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Planning and Development

How do I get building permits?


The Town of Smithfield contracts with Johnston County Building Inspections for building permits and construction inspections. Prior to contacting Johnston County Building Inspections you should first obtain a Zoning Permit from the Smithfield Planning Department to ensure the proposed work meets the requirements of the Unified Development Code. 

You can contact Johnston County Building Inspections at:

Director: Shane Hudson
Physical Address:  Land Use Center 
                             309 E. Market Street 
                             Smithfield, NC 27577

Mailing Address:  309 East Market Street
                             Smithfield, NC 27577

Phone: 919-989-5060
Fax:      919-989-5431
Web: Johnston County Building Inspections


What do I need to put a shed, deck, pool, or house addition on my property?


First, you must receive a Zoning Permit from the Town of Smithfield Planning Department. Failure to receive a Zoning Permit is considered a Zoning Violation and can result in a warning letter and possibly fines, so please don’t forget this step! Sheds are considered accessory structures and must comply with Article 7, Section 7.3 of the Unified Development Code.


The Planning Department will work with you to make sure the project will not encroach into any easements and meets all setback requirements, as well as any other Code requirements. Please contact the Planning Department to begin the process.


How do I schedule an inspection?


Johnston County Building Inspections has been contracted to manage building permit inspections for the Town of Smithfield. 


The Planning Department is responsible for site development and landscaping inspections. 


Stormwater infrastructure inspections are conducted by the Town Engineer, but coordinated through the Planning Department. Please contact the Planning Department for stormwater infrastructure inspections.


What is a Zoning Permit and do I need one?


  • A Zoning Permit is required for:
  • Most construction projects
  • New businesses or uses
  • New/changed business locations
  • Sheds, pools, and house additions


A Zoning Permit allows staff to review a request for consistency with the Unified Development Code to ensure that a use is allowed in the location proposed. Contact the Planning Department for more information.


What's the Difference between a Zoning Permit and a Building Permit?


Most development is regulated under two different codes: the zoning code (Unified Development Code) and the Building Code.  Receiving a Zoning Permit from the Smithfield Planning Department is typically the first step in the development process, followed by applying for and receiving a Building Permit from Johnston County Building Inspections. 


What is the process to renovate or expand an existing commercial building?


Before renovating a building, you should contact the Town of Smithfield Planning Department to determine what permits are necessary and/or follow the To Start A New Business on the Planning Department Webpage to follow the new business approval process. To begin the process, please contact the Planning Department:


Address: Smithfield Planning Department
350 East Market Street
Smithfield, NC 27577


Phone:    919-934-2116  ext.1112

Do I need a permit for Yard or Garage Sales?

Yes; permits are obtained through the Planning Department.

Residents may have no more than 2 sales per year. No single sale shall be conducted for longer than 2 consecutive weekends or more than 72 hours in a single week. Two off-site garage sale signs may be permitted, but only during the hours the sale is actively being conducted. Off-site signs must be removed at the close of the sale activities or by the end of the day.  


What is the process to build a new commercial or multi-family building in Smithfield?


All new non-residential, multi-family, or mixed use buildings must go through a Site Plan review process. An application for Site Plan Review can be obtained from the Smithfield Planning Department. Modifications to existing sites, such as modifying the building size, changing the mix of uses, modifying the parking lot, or even changing up your landscaping can also require Site Plan review.


Your first step is to set up a meeting with staff to discuss the project. To begin the process, please contact the Planning Department:


Address: Smithfield Planning Department
350 East Market Street
Smithfield, NC 27577


Phone: 919-934-2116  ext.1112

Development standards are found in the Town’s Unified Development Code.


What are the rules for temporary signs?


Temporary signs include banners, flags, balloons and other types of signage which will be used on a temporary basis.  Temporary signs are subject to the rules and regulations of the Town’s Unified Development Code – see (Article 10, Part III, Section 10.21.3) and require a temporary sign permit.


You can click here for a copy of the application, or contact the Planning Department for more information and assistance.


How are signs regulated?


To help preserve the character of our town by keeping it neat and clean, the Town of Smithfield regulates signs through its Sign Ordinance (Unified Development Code, Article 10, Part III).


Click here to download an Zoning Permit application. Select Sign Permit at the top of the form and complete the application. Submit the application with a scaled plan showing the location of the sign and the sign artwork also drawn to scale.


How much does a permit or application cost?


Click here to see the Town’s Comprehensive List of Fees and Charges. Permit and application fees are also shown on each permit application. Click here  to access the application forms.



What is zoning?


Zoning is a method of used by local governments to regulate the use and development of land for the purpose of promoting the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of its citizens.


How do I know what zoning district my property is in?


The Planning Department maintains the town’s Official Zoning Map and can help you determine your zoning district. You can also click here to view the zoning map.


What is the ETJ or Extraterritorial Jurisdiction?


