The Zoning Ordinance contains the land-use regulations for all land in the County. From time to time the Zoning Ordinance is amended to ensure that land use and development regulations meet the needs and goals of the community. Amendments begin with a zoning study, which examine various standards and regulations (ex: zoning districts, uses, setback, etc.).
|Study Name||Tentative Completion Date||Status|
|Assisted Living and Elder Care Facilities (C-3 District only)||Jan. 2020||In Progress|
|Assisted Living and Elder Care Facilities||Dec. 2019||In Progress|
|Housing Conservation District||Q4 2020||In Progress|
|Bonus Height/Density Provisions||Complete||Complete|
|Relocatable Classrooms Administrative Review||Complete||Complete|
|Detached Accessory Dwellings||Complete||Complete|
|Parking Modifications in R-C District||Complete||Complete|
|Maximum Height for Large Media Screens||Complete||Complete|
|Parking Modifications for Social Service Institutions||Complete||Complete|
|Child Care Initiative (Phase I)||Complete||Complete|
Studies In Progress
Assisted Living and Elder Care Facilities
Staff is conducting a zoning study to expand the potential locations in the County for licensed assisted living and elder care facilities, and to clarify the zoning and development standards for these types of uses. This study was prompted by inquiries to the Zoning Administrator for clarification on the zoning and land use regulations governing the development and operation of licensed residential care facilities. Currently, licensed assisted living and elder care facilities are limited to the S-D Special Development District, and require both County Board approval of a special exception site plan and use permit. This limitation on potential sites and development standards has become a barrier to licensed residential care facilities seeking to locate in Arlington. The study aims to expand the available housing options for aging residents, while allowing development that is appropriate and compatible with the County’s existing neighborhoods.
The study has been organized into two phases. The first phase, scheduled for completion in September 2019, would permit assisted living facilities and nursing homes in five zoning districts. The second phase, scheduled for completion in December 2019, would permit all elder care uses, which includes independent living and continuing care retirement communities, in a total of 18 zoning districts. Staff will follow up with a third phase in January 2020 to permit all elder care uses in the C-3 district within the Clarendon Revitalization District as shown on the General Land Use Plan (GLUP).
- July 13, 2019: County Board Request to Authorize
- Sept. 9, 2019: Planning Commission Meeting (final consideration and recommendation)
- Sept. 21, 2019: County Board Meeting (final consideration and action)
- April 15, 2019: Presentation of study’s scope to the Commission on Aging
- July 17, 2019: Presentation to Planning Commission’s Zoning Committee (ZOCO)
- Oct. 7, 2019: Elder Care Zoning Ordinance Amendment Community Forum
- Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th Street South)
- Time: 1:00-3:00pm, 5:00-8:00pm
- Oct. 15, 2019: ZOCO review of draft text
- Oct. 21, 2019: Presentation of study’s recommendations to Commission on Aging
- Oct. 23, 2019: Presentation to NAIOP – Arlington Government Relations Subcommittee Meeting
- Nov. 7, 2019: Presentation to Citizens Advisory Commission on Housing
- Nov. 16, 2019: County Board Request to Advertise
- Nov. 19, 2019: Presentation to Disability Advisory Commission
- Dec. 5, 2019: Planning Commission Meeting (final consideration and recommendation)
- Dec. 17, 2019: County Board Meeting (final consideration and action)
- Completed 2019 – Bonus Height/Density Provisions
Staff is conducting a zoning study to update and clarify bonus provisions for special exception site plan development to, among other purposes, implement Comprehensive Plan elements such as the Affordable Housing Master Plan.
This study has been listed on the Planning Division work plan for several years and was prioritized with the launch of Housing Arlington in 2019. Bonus density and height is a tool used under the incentive zoning provisions in the Zoning Ordinance and has been approved by the County Board to facilitate the achievement of certain community improvements. Bonus density and height allows for increased density and height above the level indicated on the General Land Use Plan (GLUP) and zoning districts approved by the Board when certain findings are made about the proposed development. The bonus density caps for affordable housing have graduated over time and are currently limited to a 25% increase for residential development, a 0.25 FAR increase for office development, and a 10% increase for hotel development. The maximum combined bonus for affordable housing and community facilities is 25%. Bonus height requests, of up to three stories for community facilities and up to six stories for affordable housing are currently permitted. Bonuses have also been approved for sustainable design, open space and other site-specific purposes. This study is evaluating alternatives to adjust the bonus caps and clarify use of other provisions to help better achieve County goals and priorities.
- Sept. 17, 2019: ZOCO Memo and Presentation
- Sept. 17, 2019: Zoning Committee of the Planning Commission (ZOCO) Review of Proposed Amendment
- Sept. 25, 2019: NAIOP Presentation
- Oct. 19, 2019: County Board Request to Advertise
- Nov. 4, 2019: Planning Commission Hearing
- Nov. 16, 2019: County Board Hearing
- Completed 2019 – Relocatable Classrooms Administrative Review
Staff is conducting a zoning study to explore opportunities for Arlington Public Schools (APS) to utilize an administrative review process to add relocatable classrooms to schools.
