3.2.1 Rural District (R)

Intent:  The Rural District is provided to encourage the development of neighborhoods and rural compounds that set aside natural vistas and landscape features for permanent conservation.  The density of development is regulated on a sliding scale; permitted densities rise with increased open space preservation.  Development typologies associated with the Rural District are farms, the single house, the conservation subdivision, the farmhouse cluster, and the residential neighborhood. The section number in parenthesis following listed use indicates the ordinance section of development conditions.

a) Permitted Uses

Uses permitted by right

  • bed and breakfast inns 
  • boarding or rooming houses for up to two roomers
  • family care home
  • single-family detached homes

Uses permitted with conditions

  • cemeteries, (9.7)
  • religious institutions, (9.8)
  • duplexes up to 10% of dwelling units in development, (9.13)
  • essential services 1 and 2, (9.14)
  • government buildings up to 5000 square feet of gross floor area; fire stations are permitted in government buildings up to 15,000 square feet of gross floor area
  • neighborhood and outdoor recreation, (9.21)
  • parks, (9.29)
  • plant nurseries, (9.46)
  • riding academies and/or commercial stables, (9.33)
  • schools, (9.35)
  • transit shelters, (9.39)

Uses permitted with Special Use Permit

  • Agricultural industry, (9.3)
  • Banquet Facility, (9.59)
  • Commercial communication towers, (9.9)
  • Commercial par 3 golf course and/or golf driving range (9.61)
  • Off-site catering services performed in an agritourism facility (9.60)
  • Solar energy facility, major (9.54)
  • Wind energy facility, minor and major (9.53)
  • Dormitory for a bona fide farm (9.62)

b) Permitted Building and Lot Types

  • attached house
  • civic building
  • detached house

c) Permitted Accessory Uses

  • accessory dwelling, (9.1)
  • daycare home (small), (9.11)
  • home occupations, (9.19)
  • marinas, (9.42)
  • solar energy facilities, minor non-residential; located in the established rear or side yards or roof slopes (9.54)
  • solar energy facilities, minor residential; located in the established rear or side yards, roof slopes, or facade (9.54)
  • accessory uses permitted in all districts (8.11)

d) General Requirements

  1. Frontage on a public street is required for all lots in the Rural District except those comprising a Farmhouse Cluster (see Special Requirements, paragraph e), this section), those comprising a Conservation Subdivision (see Special Requirements, paragraph f), or those specifically exempted in Article 8.1.

2. Development in the Rural District shall meet the following standards:

  1. Non-residential lots outside of planned developments and lots in exempt subdivisions not approved as Farmhouse Clusters or Conservation Subdivisions require a minimum lot size of 20,000 sq. ft. and a minimum lot width of 90’; no open space requirement. Further, individual lots of less than 20,000 sq. ft. and/or 90’ width, existing prior to the effective date of this ordinance, are construed to be conforming.
  2. Except as provided in a. above, Farmhouse Cluster and Conservation Subdivision Standards, density in the Rural zoning district shall be as follows:

Percent Open Space

0% unless tract is within a proposed greenway, in which case the greenway shall, at a minimum, be reserved as open space per the subdivision regulations


45% or more

Units per Gross Acre

Less than .3 units per acre



For every 1% additional open space over 25%, density can be increased by .03 units per gross acre to a maximum of .90 units per gross acre.

