Planning and development services update

Updated April 5, 2020

Resources for application submittal and fee payment

  1. DPlans
  2. External LDO portal
  3. Inspections fee schedules
  4. Small Project Plan Review
  5. Application submittal portal (for customers)
  6. Application submittal portal (for employees)
  7. One-time payment portal
  8. Planning simplified fee schedule
  9. Planning full fee schedule
  10. Development Regulations

Stay at Home Order in Effect - Development Services Continue Most Operations Online

On Wednesday, March 25, Durham Mayor Steve Schewel issued a stay-at-home order for the City of Durham. The order is effective March 26 - April 30, 2020. All City facilities remain closed to the public until further notice. As noted on the City’s COVID-19 web page, Residents can be assured that essential City services will not be interrupted, including access to clean drinking water; trash collection; and emergency services from police, fire, and 911.

Building and Construction Trades are deemed an essential service and are exempt from the order. Our construction industry partners are strongly encouraged to practice social distancing at all times at job sites.

In terms of the DSC operation, the stay-at-home order does not significantly change the current course of the DSC operation as described previously on this page, with one significant exception: deferral of some development application review fees. See Application Submittal and Fees section below for more information. 

Many employees are already working from home across the DSC’s partner departments, and more will be working home as soon as laptops, equipment, and software becomes available. We are working to implement fully digital workflows for all partners as soon as possible to minimize instances of outstanding comments or approvals on account of technical issues. However, due to the current uneven status of staff hardware and software availability, development review timelines may be delayed. Please contact the case planner or appropriate project team member for estimated review timelines, as they currently vary on a case by case basis and will change very quickly. In addition, some data access is still limited as the City and County continue to recover from the March 6 malware attack

Several technical and workflow components described below are new, and these processes will continue to be developed and refined. These new processes are helping the DSC adapt its operation in response to COVID-19 conditions, and in some cases are helping to accelerate permanent process improvements already identified in the City’s FY 2019 – FY 2021 Strategic Plan (Shared Economic Prosperity goal). 

We recognize that a number of web pages, application forms, and submittal checklists found throughout this site and the DSC’s partner work group sites have not yet been updated to reflect new processes. These will be updated as soon as operational adaptations are sufficiently deployed. In the mean time, please monitor this page for updates and work with the appropriate staff member to confirm submittal, review, and inspections processes.

Walk-in Services, Feasibility Questions, and Meetings

Walk-in services are suspended as City Hall will be closed to the public starting Monday, March 23, and most staff will be working from home. A very limited number of staff will be working from City Hall during the closure, however these staff members will not be available for on-call services. 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 at 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

  • Meetings for the Appearance Commission and Durham Open Space and Trails Commission are cancelled until further notice, including the March 18 and April 15 meetings. Subsequent meetings are canceled until further notice.
  • City Council: The March 16 and March 19 meetings are canceled. 
  • Board of County Commissioners: The March 23 and April 6 meetings are canceled.
  • Joint City-County Planning Committee: The April 1 meeting is canceled.
  • Board of Adjustment: The March 24 meeting is canceled.
  • Historic Preservation Commission: The April 7 meeting is canceled.
  • Planning Commission: The April 14 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.

  • City Council: April 6 meeting.
  • Board of County Commissioners: April 13 meeting.
  • Historic Preservation Commission: May 5 meeting.
  • Planning Commission: May 12 meeting.
  • Board of Adjustment: April 28 meeting.

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. 

ABC permits have been suspended until network access is restored.

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

  • Planning intake is suspended until March 30, except for Level 1 Site Plans, Exempt Plats, and other Minor Development Applications and customer service items. 
  • The regularly-scheduled April 13 rezoning application intake will occur, but the method of intake may need to be modified, and this assumes the completion of a pre-submittal meeting in advance. 
  • Minor Certificates of Appropriateness are still 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.
  • Effective immediately, digital application submittal will be allowed without fee payment until April 10, 2020. This applies only to Planning fees that have not yet been added to the recently-deployed DSC Paymentus web payment portal. These payments will be due at the end of the first round of review.
  • The 17 application types that currently do appear in the portal are functional. Payments for these application types have not been deferred, and the Paymentus portal should be used to pay fees for these items. DSC staff are working to complete the Paymentus payment list as soon as possible so that all application types have a corresponding option in the in the portal.
  • 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

  • Due to the current uneven status of staff hardware and software availability for teleworking, development review timelines may be delayed. Please contact the case planner or appropriate project team member for estimated review timelines, as they currently vary on a case by case basis and will change very quickly. Many staff are already working from home across the DSC’s partner departments, and more will be working home as soon as laptops, equipment, and software becomes available.
  • 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.

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 March 26 - April 30 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

Public Works Engineering field inspections are occurring. The scheduling tool was not impacted, however the mapping and sign-off tools are not fully functional. To schedule an engineering inspection use the Engineering Inspection Request Form.