How to decode development news

Become a development terminology expert fast than you can say “special use permit for a mixed-use zone.”

River Arts District

The Wilma Dykeman Greenway traverses more than two-miles along the French Broad River.

Table of Contents

If you want to be a development detective but find yourself turned around by the terminology in various city releases + news reports, never fear.

Check out this cheat sheet of common terms paired with local examples happening in Asheville.


Projects that provide more than one purpose in the community, like a building with apartments on top and retail shops on the bottom. Expect to see combinations of housing, retail, parking, commercial, and industrial components.

Think: The River Arts Apartments project features apartment units, public parking, and retail spaces.


Changing an area of land from the city’s designated use. Examples of rezoning requests might be developers looking to build a high-rise in a neighborhood with a certain building height restriction, or open a business in an area marked residential.

Think: City Council rezoned 100+ acres of South Tunnel Road into a pedestrian-friendly zone.

Opportunity Zones

Opportunity Zones are a federal program in North Carolina that encourage private investments in low-income communities through tax incentives, bringing jobs and economic development to these areas.

Think: Use this map to search Opportunity Zones in North Carolina.

Special Use Permit

These permits are required for specific uses of land. It essentially requires an extra standard of review that are subject to the discretion of the Board of Adjustments and may involve considering witnesses and evidence.

Think: The board approved a special use permit for 516 units to be developed on Old Charlotte Road.


Granted to provide an exemption from regulations when land is being used in a manner not normally compatible with the zoning. Only granted when intended site use is deemed appropriate and compatible with the surrounding area.

Think: Allowing a seven foot setback instead of the usual 10 feet.

lakeview community asheville real estate

The Lake View Park community is one of the most sought-after addresses in Asheville.

Photo by Fletching Drone Photography via Looking Glass Realty

Single family residence

A free-standing development in which no building or lot has more than one dwelling unit.

Think: South Asheville and Lakeview Community both have many single family homes.

Multi-family residence

One building that contains multiple housing units.

Think: In 2022, the City issued more than twice as many multi-family permits as it did in 2021.

Principal Use

The primary activity or function of a site. A site’s principal use must be aligned with the zoning ordinances of the land it’s on.

Think: Living in a home within a residential zone is an allowable principal use.

Accessory Use

An activity or function of a site labeled subordinate or incidental.

Think: The garage or shed on your home property might be labeled an accessory use.



A greenway is a paved trail used for recreation, walking, biking, and conservation purposes.

Think: The French Broad River West Greenway is one of Asheville’s many greenways.

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