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Cary Town Hall and most other staffed facilities will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 23 and Friday, Nov. 24 for Thanksgiving. Read more about other service changes this week

Starting a Business

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Cary is the place for businesses of all sizes, from international corporations to the smallest start-ups. We want your business opening to go as smoothly as possible. If you’re unfamiliar with Town procedures, we’ll guide you through getting the appropriate permits and approvals.

Development Liaison Service

This service focuses on all development customers (residential and non-residential).  If you choose to participate in this free service, you will be assigned a liaison that will assist by serving as your primary point of contact with the Town throughout the life of your project. Cary's development liaisons have expertise in the areas of planning, zoning, permitting, building code and inspections and work closely with all Town staff involved in the development process.

  • Contact: Development Liaison Service at (919) 469-4046.

Before Buying Property or Signing a Lease

Although not required, you may want to request a Zoning Verification Letter to ensure that a lot or building meets Town requirements and that it is zoned for how you intend to use it. This formal letter, signed by the Planning Manager, outlines various aspects of a property including permitted uses, environmental factors, open zoning violations and much more.  Due to the extensive research involved, Cary charges a fee for Zoning Verification Letters.  Applicants should allow for up to 2 weeks from applying to receive the letter.

  • Contact: Planning Department at (919) 469-4046.

Locating in a New or Renovated Building

You’ll need Development Plan approval or a Minor Alteration approval to an approved development plan prior to construction of a new building or making alterations to the exterior or facade of an existing building.  Changes may include landscaping, parking, awnings, lighting, building colors, etc. 

After receiving development plan approval, you will need to obtain a Commercial Building Permit to begin construction or renovation, inside or outside.  Cary requires the following be submitted along with your permit application before you can schedule your inspections and receive your Certificate of Occupancy:

Please submit four (4) copies of the Building Code Summary, floor plan and building plan for most projects. Five (5) copies are required for projects reviewed by Wake County Environmental Services (Health Department), such as food services and certain daycare facilities.

  • Contact: Inspections & Permits Department at (919) 469-4046.

Locating a New Tenant in an Existing Building with No Changes to the Property or Space

A Commercial Building Permit from the Town of Cary is required anytime a new tenant moves into a space or if any plumbing, electrical, mechanical, sprinkler, fire alarm or structural changes are made to the building.  In cases where a new tenant moves into a space, these permits are classified as either a change of tenant (moving into a space that was previously permitted for the same building occupancy type, such as Business to Business) or a change of occupancy (moving into a space that was previously approved for a different building code occupancy type, such as from a Business use to an Educational use).  For more information, please visit the Chamber of Commerce/Town of Cary Guide to Starting a Business or contact a Development Liaison at (919) 469-4046. 

We require that a building inspector and a fire inspector check over the space before opening. Fees may vary, please see the Inspections & Permits Department Fee Estimation Guide.  Cary requires the following be submitted along with your permit application before you can schedule your inspections and receive your Certificate of Occupancy:

Please submit four copies of the Building Code Summary, floor plan, and building plan for most projects. Five copies are required for projects reviewed by Wake County Environmental Services (Health Department), such as food services and certain day care facilities.

You can also learn more about a building permit review cycle or search the status of an existing building permit. 

  • Contact: Inspections & Permits Department at (919) 469-4046.

Locating a Business in Your Home

Home-Based Businesses are permitted in most residential zoning districts and sometimes require approval of an Accessory Use Permit.

Changing Residential Property into Commercial Property

Converting a house or other residential structure into commercial property may require rezoning and/or development plan approval prior to obtaining a building permit to begin construction or renovation, inside or outside. Some state building code requirements are more stringent for commercial property than those for homes. Examples include:

  • Handicapped access for the site and the bathrooms
  • Weight-bearing limits of floors
  • Width of hallways and corridors
  • Firewalls
Contact: Inspections & Permits Department at (919) 469-4046

Privilege (Business) License

As of July 1, 2015, the Town of Cary no longer requires businesses to obtain or renew a privilege license.  However, the Town's Land Development Ordinance (LDO) requires that a Commercial Building Permit must be obtained before a business can occupy a commercial space.  

Are you still unsure about what to do?  Ask one of our Development Liaisons to guide you though the process.

Business Link NC (BLNC), an extension of the N.C. Department of Commerce, has details on state licenses, permits and regulatory requirements. (North Carolina has no single business license covering all requirements)

Signs

A sign permit is required before you install a permanent or temporary sign. Many non-residential developments have approved Master/Uniform Sign Plans which set parameters for the size, location and design of signs on property constructed or managed as a single development.

  • Contact: Planning Department at (919) 469-4046

Miscellaneous Town of Cary Requirements

Businesses that serve alcoholic beverages must receive approval from the North Carolina Alcohol Beverage Control Commission.  To obtain your license, you will need to follow the below process:

  1. Download and complete an NC Alcohol Beverage Control Permit form.
  2. Once completed, you will need to apply for a Commercial Building Permit (type in ABC Inspection in the scope of work line).
  3. Once the permit is approved by the Town, a building and fire inspection will need to be scheduled at the Development Services Counter.  
  4. After the building and fire inspection is complete an NC Background Report must be conducted.  You can find on-line background checks by typing "NC Background Check" into any search engine.  
  5. Bring your completed zoning inspection report, background report and a completed Local Government Opinion to the Cary Police station (120 Wilkinson Avenue).  The Cary Police will process your completed application and contact you when approved.  
  6. Once approved, all above referenced forms will need to be submitted to NC ABC Commission for final approval.  
  7. After your receive your ABC approval, you will need to apply for a Town of Cary Beer and Wine Permit.

Water & Sewer Service

A Water and Sewer Service Application is required.

FOR CHANGES TO EXISTING SERVICE:

  • Contact: Finance Department at (919) 469-4050

FOR NEW SERVICE:

  • Contact: Inspections & Permits Department at (919) 460-4992

Garbage Collection

In addition to water and sewer service, we provide once-a-week collection to small businesses whose garbage:

  • Will fit into four 32-gallon cans
  • Is similar to general household waste with no special disposal requirements

We also collect flattened corrugated cardboard from these businesses.

Contact: Public Works & Utilities Department at (919) 469-4090

Other Utilities

Electricity, gas, telephone and cable TV

County, State & Federal Requirements

See an overview and contacts for licenses and permits, business name registration, tax listing, etc.

Resources for Small Businesses

Cary Chamber of Commerce
Wake County information for businesses
Small Business Center Network (N.C. Community College System)
N.C. Small Business and Technology Development Center
Business Link North Carolina (NC Commerce)
U.S. Small Business Administration 
SCORE
Foreign Trade Zones in North Carolina