Good question ... this link from the City/County Inspections page indicates a permit is not required for a patio 100% in contact with the ground.
Durham, NC - City of Medicine (http://www.ci.durham.nc.us/departments/inspections/decks.cfm - broken link)
o I Need a Permit to Build a Deck?
Yes, a permit is required to build a deck, because it is considered to be structural work (something that carries a load other than itself; in this case, a person load). A brick paver patio would not require a permit, because the pavers are in 100% contact with the ground, whereas a deck is suspended above the ground, requiring the joists and posts to transfer the loads to the ground.
I *think* the answer is that while a permit and inspections are not required for a patio, you are still responsible for meeting zoning requirements (and any HOA approvals).
Last edited by frankpc; 06-24-2011 at 02:22 PM..