Greening Incentives and Ordinances


Greening Incentives and Ordinances means structuring incentives, zoning and development ordinances to conserve priority habitats and remove regulatory barriers to better conservation.

See Section 5 of the Handbook for details

The North Carolina Model Natural Resources Conservation Ordinance and Incentives Guide


The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Duke University Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Town of Navassa, and the Cape Fear Council of Governments teamed up to provide model ordinances for comprehensive natural resource and habitat conservation in North Carolina communities. The model ordinances act as an overlay district meant to conserve only the most sensitive natural resource areas and the most rare types of upland wildlife habitats. The Town of Pittsboro, North Carolina reviewed the model ordinance through a stakeholder group called the Conservation Ordinance Review Committee. Their recommendations were integrated into Pittsboro's draft Unified Development Ordinance.


The Cape Fear Council of Governments created a guide to the model conservation ordinances and produced a model incentive-based conservation ordinance.  This model incentive conservation ordinance provides model language for a conservation district within which a density bonus, allowing more development units than allowed by zoning, is an optional design in exchange for conserving large blocks of natural areas and habitats. Click on the links below to download the model ordinances and guide.


  • Model ordinance guide & incentive-based model ordinance: Click your region to download the NC Model Natural Resources Conservation Ordinance and Incentives Guide for the Piedmont & Sandhills and the Coastal Plain. The regional incentive-based guide also acts as a guide for the model ordinance for required conservation design (link below).




Natural resourced-based development ordinances can help your community implement science-based standards for development in the following areas:

  • Development application requirements
  • Protection of Natural Heritage sites
  • Protection of important wildlife habitats
  • Conservation developments
  • Stream, wetland, and floodplain protection
  • Protection of trees and native vegetation
  • Steep slope protection
  • Wildfire hazard and smoke management

Download the Conservation Subdivision Handbook from NC State University Forestry and Education Outreach Program and the NC Urban and Community Forestry Program.

Natural resource-based zoning ordinances establish land use patterns that will reduce loss and fragmentation of key habitats while concentrating intensive growth in less environmentally sensitive areas.

Examples include:

Tampa, Florida’s Upland Habitat Protection Ordinance —Designed to protect important plant communities and wildlife habitat in Tampa, the ordinance establishes an upland habitat overlay district.  Approved upland habitat plans are required before development can occur within the district.

Article 7-1700 of Boulder County, Colorado Wildlife Impact Reports —Boulder County’s Land Use Code  requires development proposals to include a wildlife impact report whenever the project is located within critical wildlife habitats, significant natural areas, or wildlife corridors shown on conservation maps in the county’s comprehensive plan. 

Orange County, North Carolina Natural Heritage Conservation Requirements —Orange County’s Code of Ordinances (Chapter 46, Article IV) requires development projects to identify strategies to protect Natural Heritage sites.

Chatham County, North Carolina Watershed Protection Ordinance—Chatham County’s ordinance requires field delineations and strong buffer requirements for all streams, springs, seeps and wetlands prior to development plan approval.

Park City, Utah Sensitive Area Overlay Zone —This policy establishes a series of overlay zones for protection of different sensitive natural areas, including steep slopes and ridgelines, important wildlife habitats, wetlands, and other important open spaces. 

Carroll County, Maryland Forest Conservation Ordinance —This ordinance requires forest protection plans to accompany development applications, and requires reforestation activities to accompany any type of land development. 

Jefferson County, Colorado Wildfire Hazard Overlay District—This ordinance limits land uses within the district, and requires hazard mitigation strategies around any dwellings and/or the submission of a wildfire mitigation site plans for developments located within the district. 

Randolph County, NC Unified Development Ordinance Section 600 outlines a conservation subdivision option. Incentives such as density bonuses and planning assistance to developers, have led 50 percent of developers to choose this option. Click here to download a power point presentation about the conservation-based growth policies and this conservation subdivision ordinance by the county planning department.

NC Solar Template Ordinance: This ordinance was developed by the NC Solar Center and the NC Sustainable Energy Association.  It encourages large roof-top solar projects by reducing regulatory barriers for these, while also providing model standards for land-based projects.  A diverse group of experts provided input and review of this model including the FAA. 

We have GGT recommendations for solar farms and for planting low-growing native plants to benefit pollinators and farmers.

The Low Impact Development: A Guidebook for North Carolina, developed by NCSU Cooperative Extension, provides guidance on how to reduce barriers and provide incentives within ordinances to encourage low impact development.