines.

Planning

Planning enforcement and site compliance activities continues as usual, with strict social distancing practiced by staff. Staff reserves the right to refuse to inspect a location or facility where these standards are not adhered to.

Inspections

  • New laptops for field staff are being configured. Most field inspections are taking place as scheduled, and office staff will enter data manually until field equipment is fully operational. Inspections in occupied buildings and HVAC replacements in occupied homes will not be conducted due to social distancing requirements. Third party inspections will be considered with prior approval, and the external LDO system is available again for inspections scheduling.
  • Building and Construction Trades are deemed an essential service and are exempt from the stay-at-home order. 
  • Our construction industry partners are strongly encouraged to practice social distancing at all times at job sites.
  • An entrance to the project must be provided that does not involve travel through occupied spaces.  The inspector conducting the inspection must feel safe in order to complete the inspection.  If you are unable to provide the entrance listed above or the inspector does not feel safe, third party inspections can be approved on a very limited basis with Departmental Chief’s approval only.  The definition of a third party inspection is a stamped letter from the engineer stating they have completed the inspection onsite and deemed all aspects of the inspection meet the 2018 NCMC or 2018 NCFGC. These rules are only in effect during the COVID-19 crisis.

Public Works

The Engineering Inspections web page includes a range of updates on remote and field-based services offered during COVID-19 via the Engineering Inspections Request Form.