Chapel Hill provides timeline for LUMO changes to be implemented


By Adam Powell

The Town of Chapel Hill made the decision earlier this summer to fundamentally change its Land Use Management Ordinance (LUMO), which first came into existence twenty years ago. 

Little has changed with Chapel Hill’s LUMO from its initial establishment in 2003, despite a series of comprehensive plans and policy updates over the years. But the current Town Council has embraced change, approving a wide-ranging series of modifications on June 22.

To meet projected planning expectations throughout the remainder of the 2020s and into the 2030s, Chapel Hill will have to construct approximately 500 housing units per year – an increase of approximately 35 percent over recent years. 

In an effort to address these projected residential needs, the updated LUMO will allow builders and real estate entrepreneurs to have more options in constructing housing in Chapel Hill beyond single-family housing, which has been the primary driver of the town’s relatively slow residential growth over the past two decades. 

One of the driving aims of the LUMO updates is to promote and proliferate the use of so-called “missing middle” housing. Missing middle housing is defined per as “a range of house-scale buildings with multiple units  – compatible in scale and form with detached single-family homes – located in a walkable neighborhood.” 

The concept of missing middle housing includes an extensive array of projects, including side-by-side and stacked duplexes, stacked fourplexes, courtyard buildings, cottage courts, townhouses, and stacked triplexes, all designed to improve walkability and connectivity to existing single-family communities throughout Chapel Hill.

“There’s little variety in what we’re building,” Chapel Hill Planning Staff member Anya Grahn-Federmack explained in an April presentation to the Town Council. “We’re very good at building detached, single-family homes, and we’re very good at building large apartment complexes. But not much in between. So there are many needs going unmet. We need to diversify the housing stock by including missing middle density [construction], both for renters and for property owners, and both on large infill sites and smaller infill sites within existing neighborhoods.”

The new LUMO will allow duplexes in all residential zoning districts throughout Chapel Hill that aren’t protected by historical zoning or restrictive covenants. The updates also call for the allowance of accessory apartments for places of worship and cultural/institutional facilities, and neighborhood compatibility standards for triplexes and fourplexes. In a final series of updates before final approval, the Town Council chose to eliminate parking space minimums for future duplex projects and increase the maximum number of parking spaces from one to four. 

Between 2023 and 2025, Chapel Hill will begin implementing the changes the Town Council has specified. The Town has provided a website that allows citizens to keep up with the impending changes in a timeline format. (Rewriting Our Rules – a LUMO Update (2023-2025))

As indicated on the Town website, the initial process starts this summer with the recruitment and education of Project Ambassadors. They will be working with Chapel Hill officials to ensure that the LUMO changes are properly vetted in the community and that the citizens are provided with information on upcoming events and timeline updates. 

After the Town Council receives information on the recruiting and education of Project Ambassadors in the late summer and early fall, the next step will be to consult with key stakeholder groups throughout the community. 

This process will include many business leaders, industry professionals, community leaders, civic groups, and non-profit organizations. The valuable feedback collected from this consultation process will occur in the fall of 2023 and winter of 2023 and 2024. It will assist the Town Council as it reviews the preliminary changes to the LUMO.

By the summer of 2024, Chapel Hill hopes to advance by providing critical updates to the community. At this point, the Town Council can make revisions and continue reviewing the updated LUMO. 

The current goal of Chapel Hill officials is to officially adopt the revised LUMO sometime in the fall of 2024 or spring of 2025, following a period of training and education that will take place throughout the second half of 2024 and early 2025. 

To get more information about Chapel Hill’s LUMO changes, sign up for Newsletter updates at

Adam Powell is a reporter on local news and sports and an education communications professional. A 2001 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, Powell has served as managing editor of multiple local publications, including the Mebane Enterprise, News of Orange County and The public information officer for Rockingham County Schools in Eden, N.C., Powell is the author of four books and lives in Mebane with his wife and two children.

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