Cville Plans Together_Zoning

Now that the Comprehensive Plan has been adopted, the Cville Plans Together team is starting the process of rewriting the zoning ordinance. More information about how you can be involved during this process will be regularly updated on the “Stay Involved” page of the website.

What is zoning?



Accessory Dwelling Unit

An apartment or cottage on a lot where there is already a house. May also be called an in-law suite or granny flat.

Affordable Dwelling Unit

A home that is required to be affordable to someone who has a low income as defined by federal standards.


A bonus that a developer can get for providing more affordable homes, an environmentally friendly building, or some other public benefit. The bonus is usually allowing a developer to build a larger project (for example, with more housing units or more height).


A required landscape or fencing treatment along the sides or back of a lot that separates different land uses (for example, separating commercial and residential areas).

Build-to Zone

The area on a lot between a minimum and maximum setback where a building’s exterior walls must be built.


A by-right project must meet all the requirements of the zoning ordinance but does not need approval from the City Council.


Tree cover.

Commercial Uses

A category of land uses that includes stores, offices, restaurants, and similar uses.


The number of residential units allowed on a lot, with measurement based on the lot size.

Development or Site Plan

The plans showing what someone wants to build. These are reviewed by City staff to make sure the proposed development will meet the requirements of the zoning ordinance.


A right given to a person or entity to use land owned by another.

Floor Area Ratio (FAR)

A formula that tells you how big a building can be based on the size of a lot.

Floor Area, Gross

The total floor area within a building.

Impervious Surface

A surface through which water cannot pass through, like most roofs, roads, sidewalks, or paved parking lots.

Inclusionary Zoning

A requirement that a specific percentage of housing units in a project or development remain affordable for a specified period to households with incomes that are defined as moderate, low, or very low.


Development of vacant or underutilized land within areas that are already largely developed.


A measure of the size of the building and scale of uses allowed on a lot.


A lot, structure, or use that conformed to the zoning regulations at the time it was established, but does not conform to current requirements of the zoning code.

Open Space

An area on a lot reserved for active or passive recreation. Active recreation required the use of special facilities, such as sports fields, whereas passive recreation does not.


A designation on a zoning map that modifies the basic underlying designation in some specific manner. For example, overlay zones are often used to address the special needs of flood zones or historic areas.


In Virginia law, a voluntary commitment from a landowner or developer to reduce or eliminate the impact of new development on neighboring properties or the city.


The size of buildings, streets, or other development elements.


The distance that a building or structure must be located on the lot away from the property line.


The angle of land that is not flat (for example, a 3% slope).

Special Use Permit (SUP)

A project that requires a special use permit must be reviewed by the Planning Commission and City Council. This review includes a public hearing during which members of the public can share their opinion about the project.

Stormwater Management

Required actions or infrastructure that limit or reduce the amount of stormwater that flows off a property.


The division of land into defined lots that may be separately sold or leased. The process of subdivision often includes setting aside land for streets, sidewalks, parks, public areas, and other infrastructure needs.


All portions of a lot between exterior walls of a building and a property line.


The division of the city into areas, or zones, that specify allowed uses and building placement and size restrictions. Zoning must implement the Comprehensive Plan.

“Zoning” refers to the regulations that govern the development of buildings and use of land. These regulations have two components: the zoning ordinance (including a description of zoning districts) and a zoning map. Zoning districts break the city up into different classifications, each with their own allowed standards for development and land uses. A zoning map tells users which districts apply to each property. Today’s zoning is in Chapter 34 of the Charlottesville code. Zoning authority is granted to the City by the Commonwealth of Virginia in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community.

Zoning 101 Resources

  • Click here to download a slideshow to learn more about zoning and this process.
  • Click here to download a short booklet about zoning. The booklet was produced by students from UVA’s Urban & Environmental Planning program, in partnership with the Cville Plans Together team.

What is planned for the Zoning Ordinance?

There are several steps along the way to a new zoning ordinance, and we will seek your input on all of them.

In the initial phase, the Cville Plans Together team will review the adopted Comprehensive Plan, Affordable Housing Plan, and existing small area plans, in addition to the existing zoning ordinance. The expected outcome of this phase is a two-part report:

  • Part one is a “Diagnostic Report,” which summarizes our “diagnosis” of the current zoning ordinance and identifies changes that are needed so that the zoning aligns with the Comprehensive Plan and other plans, and addresses other known issues.
  • Part two is an “Approach Report,” which outlines our proposed approach to making changes to the ordinance.

With the release of this report, the Cville Plans Together team will be looking for feedback on our diagnosis and proposed approach, including opinions and perspectives from across the entire community. Following this process of review and revision, the draft report will be presented to the Planning Commission and City Council and, with their approval of the proposed approach, the team will begin drafting the zoning ordinance document.

This portion of the project will include:

  1. Draft Zoning Ordinance
  2. Draft Zoning Map
  3. Review and revision based on community feedback
  4. Final Zoning Ordinance and Zoning Map

The adoption process will include public hearings with Planning Commission and City Council.

Why do we need to update our zoning?

The Zoning Ordinance is a key tool for implementing the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan update and the Affordable Housing Plan. Changes to make the City’s zoning regulations align with the new plans, and implement them, are needed. Today’s zoning also has a number of flaws and barriers to development previously identified by City planning staff, elected and appointed officials, and others. This process is an opportunity to cure these flaws and remove the barriers to the kind of development that is described in the updated Comprehensive Plan. Finally, the new zoning will be easier to read and apply for everyone involved, due to its plain-language drafting style and rich graphic content.

How can I be involved?

Please stay involved throughout this process! Visit the Stay Involved page to find out about any upcoming events and other opportunities to participate, and subscribe to the email list to receive updates.