Zoning Information

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Purpose of Zoning Regulations

Zoning is the process of classifying land in a locality into districts and establishing in each district regulations concerning building and structure location and design and the uses to which land, buildings and structures may be put. The purpose of zoning is to promote the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the community, to protect and conserve the value of buildings, and encourage the most appropriate use of the land. 

A locality’s zoning ordinance is a written regulation and law that defines how property in specific geographic zones can be used. Zoning ordinances specify whether zones can be used for residential or commercial purposes, and may also regulate lot size, placement, bulk (or density) and the height of structures. Zoning ordinances describe not only the acceptable use for specified areas of land but also the procedures for handling violations (including any penalties), granting variances and hearing appeals.

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Zoning Districts

Below is a list of Zoning Districts. For specific regulations pertaining to each district and the full text of the Zoning Ordinance view the Zoning Ordinance on the City Code website

The Zoning Districts map provides information on the location information of each zoning district. This link can also be used to find out what your property's zoning designation is. 

Zoning

Map of Zoning Districts

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Other Zoning Regulations

The Zoning Ordinance also regulates:

 


Zoning Verification Letter

PDF[76KB] Zoning Verification Letter Application

A zoning verification letter is a document provided by the City to verify the current zoning of a piece of property. The letter can also confirm:  whether the existing use is conforming to the Zoning Ordinance, the types of uses allowed in the specific zoning district, whether the property has received variances, if the property is within a special or overlay district, if the property was developed with an approved site plan, if the property is in compliance with minimum parking requirements, and many other details. Depending upon the amount of the information requested, there could be a fee of $50.00.

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 Variances and Appeals

Individuals interested in deviating from the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance (not to include use changes) or interested in appealing a decision of the Zoning Administrator may request such action and apply to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Variance and Appeals Applications 

PDF Icon All files are in PDF format.

Zoning Variance Application [329KB]

Zoning Appeal Application [276KB]

Zoning Variance

Subject to the provisions of City Code Section 10-3-132 through 10-3-140 (Article W. Board of Zoning Appeals of the Zoning Ordinance), the board shall have the power to grant the following variances:

  1. A variance in the yard and lot area requirements in any district as to relieve practical difficulties or particular hardships in cases when a property owner can show that his property was acquired in good faith and where by reason of exceptional narrowness, shallowness, size or shape of a specific piece of property at the time of the effective date of the Zoning Ordinance or where by reason of exceptional topographic conditions or other extraordinary situation or condition of such piece of property, or the use or development of property immediately adjacent thereto, the strict application of the terms of the Zoning Ordinance would effectively prohibit or unreasonably restrict the use of the property, or where the board is satisfied, upon the evidence heard by it, that the granting of such variance will alleviate a clearly demonstrated hardship as distinguished from a special privilege or convenience sought by the applicant; provided, that all variances shall be in harmony with the intended spirit and purpose of the Zoning Ordinance.
  2. No variance shall be authorized by the Board unless it finds:  that the strict application of this chapter would produce undue hardship, that such hardship is not shared generally by other properties in the same zoning district and the same vicinity, and/or that the authorization of such variance will not be of substantial detriment to adjacent property and that the character of the district will not be changed by the granting of the variance.
  3. No such variance shall be authorized except after notice and hearing as required by section 15.1-431 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended.
  4. No variance shall be authorized unless the Board finds that the condition or situation of the property concerned or the intended use of the property is not of so general or recurring a nature as to make reasonably practicable the formulation of a general regulation to be adopted as an amendment to this chapter.
  5. In authorizing a variance the Board may impose such conditions regarding the location, character and other features of the proposed structure or use as it may deem necessary in the public interest, and may require a guarantee or bond to insure that the conditions imposed are being and will continue to be complied with.

Zoning Appeal

An appeal to the Board may be taken by any person aggrieved or by any officer, department, board or bureau of the City affected by any decision of the Zoning Administrator, or from any order, requirement, decision or determination made by any other administrative officer in the administration or enforcement of the Zoning Ordinance.

Such appeal shall be taken within ten (10) days for a notice of violation involving temporary or seasonal commercial uses, maximum occupancy limitation of a residential dwelling unit, keeping of inoperable vehicles and junk, or similar short term, recurring violations, or within thirty (30) days after the entry of any other decision appealed from by filing with the Zoning Administrator, and with the board, a notice of appeal specifying the grounds thereof. The Zoning Administrator shall forthwith transmit to the recording secretary of the Board all the papers constituting the record upon which the action appealed was taken. An appeal stays all proceedings in the furtherance of the action appealed from unless the Zoning Administrator certifies to the Board, after the notice of appeal shall have been filed with them, that by reason of facts stated in the certificate of stay would, in their opinion cause imminent peril to life or property. In such case proceedings shall not be stayed otherwise than by a restraining order which may be granted by the Board or a court of record, on application and on notice to the Zoning Administrator and on due cause shown.

