Development Review & Building Permits

Residential Development 

In an effort to help applicants through the site and commercial plan for residential development, the Town developed a review checklist. This checklist is meant to act as a guide when preparing these plans to ensure the Town's significant development regulations are being incorporated into the proposed development and/or request. Applicants are still responsible for reviewing the Unified Development Ordinance and any other Town Ordinances applicable to their particular project for compliance not included on the checklist. Please note that for all residential development please refer to #2 on the checklist as a guideline and reference point for development. Remember to check all flood zone areas and CAMA regulations that may apply. (Also, #5 on the checklist is150 mph for all residential development).  

View/Print Building Permit Checklist

Commercial Development 

In an effort to help applicants through the site and commercial plan, subdivision and special use review process, the Town developed a review checklist. The checklist is meant to act as a guide when preparing these plans to ensure the Town’s significant development regulations are being incorporated into the proposed development and/or request. Applicants are still responsible for reviewing the Unified Development Ordinance and any other Town Ordinances applicable to their particular project for compliance not included on the checklist.  The Town believes this checklist will allow plan and application development/review to be smooth for both the applicant and Town staff.    

View/Print Site Plan Checklist 


When is a building permit required?

Well, the answer is ALMOST ALWAYS! A permit is required anytime work is done on a building or structure, or the systems serving the structure (including plumbing, mechanical and electrical wiring) with a few exceptions. In general, work on a one and two-family dwelling that is structural in nature or exceeds $15,000 in value will require a permit. The $15,000 exemption is not applicable to commercial or multi-family structures.

The North Carolina State Building Code states: "No person, firm or corporation shall erect, construct, enlarge, install, alter, repair, move, improve, remove, convert or demolish any building, structure, or service system without first obtaining a permit for such from the Inspections Department having jurisdiction."


State law requires that permits be obtained before beginning these types of projects:

Constructing a deck, screened porch, sunroom, gazebo, retaining wall, sheds, etc. (also known as Accessory Structures) Replacement of water heaters in one- and two-family dwellings when placed in the same location, using the same fuel source, and done by a licensed Plumbing Contractor

Replacing an existing deck, steps and/or railings.


Replacing an air conditioning/heating system

Replacement of non-structural cosmetic building elements such as: floor and wall coverings; moldings and trim; cabinets and casework; roof coverings with the same materials, etc.
Installing a swimming pool, hot tub, spa Replacement of electrical fixtures and components when work is not done within the wall or ceiling cavity or behind the finished wall or ceiling surface

Adding a ceiling fan (where one previously did not exist)


Kitchen, bathroom and other interior renovations involving structural/wall changes

Replacement of plumbing fixtures when the work does not go beyond the trap seal

Converting a porch to a sunroom (adding windows)


Siding and window replacement (provided the total value of the work exceeds $15,000)

Installation of low voltage exterior landscape lighting

The above are examples but you are encouraged to contact the Planning and Inspections Department with any questions you may have at (252) 354-3338. Our office is open Mon-Fri, 8AM-5PM (excluding holidays). 

What do I need to obtain a permit?

The checklists and instructions for the various types of permits are available on this website at the following link: ( and will give you guidance on what needs to be submitted to obtain a permit.

How long does it take to obtain a permit?

Most permits being electrical, mechanical, plumbing and gas can be picked up at the time the application is submitted. Applications for building permits, signs and all construction projects are only issued after they have been reviewed and approved by the Building Inspector. Following initial plan review generally two things happen- One: the applicant is asked to provide additional information in order for the application to be re-reviewed; or, two: the applicant is informed that their permit may be picked up and advised of the permit fee.

Can I, the homeowner, act as my own contractor?

Yes. However, if your home is a rental property (short term or long term) then you may not act as your own contractor in any capacity.

When is a Licensed General Contractor required to obtain a building permit?

If the property owner is unable to act as their own contractor, then a licensed General Contractor is required any time the value of the work being performed exceeds $30,000. Work under $30,000 does not require a licensed General Contractor.

How much will my permit cost?

The cost of the permit is based on several factors.  Please view the current Permit Fee Schedule. 

When is a CAMA Permit required and where can they be obtained?

A CAMA Minor Permit is required for all activity on the oceanfront that requires a building or land disturbing permit. In addition, CAMA Minor Permits are required for all activity requiring a building or land disturbing permit within 575 feet of the normal high water of Bogue Sound. CAMA Minor Permits are processed through the Town’s Planning and Inspections Office.

Is there a different CAMA Permit required for docks, boat lifts and seawalls?

Yes, these types of development activity require a CAMA General Permit which is issued through the Morehead City Office of the NC Division of Coastal Management and they can be reached at (252) 808-2808. You must also obtain a Town building permit for these development activities which can only be issued after the CAMA General Permit has been obtained.

When is a grading permit required?

A grading permit is required any time a property owner is undertaking land disturbing activity like grading and the placement of fill on a lot. In general, landscaping activities do not require a permit.

What are the regulations on pruning vegetation, the removal of trees and the required natural area? 

No permit is required to prune or maintain the vegetation on your property. You may not prune with the intent to kill the tree. Vines, weeds and any vegetation with a diameter of less than 3 inches may be removed at any time.Trees and other vegetation with a diameter of 3 inches or greater can be removed at any time provided they are not located in the required 35% natural area. The Town’s development regulations require that 35% of every residential lot remain undisturbed and in its natural state.Trees with a diameter of 3 inches or greater and located in the required natural area may only be removed under certain circumstances. Please contact the Planning and Inspections Office in order to obtain further guidance at (252) 354-3338.

When is a flood development permit required?

Any development activity within a special flood hazard area requires a flood development permit in addition to other required permits. The Planning and Inspections Office can assist you in determining whether or not your property is in a special flood hazard area.


The Emerald Isle Planning Department is located in the Town Administration Building:

7500 Emerald Drive

Emerald Isle, NC 28594