Development Services Department (DSD)

Glossary of Commonly Used Terms

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Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)        

A separate and complete dwelling unit that is contained on the same lot as the structure of a single-family dwelling or business, and complies with the height and area limits established in the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Section 7-14-1(b)3.

Accessory Structure        

A structure that is clearly incidental to and customarily found in connection with a principal building or use, is subordinate to and serves a principal building or use and is subordinate in areas, extent and purpose to the principal building or principal use served. An accessory structure must be located on the same lot as the principal building. For the purpose of the flood protection regulations only, accessory structure is the same as an appurtenant structure.


An extention or increase in floor area or height of a building or structure.

Air Quality
WNC Regional Air Quality Agency monitors and regulates Buncombe County’s air quality to safeguard public health and the environment, while preserving the quality of life and economic vitality of the area.

Aquatic Buffer

The linear strip of land, free of built-upon area, adjacent to a lake or natural water course.


Backlight, Uplight, and Glare (BUG) Rating        

A luminaire classification system that classifies backlight (B), uplight (U), and glare (G) ratings to evaluate luminaire optical performance related to light trespass, sky glow, and high angle brightness control.

Base Flood Elevation (BFE)

A determination of the water surface elevations of the base flood as published in the flood insurance study. When the BFE has not been provided in a "special flood hazard area", it may be obtained from engineering studies available from a federal, state, or other source using FEMA approved engineering methodologies. This elevation, when combined with the "freeboard", establishes the "regulatory flood protection elevation"  (see “Flood Protection Elevation”).


An area of natural or planted vegetation, or an area of such vegetation in conjunction with berms, fences, or walls serving as a separation between two areas or land uses (see also "bufferyard").


A linear strip of land combined with a vertical element such as plants, berms, fences, or walls, which physically separates and screens incompatible land uses.

Building Elevations
A drawing that shows the exterior view of building for each building’s face, indicating height and exterior finishes.

Building Impact Landscaping        

Building impact landscaping is required for new or existing buildings in order to soften views from roads and adjacent properties, provide shade to reduce the heat generated by impervious surfaces, reduce glare, and help enhance the urban landscape.

Building Permit
A legal document required for all work described in the technical codes, unless specifically exempted by the North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) or technical codes. See NCGS 160A - 417 for exemptions.

Building Plan

Built Upon Area (BUA)

The portion of a development project that is covered by impervious or partially impervious surface including, but not limited to, buildings; pavement and gravel area such as roads, parking lots, and paths; and recreation facilities such as tennis courts. "Built-upon area" does not include a wooden open slatted deck, the water area of a swimming pool.

Business Licenses

The City of Asheville no longer has the authority to collect a privilege license tax (i.e. business license), with the exception of beer and wine taxes. This is in accordance with North Carolina S.L. 2014-3 Section 12, effective July 1, 2015.

It should be noted that while the Local Privilege License Tax is no longer being collected, the State Privilege License authority is still in place.


Conditioned (Heated) Space

An area, room or space being heated or cooled by any equipment or appliance.



An exterior floor system supported on at least two opposing sides by an adjoining structure or posts, piers, or other independent supports.


The act of destroying by breaking apart.

Design Professional
An individual who is registered or licensed to practice their respective design profession as

defined by the statutory requirements of the professional registration laws of the state or jurisdiction in which the project is to be constructed.

Designated Landscape Buffer

A strip of real property with a minimum width of 20 feet where existing vegetation or new plantings are designed to mitigate adverse impacts between dissimilar zoning designations as described in Subsection 7-11-3(d)1.


Vehicular site access point intended to serve one or a limited number of properties or structures, and is owned and maintained by an individual or group.  Width is limited to 9 feet minimum and 18’ maximum from a publically maintained right-of-way.

Driveway Apron
That portion of the driveway that begins at the curb and progresses up the driveway for a specified distance.


The right to cross or otherwise use another person’s or entity’s land for a specified purpose.