This study is in response to a 2018 request by the County Board for staff to determine if there was a more time and cost-efficient method to process requests from APS to add relocatable classrooms. The current practice of planning staff is to amend a school use permit to add a relocatable(s) to increase the number of students the school can accommodate (design capacity). This can generate several applications each year as APS’s enrollment accommodation needs change from year to year, especially in years where they are in the process of developing long term solutions (construction or expansion of schools) to the increasing student population throughout Arlington.
- March 12, 2019: Zoning Committee of the Planning Commission (ZOCO) Briefing of Proposed Amendment
- April 24, 2019: ZOCO Review of Draft Text
- May 2, 2019: Public Open House
- May 18, 2019: County Board Request to Advertise
- June 3, 2019: Planning Commission Meeting
- June 15, 2019: County Board Meeting
- Completed 2019 – Detached Accessory Dwellings
Staff is conducting a zoning study focused on establishing standards to permit new detached accessory dwellings.
In Nov. 2017, the County Board adopted a Zoning Ordinance amendment that revised the standards for accessory dwellings to increase flexibility and reduce the complexity in developing and establishing an accessory dwelling. The amendment established standards that permit the creation of accessory dwellings within an existing detached accessory building, but it did not establish standards for the development of a new accessory dwelling within a new detached accessory building. The Board directed the County Manager to conduct further study of potential setback options for new detached accessory dwellings.
This zoning study examines setback options for new detached accessory dwellings and potential changes to give homeowners more flexibility when converting an existing accessory building into an accessory dwelling.
- March 5, 2019: Open House: Proposed Accessory Dwelling Setbacks
- March 12, 2019: Zoning Committee of the Planning Commission (ZOCO) Meeting and Review of Draft Zoning Ordinance Amendment Text
- March 14, 2019: Contractors and Permit Expeditors Monthly Meeting
- March 27, 2019: Accessory Dwellings Working Group Meeting
- March 28, 2019: Urban Forestry Commission Meeting
- April 11, 2019: Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee (NCAC) Meeting
- April 15, 2019: Commission on Aging Meeting
- April 25, 2019: County Board Request to Advertise
- May 6, 2019: Planning Commission Meeting (final consideration and recommendation)
- May 9, 2019: Citizens Advisory Commission on Housing (Housing Commission) Meeting
- May 18, 2019: County Board Meeting (final consideration and action)
- Completed 2019 – Parking Modifications in R-C District
Staff is conducting a zoning study focused on providing the County Board additional flexibility to consider and approve modifications to minimum parking ratio standards for site plan applications for multi-family residential uses within the R-C, Multiple-family Dwelling and Commercial District.
Currently, the R-C district standards contain a limiting provision that prevents the County Board from approving modifications to the minimum parking ratio standard below one parking space per dwelling unit. The Board directed the County Manger and staff to conduct a study on this issue when it adopted residential parking guidelines that were developed from the efforts of the Residential Parking Working Group.
This study will examine potential changes to the R-C district standards that would extend the applicability of these parking guidelines to the R-C district and provide additional flexibility to the County Board.
- Feb. 28, 2019: Zoning Committee of the Planning Commission (ZOCO) Review of draft Zoning Ordinance Amendment text
- March 16, 2019: County Board Request to Advertise
- April 4, 2019: Transportation Commission meeting
- April 8, 2019: Planning Commission meeting (final consideration and recommendation)
- April 23, 2019: County Board meeting (final consideration and action)
- Completed 2019 – Maximum Height for Large Media Screens
In 2018, the developers for Ballston Quarter requested County Board approval for the installation of a large media screen overlooking the recessed plaza accessible from Wilson Boulevard. After measuring the distance from the top of the sign to the plaza’s finished grade elevation, the developers calculated the large media screen’s sign height to be approximately 49 feet. This sign height exceeded the 40-foot maximum height prescribed by the Zoning Ordinance for large media screens. The Board deferred consideration of the developer’s request to allow for an evaluation of the height regulations for large media screens.
At the County Manager’s direction, staff is preparing a text amendment to allow increased height for large media screens at urban regional shopping centers. The amendment would preserve the existing regulations for large media screens, which include a prohibition on commercial messaging and restrictions on how close they can be installed to residential neighborhoods. If the text amendment is adopted by the County Board, large media screens could be installed at a height of 55 feet at an urban regional shopping center along outer facades with high levels of retail, entertainment, and food establishments that meet minimum standards for window area and openings.
- Completed 2019 – Parking Modifications for Social Service Institutions
During the review of a recently filed use permit amendment request to permit a minor expansion of an existing alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility, staff compared the operations of this facility and its parking needs with the Zoning Ordinance’s minimum requirement for parking. Such uses must provide one off-street parking space for every four beds, plus one space for every two employees and one space for each doctor assigned to the staff. Since the facility does not permit residents in treatment to have personal vehicles, the facility would not generate the level of parking demand contemplated by the current parking requirement.