  1. Open space which is improved, dedicated, and accepted by a public agency for public use shall be counted as 1.5 times the actual acreage as an incentive to provide improved public open space. Written proof of willingness to accept the open space by a public agency shall be presented at all stages of the approval process. Access shall at least consist of trails built to public standards meandering through the open space with public access points readily available and public access signs posted at those locations and where the trail intersects with roads shown on the Thoroughfare Plan. Other improvements, such as parks, shall be in accordance with applicable governmental standards. 
  2. In determining density permissible on a tract of land, fractions shall be dropped. 
  3. Lot sizes shall average at least 15,000 sq. ft., but in no case shall any lot be less than 8,000 sq. ft.  The front yard setback for residential lots shall be a minimum of 25’.  The side yard setback shall be 8’ and the rear yard setback shall be a minimum of 25’. 
  4. Lot widths shall average at least 70’ feet (excluding cul-de-sac lots), but in no case shall any lot be less than 60' wide. On cul-de-sac or turnarounds, lots shall have at least 80% of the minimum lot width required when measured to a point 50' back from the street right-of-way. Further, these lots shall have a minimum of 35' of frontage along the street right-of-way. 
  5. In residential subdivisions, lots should not have a depth greater than 4 times the width at the build-to or setback line except where physical dimensions of the tract provide no other alternative layout or where the open space is for a required buffer. Emphasis shall be on the quality of the design as opposed to the reduction of development costs.
  6. In order to preserve the low-intensity development character found in the Rural zoning district, along existing state-maintained roads and future thoroughfares, a visually opaque landscaped buffer of native vegetation at least 80 feet in width shall be required for major subdivisions unless a more restrictive buffer is established elsewhere in these regulations. The buffer shall be in the common area and shall be counted towards meeting open space requirements.
  7. In major residential subdivisions, a landscaped median at least 20’ in width shall be required at all entrances into the subdivision. 
  8. Open space shall not be located in private residential lots unless specifically allowed by this ordinance.
  1. Open Space. Designated open space includes that parcel or parcels of land, which shall be set aside in perpetuity and shall have no buildings or permanent structures constructed within its perimeters except as provided for in this section.  There are four types of open space in the Rural District – agriculture, common, natural, and recreation.  Open space shall meet the provisions of this section and the provisions for open space established in Article 7, Part B.
  1.  Areas containing buildings and other impervious surfaces in excess of 100 sq. ft., shall not be counted as open space. This shall include, but not be limited to, barns, storage buildings, parking lots, clubhouses and tennis courts, 
  2. Open Space that is dedicated and accepted by the general public shall be maintained and managed by the Town of Huntersville or Mecklenburg County. The town and county have the right to accept or deny the dedication of open space to the public.
  3. In the Farmhouse Cluster and in the Conservation Subdivision, open space may also include portions of private building lots subject to a conservation or open space easement.  
  4. Open space preservation shall be irrevocable.  A metes and bounds description of the space to be preserved and limits on use shall be recorded on the subdivision plat, in homeowner covenants, and on individual deeds when open space lands are not held entirely in common.  Alternative means of permanent open space preservation may include acceptance by a land conservation trust or a unit of government.  Private management alternatives which ensure the open space preservation required by this section will also be permitted.   Restrictive covenants shall limit uses to the continuation of certain agricultural activities (pastureland, crop cultivation) or recreation uses that preserve the view from public streets of rural heritage features to be preserved.  Upon verification by the town that restriction of development has been established by a permanent and irrevocable instrument, a letter so noting shall be simultaneously issued to the property owner(s) and to the Mecklenburg County Tax Administrator, Office of Real Estate Appraisal.
  1.    Compatibility with Surrounding Development.
    1. Along existing streets, new buildings shall respect the general spacing of structures, building mass and scale, and street frontage relationships of existing buildings.         
  • New buildings which adhere to the scale, massing, volume, spacing, and setback of existing buildings along fronting streets exhibit demonstrable compatibility.
  • New buildings which exceed the scale and volume of existing buildings may demonstrate compatibility by varying the massing of buildings to reduce perceived scale and volume.  The definition of massing in Article 12 illustrates the application of design techniques to reduce the visual perception of size and integrate larger buildings with pre-existing smaller buildings.
  • A single-family detached house established on a lot of one acre or more that is created according to the provisions of Article 8.1, paragraph 1, need not adhere to the spacing, massing, scale, and street frontage relationships of existing buildings along an existing street or road, but shall, at a minimum, observe a front setback of 40 feet and a lot width of 90 feet.  This paragraph shall take precedence over the requirement of Article 4: Lot Types/Detached House for placement of a building on its lot.
  • Nothing in this subsection shall be interpreted to conflict with the building design element provisions as found in N.C.G.S. 160D-702(b) for structures subject to the North Carolina Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings. 

        b. On new streets, allowable building and lot types will establish the development pattern.

  1. See Section 8.16, Standards for Residential Lot Widths, Alleys, Garages and Parking in Residential Districts.

e) Special Requirements: Farmhouse Cluster Developments

A Farmhouse Cluster permits the subdivision of land for up to six house lots accessed by way of a shared private drive when the following conditions have been met:

  1. Minimum project size and frontage on public road: 10 acres with a minimum of 30 feet of frontage on a public road either by fee simple ownership or by exclusive easement.
  2. There shall be no more than two farmhouse cluster developments permitted per tract. 
  3. Private drives shall be paved in accordance with the Town of Huntersville construction standards.  The private street right-of-way or easement shall be sufficient width to accommodate drainage/water quality treatment associated with the private drive. Further, the recorded easement shall have at least 30’ of frontage on a public street.   In the event two farmhouse clusters are established, the private drive serving those farmhouse clusters may be connected provided:
  1. The subdivision plat and associated deeds shall clearly state such drive shall remain private and will not be taken over by a public entity in the future unless such street complies with the construction standards of that public entity.
  2. Where feasible, there shall be two means of ingress and egress into the combined farmhouse cluster development.   Only in the event the original tract does not have the adequate frontage on a public road to obtain two driveway permits would one private drive be allowed to serve the combined farmhouse cluster development;  

4. An association of all property owners shall be established for maintenance of all commonly held spaces, if any.  Where there are no commonly held spaces except for a shared driveway or private street, a legally binding shared driveway and/or private street use and maintenance agreement shall be filed at the Register of Deeds of Mecklenburg County.  Furthermore, the shared driveway or private road shall be shown, along with all appropriate and necessary easements, on a recorded plat and a note shall be attached thereto stipulating the use and maintenance of the driveway and referencing the recorded agreement(s).