In any case where the Zoning Administrator has certified conformity with the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance and a building permit has been issued and construction of the building for which such permit was issued is subsequently sought to be prevented, restrained, corrected or abated as a violation of the Zoning Ordinance, suit may be filed within fifteen (15) days after the start of construction by a person who had no actual notice of the issuance of such permit. The court may hear and determine issues raised in the litigation even though no appeal was taken from the decision of the Zoning Administrator to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

How to Initiate a Variance or Appeal

 

An application to the Board for a variance or appeal may be made by any property owner, tenant, government official, department, board or bureau. Such application shall be submitted to the Planning and Zoning Division of the Department of Community Development. All information including maps and plans required by the application, or otherwise required by the Board in order that it might be fully informed, shall be furnished by the applicant. The matter shall be placed on the agenda for the next available Board meeting. Every variance or appeal shall be advertised for a public hearing in a newspaper published or having general circulation in the City. Applications require notice letters to be sent to adjoining property owners and the subject properties are posted advertising the request.


Rezonings, Special Use Permits, and Ordinance Amendments

Property owners who wish to use land for purposes other than what is allowed by-right under the current zoning law may apply to have their property rezoned to a different district, request a special use permit listed in their zoning district, or may request to have the text of the Zoning Ordinance changed to permit new or amended uses and regulations through a Zoning Ordinance amendment. Such requests can only be approved by City Council.

Applications for Rezonings, Special Use Permits, Ordinance Amendments 

PDF Files are in PDF format.

Rezoning Application [128KB]

Special Use Permit Application [104KB]

Zoning Ordinance Amendment Application [104KB]

How to Initiate a Rezoning, Special Use Permit, or Ordinance Amendment

Requests may be initiated by the City Council on its own motion, or on recommendation by the Planning Commission, or by petition of the property owner or owners within the territory proposed. Such requests shall be addressed to City Council but shall be filed with tPlanning staff in the Department of Community Development. Planning staff shall transmit the petition to the Planning Commission for recommendation. The application/petition and the required fee shall be filed in the Department of Community Development in sufficient time to be placed on the Planning Commission agenda. A copy of submission deadlines is available in the Department of Community Development or found on the Planning Commission page.

Detailed information regarding the process of requesting such changes as specified above can be found in the Zoning Ordinance within Article U. Amendments and Changes.

Proffered (or conditional) Rezonings 

If a property owner decides to rezone, he or she may seek a traditional straight rezoning from one zoning classification to another or may apply for a conditional rezoning. Where competing and incompatible uses conflict, traditional rezoning methods and procedures could be inadequate. In such cases, the property owner may voluntarily impose conditions on the development of the property, which may make the project more acceptable to the community. These self-imposed limitations are often called proffers.

Prior to a public hearing, the property owner may submit a signed written list of proffers that would reasonably enhance the proposal, provided that:

  • The rezoning itself must give rise to the need for the conditions;
  • Such conditions must have a reasonable relation to the rezoning;
  • Such conditions shall not include a cash contribution to the city;
  • Such conditions shall not include mandatory dedication of real or personal property for open space, parks, schools, fire departments, or other facilities not provided for in the subdivision ordinance;
  • No condition shall be proffered that is not related to the physical development or physical operation of the property; and
  • All such conditions shall be in conformity with the comprehensive plan.

If City Council approves a rezoning request with proffers attached, the conditions shall remain in place until a subsequent amendment changes the zoning of the property; provided, however, that such conditions will remain in effect if the subsequent amendment is part of a comprehensive implementation of a new or substantially revised zoning ordinance.

Detailed information regarding proffered/conditional zoning can be found in the Zoning Ordinance within Section 10-3-123.

 

Special Use Permits

 

Special permit uses are those which, if not specially regulated, may have an undue impact on or be incompatible with other uses of land within or adjacent to a given zoning district. These uses either have unusual characteristics, or have characteristics which may be different from those of their immediate surroundings. Upon the granting of a special use permit by City Council, these uses may be allowed to locate or expand within designated zoning districts under the standards, controls, limitations, performance criteria, restrictions and other regulations as specified in the Zoning Ordinance within Article V. Special Use Permits.

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Questions? Contact the Department of Community Development's Division of Planning and Zoning at 540-432-7700.


To report any problems with the links or other content on this page, please email Nyrma.Soffel@harrisonburgva.gov.