Elevation Certificate

The Elevation Certificate is an important administrative tool of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It is to be used to provide elevation information necessary to ensure compliance with section 7-12-1 of this chapter, to determine the proper insurance premium rate, and to support a request for a Letter of Map Amendment or Revision (LOMA or LOMR-F). Elevation Certificates must be prepared and certified by a registered professional land surveyor, engineer, or architect who is authorized by commonwealth, state, or local law to certify elevation information. Community officials who are authorized by local law or ordinance to provide floodplain management information may also sign the certificate.

Existing Building

A building legally occupied or legally occupied prior to a current vacant status.


Flood Hazard Area

A Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) the land in the floodplain subject to a one percent or greater chance of being flooded in any given year (the 100-year flood), as determined by the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and shown on a flood hazard boundary map or flood insurance rate map.


A geographic area shown on the flood insurance rate map that reflects the severity or type of flooding in the area. The area of any normally dry land area that is susceptible to being inundated by flooding. Includes both the floodway and the flood fringe area. The susceptibility of this area to flooding may pose hazards for building construction.

Flood Protection Elevation

Regulatory flood protection elevation means the base flood elevation plus the freeboard. In special flood hazard areas where base flood elevations (BFEs) have been determined, this elevation shall be the BFE plus two feet of freeboard. In special flood hazard areas where no BFE has been established, this elevation shall be at least two feet above the highest adjacent grade.


The channel of a river or other water course and the adjacent land areas in which development must be restricted in order to permit the unrestricted flow of the waters of the regulatory flood.

Floor Plan
A scale drawing of the arrangement of rooms in one story of a building. See sample rendering, “First Floor Plan” below.

Foundation Certificate

Required for manufactured homes; indicates that the foundation is adequately anchored to resist flotation, collapse, and lateral movement, either by certified engineered foundation system, or in accordance with the most current edition of the State of North Carolina Regulations for Manufactured Homes adopted by the Commissioner of Insurance pursuant to N.C.G.S. 143-143.15. An engineering certification is required when the elevation of the chassis is above 36 inches in height.

Foundation Plan
A plan view drawing, showing the location and size of footings, piers, columns, foundation walls, and supporting beams. See sample rendering, “Foundation Plan” below.

Framing Plan
A plan view drawing of each floor or a building showing the makeup of joists, trusses, beams and girders on that floor, and their connections.

A framing plan should include the following information:

For detailed requirements, please reference the North Carolina State Building Code: Residential Code - 2018.

See sample rendering, “First Floor Framing Plan” below.

Full Cut-Off Fixture

A luminaire light distribution where zero candela intensity occurs at or above an angle of 90° above nadir. Additionally the candela per 1,000 lamp lumens does not numerically exceed 100 (ten percent) at or above a vertical angle of 80° above nadir. This applies to all lateral angles around the luminaire.


General Contractor
A person, firm or corporation who for a fixed price, commission, fee, or wage, undertakes to bid upon or to construct, or who undertakes to superintend or manage, on his own behalf or for any person, firm, or corporation that is not licensed as a general contractor, the construction of any building...where the cost of the undertaking is thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) or more, or undertakes to erect a North Carolina labeled manufactured modular building meeting the North Carolina State Building Code, shall be deemed to be a general contractor engaged in the business of general contracting in the State of North Carolina.

Grading Permit
A permit to grade, which entails any disturbance that changes the land cover, including tree removal.
Grading is used by construction to level soil or material for base use of a building, subgrade base. Grading includes any operation intended for or resulting in the change of the surface elevation or contours of a site, change the surface cover (natural or manmade), or to add, relocate, or remove structures. Grading includes, but not be limited to, ditching, excavating, filling, trenching, dredging, tunneling, road building, clearing and grubbing of trees and stumps.

Groundcover (permanent)

Any natural vegetative growth or other material which renders the soil surface stable against accelerated erosion.  Vegetation must cover 80% of disturbed area with no contiguous bare areas greater than 1 sq. yd.  Mulches and rocking allowed only in landscape areas, unless a “Mulch Maintenance Agreement” is submitted and approved.