5. The location of building sites shall be determined through a site analysis which identifies features listed in Article 7 to be preserved as open space;

6. No minimum lot size or width is required, so long as the project meets all other standards of the district. Detached garages in farmhouse clusters shall be placed in the side or rear yard of home lots. Farmhouse clusters must include an opaque vegetative buffer from the public street for the placement of detached garages in the side yard of home lots. 

7. At least 50% of the tract shall be designated as open space. Open space preservation shall be irrevocable.  A metes and bounds description of the space to be preserved and limits on use shall be recorded on the subdivision plat and on individual deeds when open space lands are not held entirely in common.  Open space lands may be part of a deeded lot so long as it reflects an irrevocable conservation or open space easement requiring such portions of individual lots to remain and be used as open space as provided in this section.  

8. Permitted uses of open space lands to be preserved shall correspond generally to physical conditions at the time of subdivision approval. Restrictive covenants shall limit uses to the continuation of certain agricultural activities (pastureland, crop cultivation) or recreation uses that preserve the view from public streets of rural heritage features to be preserved.  For example, fields or pasture land preserved as required open space may continue to support cultivation or grazing; however existing woodlands may not be clear-cut.  In order to ensure septic tanks are located on the most suitable soils, septic fields may be located in common open space provided a maintenance easement is established for access. 

9. The project shall maintain a generally rural appearance from public road(s).

10. Where a farmhouse cluster would eliminate a planned street connection or a street connection indicated on a plan adopted by the Town of Huntsville or the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Thoroughfare Plan, and no alternate alignment can reasonably provide the connection, the design of the farmhouse cluster shall provide for said connection by the dedication of right-of-way for streets less than 70 feet in width and by the reservation of right-of-way for streets 70 feet or wider. 

11. A Farmhouse Cluster requires an approved Farmhouse Cluster subdivision plan, according to the requirements of the Huntersville Subdivision Ordinance including approval by Planning Staff and shall meet all other requirements for review and approval, which may include preliminary plan approval prior to approval of a final plat.   

f) Special Requirements: Conservation Subdivisions

A Conservation Subdivision permits single-family building lots to be divided from a parent tract(s) according to a streamlined subdivision approval process.  The approval process, coupled with exemption from most zoning and subdivision requirements, is available to owners who voluntarily place conservation easements on their land in favor of an established lands conservancy.  A land division can be approved as a Conservation Subdivision when the following conditions are met:

  1. An irrevocable conservation easement held by a conservation organization is placed upon the tract(s) to be subdivided, and documentation of the conservation easement, including a boundary description of the area subject to the conservation easement, is submitted with the subdivision application. 
  2. Limits on location and extent of land disturbance and building construction are set out in the conservation easement(s), which shall at a minimum preserve the rural appearance of the land when viewed from public roads and from abutting properties. 
  3. Treatment of floodplain(s) and required water quality buffers, as described in the conservation easement(s), conform to the minimum standards of the Huntersville Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances.
  4. Minimum project size:  40 acres.   
  5. Maximum gross density:  1 dwelling unit per 20 acres.
  6. No new public streets are to be created through the development process.
  7. All parcels within the conservation subdivision will have frontage on an existing public road right-of-way or will be provided access to a permanent 20-foot wide access easement that connects to the public right-of-way.  Permanent access easement(s) may be either exclusive or non-exclusive, however landlocked parcel(s) may not be created.  Documentation of lot access shall be submitted with the subdivision application.
  8. The holder of the conservation easement will be held responsible for enforcement of the terms of the conservation easement.
  9. Where the parent tract(s) abuts or includes a segment of a thoroughfare that is shown on the adopted Comprehensive Transportation Plan and for which an engineered alignment has been selected, any right of way reservation required by the subdivision regulations shall be made, either by the filing of a deed or the filing of a plat map. 
  10. Documentation of the above, including a copy of the recorded conservation easement with metes and bounds description, shall be provided with the subdivision application and shall entitle the subdivider to choose to divide the property by deed, as a metes and bounds subdivision, or by final plat approval and recordation according to the requirements of Subdivision Ordinance Section 6.520 for a minor subdivision.

11) A Conservation Subdivision and the lots and homes built therein are exempt from the following ordinance provisions:

    • Requirement that each building lot have frontage on a public street. 
    • Requirement to provide open space.
    • Requirements of Article 4: Lot Types/Detached House, which section describes the placement of a building on its lot.
    • Requirements for the placement and size of residential garages set out in Section 8.16, paragraphs .1 and .6.   All other standards of Section 8.16 shall apply.
    • Requirement to plant street trees along existing public road(s) where existing, mature trees are to be preserved as a condition of the conservation easement.
    • Requirement to construct or escrow funds for sidewalks or alternative pedestrian paths along existing public road(s).  

Table of Contents

Zoning Ordinance Table of Contents