Planning and development services update

Updated July 29, 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)
  9. Schedule Concept Meeting or Multi-departmental Pre-submittal Meeting (new)

DSC lobby closed to walk-in customers through September 1  

The Development Services Center lobby has been closed to walk-in customers due to COVID-19, and customer service, development review, and inspections services have continued remotely. After further assessing the safety and demand for in-person services in light of alternative telephone, email, and web-based services available, DSC management has decided to extend the lobby closure through September 1, 2020.

Any modifications to this timeline will be announced prior to September 1.

If a service cannot be provided remotely, an in-person option may be arranged in advance with strict adherence to social distancing standards and use of a face covering. 

On July 21, City Hall opened the building’s first floor to the public for a limited capacity to accept in-person, cash water bill payments. Please know that the Development Services Center continues to operate remotely during the City Hall limited reopening. If a customer cannot obtain assistance remotely staff will make arrangements to ensure needs are fulfilled. If you do visit City Hall, please keep in mind the following.

  • In person services are limited to cash water bill payments.
  • Only the first floor lobby of City Hall will be accessible to visitors. 
  • Facility operating hours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 9:00am – 3:00pm.
  • Visitors and employees are required to wear a face covering and remain six feet apart.
  • Enhanced sanitizing procedures and Plexiglas shields are in place.
  • Hand sanitizer and wipes will be available.
  • Details regarding the status of City facilities can be found on the City’s COVID-19 Updates & Resources page.

Durham is under a local Safer-at-Home Order until further notice. View the City’s latest news related to COVID-19

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.

Scheduling and document transmittal for Concept Meetings and Pre-submittal Meetings is now offered online. Meetings are held virtually.

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.

Verification Letters and Records Requests

Please submit Zoning Verification Letters, Street Vendor Registrations, and Home Occupation Permits to dscticket[at]dsc.mojohelpdesk.com. 

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

All application items are being accepted for Planning, Inspections, and Public Works.

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 a the top of this page.
  • 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), Final Plats, and Preliminary Plats currently have a 30 business 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.

Regarding plat reviews, please note the Durham County Tax Administration Office is closed due to COVID-19, but appointments with a plat review officer can be made by calling 919-257-0114.

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.