In certain districts within the County’s Zoning Ordinance, a site plan option is available. This form of Special Exception allows more flexibility in development form, use, and density than that permitted By-right in a zoning district. Site plan districts are written to give the County Board flexibility to approve modifications based on the individual characteristics of each site. In each site plan district, there are standards set forth. Unless otherwise stated within the site plan district, all standards within site plan districts can be modified using Zoning Ordinance Section 36.H.5.a. The majority of site plan review proposals are for hotel, residential, office and mixed-use development in certain high density zoning districts and typically within the Metro Station corridors. For more information see the Administrative Regulation 4.1.
Review Process and Timeline
The Zoning Administrator establishes an annual calendar of filing dates for site plan applications. Site Plan applications are submitted in accordance with Administrative Regulation 4.1. The site plan is reviewed internally by the following:
- Community Planning, Housing & Development (CPHD)
- Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources (PRCR)
- Department of Environmental Services (DES)
- Arlington Economic Development (AED)
Prior to submitting a site plan application, the applicant, architects, engineers and attorneys generally meet with staff members in order to gain an understanding of the requirements and to identify any unique problems or constraints in the physical development of the site. Staff also strongly encourage prospective applicants to contact the impacted Civic Associations or neighbors to present the proposed development. The process is a minimum of 90 days long from the final submission date to the County Board hearing date, assuming that there are no major issues requiring deferrals. There is a preliminary submission date two weeks before the final submission date to allow staff time to review the application for completeness before the final filing date.
Site Plans are also reviewed by a committee of the Planning Commission , the Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC). The SPRC is comprised of members of the Planning Commission, County Advisory Commissions and Committee representatives, and Civic Association and neighborhood representatives. The SPRC meetings are informal, and provide an opportunity for the developer to present their plans and for the community to provide comments and direction on the plans. Typically, the SPRC meets on the project until they believe that the project is ready to proceed to the Planning Commission.
Site plan review requires public hearings before both the Planning Commission and the County Board. The Planning Commission reviews new site plans and major amendments and makes a recommendation to the County Board. The Planning Commission receives a written County Manager’s report (staff report) and a report from the SPRC. The staff report recommendation includes a number of suggested conditions for approval. The County Board then takes final action on the site plan. If the project is approved, then the applicant can proceed with the development process and obtaining permits for development.