The City of Graham Planning Department is responsible for assisting the City Council and the community in managing growth, administering development regulations, planning for capital improvements, planning for transportation improvements, managing stormwater runoff, and protecting special flood hazard areas. The department also  provides staff support to the City’s Planning Board, Board of Adjustment, Appearance Commission, and Historic Resources Commission. 
The City’s Engineer, is also located  in the Planning Department at City Hall. He is generally available Monday and Tuesday afternoons from        1 P.M. to 5 P.M. It is recommended you contact him using our contact us form by selecting Engineer or calling the planning department at (336)-570-6705 prior to visiting to verify availability.

Development Process

Interested in developing or redeveloping a property? Please follow the development process for the City of Graham. Learn more...


Maps for zoning, floodplain, etc.
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Development Ordinance

The Development Ordinance includes all local regulations governing both commercial and residential development. Learn more...

Technical Review Committee

A site plan must be approved by the TRC before any building, structure or parking facility is constructed, installed, expanded or extended. Learn more...

Future Plans

In preparation for the future, the City has created a series of plans to help guide and manage growth. Learn more...

Related Links

Want more information about the Community Profile, APA, or NC APA? Learn more...


This guide provides a description and overview of the approval process for many different types of development activity in Graham.  This includes properties in the Graham city limits and those in Graham’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

(click here to open the guide)

We’re glad you asked! The City of Graham has zoning which prohibits some uses from specific areas of the city. Here are a few easy steps to help:

  1. Visit the GIS map online to determine the zoning for the property
  2. In the Development Ordinance Section 10.135 find the row with your desired use in the “Table of Permitted Uses”.
  3. Identify the column with the properties zoning and go across the row with the “Use Type” you have selected. If the box where these two meet has an “X” then the use is permitted. *Note: Some properties are located in an Overlay District and may have additional uses which are prohibited. An “S” requires a Special Use Permit and a “C” indicates that a particular use(s) is permitted through the Conditional Rezoning process. A blank space in a column indicates that the use is prohibited in that district. If your use is not permitted, you may consider a Rezoning
  4. You may wish to confirm that the property allows the specific use you have in mind before making any financial commitments by requesting a Zoning Letter.
  5. Finally, before you start your project be sure to submit a Zoning Application and Wastewater Survey.

Still not sure? Give us a call we are happy to help. Planning Department 336-570-6705.

Permitting “Special Uses” gives additional flexibility to the Zoning Ordinance by allowing certain types of uses provided they meet additional standards in order to minimize any undesirable effects the use may have on surrounding properties.

Applicants for a Special Use permits are advised to confer with the Planer before submission in order to ascertain what information must accompany the application. Please call the Planning Department at 336-570-6705.   

Click here to open the citizen’s guide to the Special Use Permit Process.

It depends…any changes to the external appearance of the existing structure, design of a new structure, or demolition/relocation of an existing structure in the Historic District requires a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA). Some types of projects can be approved administratively by Staff with a minor COA while other larger more extensive projects must go before the Historic Resources Commission (HRC) for review. For more details read the Historic Resources Design Guidelines.  

Anything on the interior of the building or projects which are considered “Normal Maintenance” do not require a COA. For a complete list of such projects visit the above Design Guidelines.

The City of Graham has parking maximums rather than minimums as a strategy to improve land use and to be more flexible in responding to market demands. Check out the Development Ordinance Section 10.240 for a table of the parking maximums for commercial development.

The City of Graham requires a certain minimum distance from the property line in the front, rear, and side yards be maintained based on the zoning of the parcel. Check out the Development Ordinance Section 10.245 for the table of the area, height, and yard regulations.

To determine the planting yards required by the Development Ordinance, take the following steps:

  1. Identify the classification of the proposed or expanded land use and of any existing or proposed adjacent land use(s) by using the last column in the Table of Permitted Uses, Table 10-135. A land use is an existing use on an adjacent property when a building permit is issued. If a lot contains uses with different land use classification, select the higher numbered classification then,
  2. Use the Planting Yard Chart, Table 10.274 to determine the appropriate letter designation for each planting yard then,
  3. Match the letter designation obtained from the Planting Yard Chart with the Planting Rate Chart, Table 10.274a, to determine the types and numbers of shrubs and trees required.

If you have questions please contact the Planning Department at 336-570-6705.

A subdivision that divides a tract or parcel of land into no more than four (4) residential lots and does not involve the construction or extension of any public street or utility is considered a minor subdivision. Typically the process for approval of a minor subdivision involves:

  1. Pre-application. We encourage applicants to contact the Planner prior to submitting a final plat to discuss the process, standards, and regulations required for approval.
  2. Review and Approval. The applicant must submit two (2) reproducible copies and one (1) paper copy of the final plat along with a digital copy to the City prepared according to the specifications for final plats in Section 10.340, a fixed fee by the City Council, and any applicable recording fees. If approved the Planner shall cause the final plat to be recorded and file one (1) reproducible copy of the final plat with the City. 

For details about the process for Major Subdivision regulations see the Development Ordinance Section 10.339. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) initiates regular map updates to the Floodplain. These revisions are based on technical data that may show changes to flood prone areas. The City of Graham must adopt these revisions in order to maintain certification which allows property owners to purchase flood insurance at a reduced rate.

It depends…there are a number of factors including the zoning, whether the property is in an overlay district, proximity to the interstate, and the type of sign. We recommend reviewing the Development Ordinance Section 10.400 Area; height table for size restrictions on signs in the City of Graham.

All development and redevelopment that disturbs more than one acre or is part of a larger common plan of development or sale, even through multiple, separate or distinct activities taking place at different times on different schedules are required to follow the City of Graham stormwater regulations.

The effects of development can be managed by applying proper design and well-planned control measures. To this end, the plans for such projects MUST be reviewed by the Technical Review Committee (TRC). The TRC is a group of subject matter experts including the City’s Engineers responsible for insuring that the applicant follows all of the Federal, State, and Local water quality and quantity standards to mitigate stormwater runoff and discharge. Local regulations about stormwater are available in the Development Ordinance.

If you have further questions, please contact the Planning Department 336-570-6705.

The City of Graham is within the Lake Jordan watershed. As such all development in the City is subject to Jordan Lake Rules in addition to Federal, State and Local regulations. See the Development Ordinance for additional details. If you have questions, please contact the Planning Department at 336-570-6705.  

Submit an application to petition the City of Graham for annexation (click here for the application).

A petitioner shall submit an application for all City of Graham Code of Ordinances text amendments. (click here)