The extraterritorial jurisdiction or ETJ is the land area within a two mile perimeter area around the Town of Smithfield corporate limits.  The town enforces land development regulations (buildings and zoning) within the ETJ. Click here to view a zoning map which identifies the town limits and its ETJ.


How do I know if I am in the Town Limits or Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ)?


Click here to access the Planning Department’s Zoning Map which identifies the Town and ETJ boundaries.


How can I find an address for my property?


If you don’t know the address of your property, contact the Planning Department. We can help you determine the address, or assign one if needed.


Do the Town’s zoning regulations apply to me?


If you are located within town limits or within the Town’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ), zoning regulations of the town apply to you. Click here to view a zoning map which identifies the town limits and its ETJ.


What is allowed in each zoning district?


First determine your Zoning District by viewing the Town’s Official Zoning Map, or by contacting the Planning Department. Then, visit Section 6.5, “Table of Uses and Activities,” to determine if the use is permitted “P”, if it requires a special use permit “S”, or if its prohibited (no  “P”, “S” or “SS” in the table).  The designation “SS” indicates there are supplemental regulations for the use to be found in Article 7 of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO)


You can view the Unified Development Code by clicking here, or you can contact the Planning Department for help determining allowed uses.


Remember that before building or placing a new use on the property, you must receive the appropriate permits and approvals. Contact the Planning Department to discuss this process.


What are my building setbacks?


Building setbacks are based on your Zoning District and sometimes, on what subdivision you are located in or whether or not you are in an Overlay District. It is recommended that you contact the Planning Department to determine your setback requirements.


How do I get a survey of my property?


You will have to hire a private surveyor. The Town of Smithfield does not provide property surveys or recommend surveyors. Any information provided by the Town or Johnston County, including GIS information, is intended for reference purposes only.


What do I need to know to put up a fence on my property?

Fences are regulated by the Town’s Unified Development Ordinance, but no permit is required. Failure to follow the regulations may result in a zoning violation and enforcement by the Town.

Fences at corner lots cannot be over a height of 30 inches within a triangular area formed by a diagonal line between two points on the right-of-way lines, 25 feet from where they intersect.

No fence or wall more than three (3) feet in height which is more than seventy-five percent (75%) solid, may be placed in any front yard, including along the side lot line or in the yard to the front of any principal building.

Fences may not exceed six (6) feet in height, except as approved by the Town Council.

Fences are exempt from setback requirements.


Where can I find a zoning or other Town map?


Planning Department's maps can be found here


Where do I find out about restrictive covenants and other deed restrictions?


These types of restrictions are a civil matter and do not involve the Town of Smithfield. You should check the deed of the property in question for information on restrictions. Any further questions should be directed to an attorney.


Can I subdivide my property?


Depending on the size of your property and the zoning district your property is located in, you may be able to subdivide your property.  Since subdividing a property can be a complicated process, please contact the Planning Department for more information and assistance.


What is a subdivision?


A subdivision occurs when a parcel of land is divided from a larger area. The purpose of a subdivision is to split a large tract of land into smaller ones that are easier to develop and can be developed independently of one another to increase growth and maximize the use of space.


What signage can I put on my property or my business?


All signs are subject to the rules and regulations of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) (Article 10, Part III) and require a sign permit. You can click here for a copy of the zoning application (Select the box for Sign).  Provide a scaled site plan and scaled sign artwork with your application.


You can also contact the Planning Department for help in determining the sign type and size that will be permitted on your property or business.



What do I need to do to start or move a business?


Your first step is to contact the Town of Smithfield Planning Department to determine what your process will be.  Please visit the New Business Flow Chart page on the Planning Department website for additional information.


What if I want to run my business out of my house?


Running a business from your home is called a home occupation which is regulated by the Town of Smithfield. The standard for home occupations can be found here. All home occupations require a zoning permit. For home occupations questions, please contact the Planning Department.



How do I turn on water, sewer, or electric?


The Town’s Customer Service can help you establish utilities if you are a customer of the Town of Smithfield. Click here for more information on utility services.


I think my neighbor or someone is violating Town rules. How do I ask about this or report this?


If you think someone is violating the rules of the town, you can contact the Code Enforcement at 919-934-2116, extension 1116 or click here for more information on code enforcement violations.


Where can I find the agendas for upcoming public meetings? 


Click here to link to the agendas/minutes for upcoming meetings for Town Council, the Planning Board, Board of Adjustment, or Historic Preservation Commission.


What is the population of the Town of Smithfield?


Click here to learn more about the population of the town and other interesting facts.


What is an easement?


An easement is the right to use property owned by another individual for specific purposes or to gain access to another property. Easements may be used for the construction of utilities, roadways, greenways or conservation areas.


Can I as homeowner do my own construction work?


In most cases NC State laws pertaining to contractors allow homeowners to obtain permits and perform construction work on their personal home. The Town of Smithfield contracts with Johnston County to provide building permits and inspections. Please contact Johnston County Building Inspections for more information.