The County’s Zoning Ordinance provides for a site plan option within certain zoning districts. This form of “special exception” allows for site-specific flexibility in development form, use, and density, beyond what is otherwise permitted by-right. Most significant private and public-private projects in Arlington are developed through a site plan process that ensures proper reviews, public processes and compliance with applicable policies and ordinances.
Unless otherwise stated, all standards within site plan districts can be modified using Zoning Ordinance Section 15.6.7.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.
Learn more about the development review process for preliminary, active and approved site plans.
Review Process and Timeline
The Zoning Administrator establishes an annual calendar of filing dates for site plan applications, which are submitted in accordance with Administrative Regulation 4.1. The regulation outlines the process and rules for site plans, as well as Phased Development Site Plans and Crystal City Block Plans. See new site plan intake process.
Site plan applications are reviewed by the following agencies:
- Community Planning, Housing & Development (CPHD)
- Parks and Recreation (PR)
- Department of Environmental Services (DES)
- Arlington Economic Development (AED)
Before submitting a site plan application, the applicant, architects, engineers and attorneys generally meet with County staff to discuss land-use and zoning requirements, architecture and design, and community outreach. Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to present the proposed development to any impacted Civic Associations or neighbors. The development review process requires 120 days from the date an application is filed with Zoning to the time it is heard by the County Board, 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.
After a site plan is filed with Zoning Administration, it is reviewed by the Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC). The SPRC is a Planning Commission committee, comprised of members of the Planning Commission, County Advisory Groups and Commission representatives, and Civic Association and neighborhood representatives. 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. Following review and feedback from SPRC meetings, a revised site plan is submitted to Zoning.
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 a project is approved, the applicant may proceed with the development process and obtaining permits.