Panel Begins Process of Rewriting County’s Zoning Ordinance

by ARLnow.com October 18, 2010 at 10:03 am 3,181 17 Comments

Over the past several months, business owner have complained loudly about the county’s confusing and inconsistent zoning code. From stringent sign enforcement to outdoor seating debates to extended delays in getting permits, business owners — particularly new business owners — have expressed frustration with the level of expense and effort required to avoid running afoul of county regulators.

But that may be changing.

Tomorrow night, the county’s zoning committee will meet to plan a comprehensive rewrite of the zoning ordinance. The meeting, which will run from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in Room A of 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, is open to the public, although the discussion will be confined to the committee.

In a draft proposal, county staff noted that the zoning ordinance was last rewritten in 1950. Because the ordinance has been amended many times on a piecemeal basis, it “contains many inconsistencies” and “includes many sections and regulations that are difficult to understand.”

“There are many administrative practices that are not codified within the Ordinance,” staff also concluded.

See the staff report here.

  • Lou

    If you think getting plans approved is a long and expensive process now, wait until the new energy plan requirements go into effect.

    • Arlingtonian

      The Board didn’t have any problems quickly changing the zoning on the church development after a court said they were in violation of their zoning rules. They do what they want (or developers want) and ignore the surrounding neighborhoods. Can’t wait to see how their energy plans are going to affect small businesses and homeowners.

  • G

    What ever happened to the dog mural in the shirlington dog park? Is it still covered? Do they plan on letting it remain?

    • Jason

      Yes, the dog mural for Wagmore Dogs is unfortunately still covered.

  • charlie

    what is a mural; how is outdoor music regulated; how big is a McMansion. these are all things that are part of the Zoning Ordinance. Get involved. (or quit complaining).

  • Tater_Salad

    not to mention sidewalk chalkboards…

  • el fat kid

    wooohooo! ten story buildings in every neighborhood!

  • dave

    I guess now they will bring zoning code up to the standards of either Atlanta or Houston. There is no code currently in Arlington and what ever they have on the books is over ridden.

    • RestonRunner86

      “UP TO” the standards of Atlanta or Houston? Surely you jest? Houston is like Tysons Corner on steroids, and we all know what an armpit Tysons Corner is.

      • Burger

        I think you need your batteries check. that was the point of the original poster that Atlanta and Houston have very lax zoning laws.

  • Zoning Victim

    The problem goes way beyond the zoning ordinance conflicting with itself, it conflicts with state law, too. Be that as it may, the biggest problem is the tryanical bureaucrat that we have for a zoning administrator. There’s no point in changing the law because she just does whatever she wants regardless of what the law says, and she always works against the homeowners and businesses of Arlington County.

    • Concerned

      I agree totally. The zoning administrator is a disaster. She and her staff like to make you feel dependent on them. They want to feel they are in charge of you and they show it in their disdain for homeowners and businesses. They don’t realize that the longer it takes to iron out the different interpretations of the code by different condescending code inspectors, the longer the county has to wait to generate tax revenues from businesses. And in the meantime, the business loses money and in some cases stop the process and move to another, friendlier place. Also, we should remind her and her staff that the taxpayers pay their salaries. She came from Loudoun County who was laughing at Arlington when they heard that she worked here. Another failed hire. She needs to go.

  • Another Viewpoint

    I respectfully disagree regarding the zoning administrator. As a small business owner who just spent the last few months working with her and her staff, they have been nothing but courteous and supportive. Granted, I knew nothing about anything zoning related, so I went into the process with eyes wide open and looking for assistance and direction. My business did not fit into any of the existing use types, and she and her team worked with us through the process. I’ve spoken with other business owners who have also had similar, positive experiences.

    Clearly others have had less than stellar experiences, but just wanted to present the other side. It’s neither the case that she always works again business and small owners, nor does she always just blindly help everyone. It’s obviously somewhere in the middle.

    That being said, I think a streamlined process would be of great benefit to all involved.

    I’m happy to take this conversation and my experiences offline if anyone cares.

  • Lordhelemt

    About time! They should also reconsider the extremely restrictive residential lot coverage restrictions they passed a few years ago.

    • Zoning Victim

      Absolutely correct, the only problem is that the way I read the announcement, this is just about the parts of the zoning ordinances having to do with business, and the residential zoning ordinances are a mess, too.

  • shirley

    glad to know that NONE OF YOU showed up to the meeting last night.
    if you want change, you MUST participate. And not just on your keyboards.

    • Zoning Victim

      Shirley, why would I show up to a meeting where I’ve already been told that I will not be allowed to speak? I can go online anytime and watch the meeting or find the meeting minutes for it, which is just as effective as being there and not being allowed to speak and I can do it at my convenience.


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