The McDowell County Planning Department is responsible for administering all county land use and land development ordinances. These include the Subdivision of Land, Mobile Home Parks, Watershed, Zoning, and Lake James Protection Ordinance.

The Planning Administrator works in conjunction with the Planning Board.  The Planning Board hears rezoning requests, approves major subdivision plats, and much more.  The Planning Board meets the 4th Monday of each month at 6:30pm in the County Administration Building.

The Planning Department's mission is to help landowners and developers work within the parameters of these ordinances to responsibly develop land in McDowell County. 


New Land Development Permit

Prior to any Building Permit being issued you must have a McDowell County Land Development Permit signed by the Planning Department or Building Inspections. This permit can be obtained with a Building Permit.

It is the responsibility of landowners and developers to meet all rules that apply to land development. Contact the Planning Department to see what rules apply.

Ordinance Information

McDowell County Subdivision Ordinance: Governs the division of land into two or more tracts of land.  McDowell County Lake James Protection Ordinance 1996/2003: Governs all land disturbing activity within 250 of the shoreline of Lake James. You must file a shoreline protection permit with McDowell County prior to any land disturbing activity on Lake James.

McDowell County Watershed Ordinance: Governs the development of land located within the designated Public Water Supply Watershed areas. In McDowell County these areas are Buck Creek, Mackey Creek, Clear Creek, Lake Tahoma, and portions of South Muddy Creek and Shadrack Creek Please Note: All watershed areas have a 30 foot vegetative buffer measured from the top of the creek bank back. No land disturbing activity or under brushing may occur in these areas. If you think you’re located in one of these areas contact the Planning Department.

McDowell County Zoning Ordinance: McDowell County does not have county wide zoning. However there are areas of the county that are zoned. It is the responsibility of the landowner to make sure their property is not located within one of the zoned areas of McDowell County. Call the Planning Department to check the status of your property.

McDowell County Mobile Home Park Ordinance: In McDowell County a mobile home park exists when land is leased or rented consisting of 3 mobile homes on a single tract of land that is leased or rented as part of a single business operation. All Mobile Home Parks must be approved by the Planning Board.

McDowell County Off Premise Sign Ordinance: Before any sign is erected in McDowell County contact the Planning Department to obtain a sign permit.

See below for several of the ordinances enforced by this department:



Contact Info

Ronald Harmon
Deputy Manager for Community Development
(828) 652-7121


County Administration Bldg.
60 E Court St.
Marion, NC 28752