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North Dakota Land Use Planning (1-ND-a)

Information current as of 2021
North Dakota delegates land use planning to municipal and county governments. N.D. Cent. Code § 11-33; N.D. Cent. Code § 40-47. In limited circumstances, the North Dakota Public Service Commission may also issue certifications for transmission projects that will supersede local land use regulations. A developer should contact the appropriate local government to ensure that the proposed project is consistent with planning, zoning, and development regulations.



Land Use Planning Process


1-ND-a.1 - Review City or County Comprehensive Land Use Plans

A developer should research the comprehensive plan of the municipality and county and any accompanying maps, studies, or other relevant information in order to determine the goals and planning strategies that apply to the project site.

North Dakota requires municipalities and counties to adopt comprehensive plans. N.D. Cent. Code § 11-33-03; N.D. Cent. Code § 40-47-03. The comprehensive plan shall be a statement in documented text setting forth explicit goals, objectives, policies, and standards of the jurisdiction to guide public and private development within its control. N.D. Cent. Code § 11-33-03; N.D. Cent. Code § 40-47-03. Municipal and county comprehensive plans will provide a context for determining if the proposed development activity is compatible with the community’s overall plans for development.


1-ND-a.2 – Review Municipal and County Zoning Regulations

A developer should review the applicable municipal and county zoning regulations to ensure the project will comply with the zoning regulations.

North Dakota delegates the authority to implement zoning regulations to cities and counties, which include the ability “To regulate and restrict the erection, construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, or use of buildings and structures, the height, number of stories, and size of buildings and structures, the percentage of lot that may be occupied, the size of courts, yards, and other open spaces, the density of population, and the location and use of buildings, structures, and land for trade, industry, residence, or other purposes.” N.D. Cent. Code § 11-33-01 ; N.D. Cent. Code § 40-47-01.


1-ND-a.3 to 1-ND-a.4 – Does the Project Require a Variation to a Zoning Ordinance?

If a proposed project does not comply with zoning regulations, a developer may submit a petition for a variation to the zoning ordinance to the applicable municipality or county board or board of appeals. N.D. Cent. Code § 11-33-11; N.D. Cent. Code § 40-47-09. The petition for variance to a zoning ordinance petition requirements and procedural process varies pending on the jurisdiction.

1-ND-a.5 to 1-ND-a.7 – Does the Local Government Approve the Variation?

The applicable municipality or county board or board of appeals must consider the petition for variation. The local government may only grant a variation where “The literal enforcement” of a zoning regulation would result in “Great practical difficulties, unnecessary hardship, or injustice, so as to avoid such consequences.” N.D. Cent. Code § 11-33-11. In addition, the petitioner (developer) must show that the variance would not be contrary to the public interest. N.D. Cent. Code § 11-33-11. The relevant board, body, or commission must make written findings of its decision to grant or deny the variance. N.D. Cent. Code 11-33-01; N.D. Cent. Code § 40-47-04.

If the local government approves the variation, the developer may continue the project. If, however, the local government denies the variance, the developer may either appeal the decision or in the limited circumstances described below, apply for a certificate of corridor compatibility from the North Dakota Public Service Commission(N.D.P.S.C.).


1-ND-a.8 to 1-ND-a.9 – Does the Project Involve a Transmission Line Greater than 115 Kilovolts?

In North Dakota, a transmission project located within a designated corridor may be granted a Certificate of Corridor Compatibility from the N.D.P.S.C. that will supersede and preempt a local land use, zoning, or building rule, regulation, or ordinance. N.D. Cent. Code § 49-22-16(2). A transmission project is defined as an electric transmission line of 115 kilovolts or more and is longer than one mile N.D. Cent. Code § 49-22-03.

The certificate may only be granted upon a finding by the commission that the rule, regulation, or ordinance, as applied to the proposed route, is unreasonably restrictive in view of existing technology, factors of cost or economics, or needs of consumers regardless of location N.D. Cent. Code § 49-22-16.


1-ND-a.10 – Appeal Decision (Optional)

Appeals regarding municipal and county comprehensive plan decisions must follow the rules set by the applicable jurisdiction in compliance with the relevant provisions of the North Dakota Century Code. In counties, an aggrieved party may appeal a zoning decision of the board of county commissioners to a district court. N.D. Cent. Code § 11-33-12.

In municipalities, appeals of zoning decisions must be heard by the board of adjustment (if the city has established one), and further appealed to the governing body of the city before appeal can be sought in district court N.D. Cent. Code § 40-47-11.

In addition, an interested party must file an appeal regarding a final zoning decision from the county board or municipal governing body within 30 days of the decision of the governing body. N.D. Cent. Code § 11-33-12; In municipalities, appeals of zoning decisions must be heard by the board of adjustment (if the city has established one), and further appealed to the governing body of the city before appeal can be sought in district court N.D. Cent. Code § 40-47-11.


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