Unified Development Ordinance

The Wake Forest Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) combines into a single document the Town's zoning, subdivision, land use, grading, storm water management, and historic preservation regulations. It outlines the requirements for all development activity.

The UDO was first adopted in 2013, along with the Manual of Specifications, Standards and Design (MSSD). With the update and adoption of several comprehensive plans, including the 2022 Community Plan and 2021 Northeast Community Plan, as well as several other comprehensive plans that are underway, the UDO and MSSD need to be updated to implement the policies and recommendations of the plans.

In addition to reflecting the goals and actions of the comprehensive plans, the UDO needs to maintain compliance with state, federal and case law, which are constantly evolving. Finally, the update will exam best practices and trending topics.

The update process will involve multiple steps and take approximately two years. The updated UDO and MSSD will set the development rules for Wake Forest.


Project Timeline


Who is involved with creating the updated UDO and MSSD?

The Town hired Houseal Lavigne in the spring of 2022 to update the UDO and MSSD. Planning staff will manage the project.

It is critical that all of Wake Forest’s stakeholders are involved in the development of the updated UDO and MSSD. The stakeholders vary and include, but are not limited to residents, businesses, municipal partners, community organizations, staff, and elected officials.

In addition, a technical review group will be formed to provide a thorough evaluation and analysis of ordinance elements as they are prepared.

Ultimately, the Wake Forest UDO and MSSD will be presented to the Planning Board for a recommendation and presented for adoption by the Board of Commissioners.

How can I get involved in the process?

The Community Engagement section of this page describes all the opportunities available to provide your input, including public meetings. Any meeting dates and times throughout the process will be listed to the project web page as they are scheduled.

Additionally, online surveys will be posted on this page and Engage Wake Forest.

Finally, materials from meetings and more information detailing the Wake Forest UDO and MSSD comprehensive update process can be found on this page.

Why is it important to be involved with the UDO comprehensive update?

The UDO governs how development occurs, ranging from getting a permit for a shed in your yard to development of residential subdivisions and commercial buildings. It codifies which uses are allowed where and associated requirements. Ever wonder why there are street trees along the streets or why industrial uses are located in limited areas?

The UDO sets these requirements and helps us implement the goals for the town established in the comprehensive plan.

What about the current UDO and MSSD?

The current UDO and MSSD will continue to be used until the updated UDO and MSSD are adopted.

During the two-year update process, there may be smaller text amendments to these documents that will follow the required public hearing processes.

What type of regulations does the UDO contain?

The UDO regulates a range of development activity, including establishing zoning districts, dimensional standards (ex. height, building setbacks, lot sizes), allowable uses, subdivision standards, infrastructure requirements, parking, landscaping, tree preservation, stormwater, lighting, signage, building design and processes.

There are some topics that local governments do not have the statutory authority to regulate or have very limited power to regulate, such as tree preservation, single family design standards, certain types of uses, certain off-site impacts, and the extent of riparian buffer restrictions.

What’s the difference between the UDO and the comprehensive plan?

The comprehensive plan are policy documents that set out the vision and goals for the community on topics such as land use, housing, transportation, historic preservation, and special areas of town. The plans guide important decisions but are not the law.

The UDO is a regulatory document that pertains to a wide range of development activity and land use decisions.