Habitable Space

A space in a building for living, sleeping, eating or cooking.  Bathrooms, toilet rooms, closets, halls, storage or utility spaces and similar areas are not considered habitable spaces.


Impervious surface        

Any surface which in whole or in part, restricts or prevents the natural absorption of water into the ground. Such surfaces may include, but not be limited to, traffic-bearing gravel, concrete, asphalt, or other paving material, and all area covered by the footprint of buildings or structures. Uncovered slatted decks and the water area of a swimming pool, pond, or other water body are considered pervious.  Gravel is considered an impervious surface.


Land Disturbance

Any man-made change of the land surface including removing vegetation cover, excavating, filling, and grading, but not including agricultural activities such as planting, growing, cultivating, and harvesting of crops; growing and tending of gardens; harvesting of trees; and landscape modifications

Lien Agent
A title insurance company or title insurance agent licensed to do business in North Carolina, who has registered with the North Carolina Department of Insurance as a Lien Agent.

Lien Agent Designation

Effective for construction projects beginning on or after April 1, 2013, North Carolina law requires appointment of a lien agent. Contractors and subcontractors can then give notice they are working on the project. Appointments are not required for (1) improvements under $30,000 or (2) to the owner's existing residence or (3) for public building projects. DSD will require the lien agent designation before a permit will be released for commencement of construction, including stand alone permits. You may visit the website for additional information and a step-by-step guide to completing the designation process online.


Manufactured Home

A manufactured building designed to be used as a single family dwelling unit which has been constructed and labeled indicating compliance with the HUD administered National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974, as amended.

Metropolitan Sewerage District (MSD) of Buncombe County
A public agency created in 1962 for the purpose of constructing and operating facilities for the treatment and disposal of the sewerage generated by the political subdivisions comprising the District. Many development projects require MSD approval as part of the application process.
Click here to access the MSD Portal and apply online for MSD approval.

Modular Building

A manufactured building constructed in accordance with the North Carolina State Building Code. Modular buildings are often called factory-built, system-built, or prefab (short for prefabricated) homes.

Modular Home

A Manufactured building designed to be used as a one or two family dwelling unit which has been constructed and labeled indicating compliance with the North Carolina State Building Code - Residential.

Mulch Maintenance Agreement

The maintenance agreement required whenever mulch is to be used for 50% or more of the permanent ground cover for any site, residential or commercial, instead of grass or other approved vegetation. It is also recommended whenever slopes steeper than 3:1 (33%) are to be underlined with a non-biodegradable mesh covered with mulch material.


Occupiable Space

A room or enclosed space designed for human occupancy in which individuals congregate for amusement, educational or similar purposes, or in which occupants are engaged at labor, and which is equipped with means of egress and light and ventilation facilities meeting the requirements of the NC State Building Codes.

Open Space        

An area that is intended to provide light and air, and is designed for either environmental, scenic, or recreational purposes. Open space may include, but is not limited to, lawns, decorative planting, walkways, active and passive recreation areas, playgrounds, fountains, swimming pools, wooded areas, and water courses. Open space shall not be deemed to include driveways, parking lots, or other surfaces designed or intended for vehicular travel.


Parking Lot Landscaping        

Trees and shrubs are required in and around parking lots in order to provide attractive views from roads and adjacent properties, provide shade to reduce the heat generated by impervious surfaces, reduce glare from parking lots, and help filter exhaust from vehicles.

Permit: Stand Alone and Multi-Trade

Permits for minor residential installations are referred to as Stand Alone Trade permits. If an installation requires more than one type of installation, it is referred to as a Multi-Trade permit.

Plumbing, electrical, or mechanical (HVAC) projects that do not require plans but do require a permit can often be issued the same day they are requested. Projects in this category include installing a new electrical circuit, placing a heating system, or adding or replacing a water heater.

Licensed contractors are encouraged to use the Accela Citizen Access (ACA) Portal to apply for these permits. Permits are issued at application when using the ACA Portal.