This parking requirement has not been evaluated in recent years, and was first incorporated into the Zoning Ordinance prior to the establishment of Metro service in Arlington when personal vehicles were the dominant mode of travel for residents and staff. In addition, the Zoning Ordinance does not permit the County Board to approve modifications of the parking requirement as part of its use permit review for these uses.
The County Manager’s Office has requested and prioritized the development of a zoning ordinance amendment that can account for differing parking needs for social service institutions, which are uses that provide treatment of psychiatric, alcohol, or drug problems, and transient housing or shelters related to social service programs.
- Completed 2019 – Child Care Initiative (Phase I)
Staff is conducting a zoning study focused on reducing and eliminating land use barriers to opening, expanding, and operating child care programs in Arlington. This study is associated with the Arlington Child Care Initiative (CCI) – an effort begun in 2017 to develop an inclusive, integrated child care system that effectively serves all Arlington County families and prioritizes the needs of the County’s most vulnerable populations. This initiative spans multiple County departments and community partners, whose work will aim to increase and enhance the accessibility, availability, and quality of child care in Arlington through the implementation of the Child Care Initiative Action Plan.
The CCI Action Plan is scheduled for implementation in three phases. Phase 1, which includes several short-term action steps seeking to reduce child care barriers, is currently underway and is expected to be completed in early 2019. This phase includes amendments to the Zoning Ordinance as well as County Code Chapters 52 and 59, which contain provisions governing the licensing and regulation of family day care homes, child care centers, and similar uses. Phase 1 includes, among other efforts, additional action steps such as creating a how-to guide to assist those seeking to open a child care program, developing financial assistance plans, and conducting surveys to providers.
- December 11, 2018: ZOCO Briefing on CCI and Land Use Barriers
- January 2019: ZOCO Review of Draft Text
- February 2019: County Board Request to Advertise
- March 4, 2019: Planning Commission meeting (final consideration and recommendation)
- March 16, 2019: County Board meeting (final consideration and action)
- Completed 2018 – Community Swimming Pools
The purpose of this study is to explore whether and how to adjust the zoning standards for community swimming pools, in order to make them more flexible and/or to modernize them. Staff is researching the development approvals for existing community swimming pools to act as a baseline for the study’s recommendations.
Community swimming pools are important activity centers, and the existing zoning standards have the potential to create barriers for reinvestment and expansion. These standards were adopted when many of Arlington’s neighborhoods were initially being developed, with the intent of separating community swimming pools from residential dwellings and streets using expansive setback requirements. Staff is examining the feasibility of allowing modifications of the use standards to be approved on a case-by-case basis by the County Board through the use permit process.
The Arlington County Zoning Ordinance defines community swimming pools as “artificial pools including auxiliary structures as dressing and locker rooms, toilets, showers, as well as other areas and enclosures that are intended for the use of the members and their guests using the pool, and which is operated by a community, nonprofit group, but not including private swimming pools.” (§18.2)
All community swimming pools must be approved by the County Board with a use permit prior to construction, except for the following districts:
- S-3A, Special District: By-right
Arlington has five community swimming pools, each established between 1954-1958, and are operated to this day by the following organizations:
- Overlee Community Association
- Donaldson Run Recreation Association
- Dominion Hills Area Recreation Association
- Columbus Club of Arlington
- Arlington Forest Club
In 1956, the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance was amended to add specific regulations for community swimming pools. Most of these regulations have since been removed or relocated to Chapter 24.1, Water Recreation Facilities, but some still remain in §12.4.8.
- Sept. 4, 2018 – ZOCO meeting
- Sept. 22, 2018 – County Board Request to Advertise
- Oct. 9, 2018 – Planning Commission meeting (final consideration and recommendation)
- Oct. 20, 2018: County Board meeting (final consideration and action)
- Completed 2018 – One- and Two-Family Nonconforming Dwellings
This study addresses issues with modifications to nonconforming one- and two-family dwellings. Specifically, the study will pursue changes to allow lots with less width and/or less area to be occupied by any use permitted in the residential districts listed in §16.1.1. The study will also identify changes that can be made to allow expansions to two-family nonconforming dwellings, so long as the expansion meets the established standards for the dwelling’s zoning district. The exemptions for one-family dwellings listed in the preamble of §16.2.5 will be reviewed, with the goal of expanding these exemptions to one- and two-family dwellings in the R2-7 district. Finally, the study will identify changes that can be made to allow interior structural alterations to nonconforming one- and two- family dwellings in the remaining excluded R districts (i.e. R10T and R15-30T) and all RA districts.
Staff is actively pursuing this study, with an anticipated review by the County Board for adoption in Fall 2018.
- May 16, 2018: Zoning Committee (ZOCO)
- July 24, 2018, ZOCO
- September 22, 2018: County Board Request to Advertise
- October 9, 2018: Planning Commission final consideration and action
- October 11, 2018: Housing Commission
- October 20, 2018: County Board final consideration and action