FAQ: Zoning PDF Print E-mail

When did Washington County adopt its Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Ordinance?
The Washington County Board of Supervisors originally adopted the County Zoning Ordinance on December 29, 1971; the County Subdivision Ordinance was similarly adopted on December 11, 1967. The current County Zoning Ordinance and County Subdivision Ordinance are set out in Chapters 66 and 54, respectively, of the 2002 Code of the County of Washington Virginia, as amended.

Are all properties in Washington County subject to the County's Zoning Ordinance?
All parcels of land in Washington County lie within at least one (1) of sixteen (16) different Zoning Districts. In addition, the Towns of Abingdon, Damascus, Glade Spring and the Washington County portion of the Town of Saltville each have their own Town Zoning Ordinances. The County Zoning Ordinance does not apply within these towns.

When are you required to obtain a Zoning Permit?
Buildings or structures in Washington County shall be started, reconstructed, enlarged or altered only after a Zoning Permit has been obtained from the County Department of Zoning Administration. No manufactured housing unit (mobile home) shall be moved on to property in Washington County unless the Department has issued a Zoning Permit to the property owner.

When dividing property within Washington County, what would constitute a "subdivision"?
Under the Washington County Subdivision Ordinance, a "subdivision" means to divide any tract, parcel or lot of land into three (3) or more parts, lots, parcels, tracts or other divisions for the purpose (whether immediate or future) of sale, transfer or building development, and including such divisions which results in the creation of any new street, road, easement or right-of-way, or any change in existing roads, streets, easements, or rights-of-way.

Is the sale or transfer of property between family members exempt under the County Subdivision Ordinance?
The sale or transfer of property between members of the same immediate family is exempt from compliance will all provisions of the County Subdivision Ordinance provided there are no new streets, easements, roads or right-of-ways created in the transfer of property. Property owners are strongly encouraged to contact the Department of Zoning Administration to discuss the particulars of any division of property among family members before proceeding.

What is planning and why do we plan?
Planning is the process of identifying and analyzing problems and exploring options in pursuit of the community’s goals and objectives. Comprehensive planning is the systematic assessment of land potential. Comprehensive planning looks at land use and economic and social conditions in order to select and recommend the best land-use options. Its purpose is to decide and put into practice those land uses that will best meet the needs of the people while safeguarding resources for the future. The driving force in planning is the need for change, the need for improved management or the need for a different pattern of land use dictated by changing circumstances.

All kinds of land use are involved: agriculture, forestry, wildlife conservation, recreation, residential, commercial, and industrial. Planning also provides guidance in cases of conflict between rural land use and suburban or industrial expansion, by indicating which areas of land are most valuable for each type of use.

Land must change to meet new demands yet change brings new conflicts between competing uses of the land and between the interests of individual land users and the common good. Land taken for residents and industry is no longer available for farming; likewise the development of new farmland competes with forestry, water supplies and wildlife.

Planning to make the best use of land is not a new idea. Over the years, farmers have made plans season after season, deciding what to grow and where to grow it. Their decisions have been made according to their own needs, their knowledge of the land and the technology available. As the number of people increase and complexity of the problems increases so does the need to accommodate spatial growth, and the need for information and methods of analysis and planning.

The new Comprehensive Plan will be designed to serve as a guide for the physical development of Washington County into the early decades of this new Century. However, the whole process of planning is dynamic and continuous.

What is a Comprehensive Plan?
The Comprehensive Plan is required by state law (Code of Virginia Title 15.2, Article 3). It can be said that the Comprehensive Plan is a “road map” of where the County wants to go and how to get there, and is the County’s most important document regarding growth and development. It establishes government policy used by public and private decision makers as a guide to land use and resource utilization. The Plan serves as the community’s handbook for future development and its vision for what the County should look like in the future. The Comprehensive Plan is the basis for land development regulation and decisions (i.e. rezoning, and special use permits). The Comprehensive Plan provides input for capital improvements (i.e. public buildings, parks, community centers, water, sanitary sewer), transportation facilities, and environmental and historical resource protection. The Comprehensive Plan provides documentation for grants. The general public, Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, County staff and others utilize the Plan for decision-making about the natural and built environment of Washington County. The Plan recommends how land should be used, not when developments will occur. The Plan injects long-range considerations into the determination of short-range actions.

How does the Comprehensive Plan relate to Zoning?
The Comprehensive Plan is an advanced planning document that generally guides land use development, and is advisory. The Zoning Ordinance is part of the Washington County Code and regulates the type, location, and intensity of development. Whereas the Comprehensive Plan establishes an overall policy framework for land use and other issues, the Zoning Ordinance, text and map, carry out or implement the Comprehensive Plan.

Can the Comprehensive Plan be changed?
Yes. The Commonwealth requires the Comprehensive Plan be review every five years in order to ensure that the Plan is consistent with community views and is addressing current issues impacting the community. Proposed changes are submitted and receive public review that includes public hearings before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors must vote to adopt an amendment in order to change the Plan.

Who can tell me how the land near my property can be used?
Contact the County Department of Zoning Administration at (276) 525-1390 or (276) 669-0877.


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