Plan Review Waiver
Per NC Administrative Code Sec. 106.2.3, building code plan review is not required by state law for one and two family dwellings. Development Services Department (DSD) customers may choose to waive the compliance review by submitting a Plan Review Waiver. The waiver is available for one and two family dwelling units but shall not be used for the creation of an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in an existing building.


Parcel Identification Number (PIN) assigned by the Buncombe County Tax Assessor's office to identify individual tax parcels.



An area or strip of land, either public or private, on which an irrevocable right-of-passage has been recorded for use as a street, crosswalk, railroad, electric transmission line, oil or gas pipeline, water main, sanitary or storm sewer main, shade trees, or other special use.


To change the structure, shape, or appearance of a structure.


The reconstruction or renewal of any part of an existing building for the purpose of its maintenance.

Roof Framing Plan

A drawn plan that describes how a group of rafters and beams are fitted or joined together in order to provide support for the roof covering. See sample rendering, “Roof Framing Plan” below.


The distance between a structure and a property line, natural feature, road right-of-way, and other improvements. In all residential and rural zoning districts, setbacks are required from all property lines and roadways.

Site-built Home

A home built primarily at the location where it will be inhabited; also called “stick built”.

Site Plan
A site plan is a scaled drawing that shows the uses and structures proposed for a parcel of land. It also includes information about the landscape features of a given parcel.

Steep Slopes        

Steep slopes are designated as those areas at or above 2,220 feet in elevation above mean sea level and having an existing grade of 15 percent or more.

Street Right-of-Way        

A strip of land occupied or intended to be occupied by a travelway for vehicles and also available, with the consent of the appropriate governmental agency, for installation and maintenance of sidewalks, traffic control devices, traffic signs, street name signs, historical marker signs, water lines, sanitary sewer lines, storm sewer lines, gas lines, power lines, and communication lines. The location of any street planned, developed, or built after the effective date of this chapter must be shown on a legally approved plat recorded in the Office of the

Register of Deeds for Buncombe County.

Street Trees        

Street trees are required for all new developments except for single- or two-family homes. This requirement is designed to create or enhance an attractive streetscape pattern while contributing to Asheville's urban forest and a more comfortable pedestrian environment.

Evergreen Tree        

The minimum height must be six feet at time of planting.

Small-maturing Deciduous Tree        

Smaller than 35 feet at maturity. The minimum tree size must be at least one and one-half inch caliper or eight to ten feet high at time of planting.

Large-maturing Deciduous Tree        

Greater than 35 feet at maturity. The minimum size at planting must be two inches caliper and 12 to 14-foot height.

Small Shrub        

The minimum size must be a three gallon container or eight-inch root ball with a height of 18 inches at time of planting.

Large Shrub        

The minimum size must be a five gallon container or ten-inch root ball with a height of 24 inches at time of planting.

Substantial Improvement

Substantial improvement of a building is the value of work conducted to the building based on the building's value prior to the improvements.

A structure in the floodplain is deemed substantially improved if the value of the improvement is over 50%.

Substantial Improvement for zoning purposes is 75% cost of improvement to a commercial building within a 3 year period.


Tree Save Area        

Required tree preservation and/or replanting areas. Residential projects shall preserve a portion of a site area dedicated to the preservation and/or establishment of natural woodland areas. These areas shall be delineated on the required site plan or final plat.

Typical Wall Section
A drawing that shows a section of the exterior wall from the roof down through the foundation, detailing the construction products used in the building. See sample rendering, “Wall Section” below.

Typical Wall Detail

A drawing that defines a wall section in detail. See sample rendering “Wall Detail” below.


Uses by Right, Subject to Special Requirements        

Uses permitted by right, provided that the specific standards set forth in Section 7-16 of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) are met. The specified standards are intended to ensure these uses fit the intent of the districts within which they are permitted, and that these uses are compatible with other development permitted within the districts.


Vehicular Use Area (VUA)        

All driving surfaces including parking, drive aisles, driveways, loading areas, and maneuvering areas that are paved or gravel.


Zoning Permit
A document issued by a local government or authority permitting a parcel of land to be used for a prescribed purpose or in a prescribed manner.