Board Adopts Zoning, Local Code Changes to Improve Child Care Access

Published on March 16, 2019

The Arlington County Board today adopted changes to the Zoning Ordinance and local child care Codes to improve the availability, accessibility, affordability and quality of child care in Arlington.

"These carefully crafted changes will be welcomed by our hard-working Arlington families who need access to high-quality child care," Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said. "Increasing the flexibility of our Zoning Ordinance provisions for regulating child care programs, and incorporating Virginia state standards, and national best practices, into our local child care regulations will help eliminate perceived and actual barriers to child care programs in Arlington."

The Board voted  unanimously to adopt changes that arose from recommendations included in the Child Care Initiative Action Plan the Board accepted in July 2018 after a year-long community engagement process. To read the staff reports, visit the County website. Scroll to items No. 25, 26, 27 on the agenda for the Saturday, March 16, 2019 Regular County Board Meeting.

Some changes adopted by the Board:


 Zoning Ordinance:

  • Creating one definition for all types of center-based child care programs, instead of the existing two definitions

  • Amending the family day care home definition to better align with the Code of Virginia

  • Allowing day (summer) camps as a by-right short-term use, rather than requiring a use permit

  • Clarifying which child care programs are allowed as by-right, accessory uses, such as programs that provide care for children on an irregular basis and are not regulated by the County's Child Care Office (i.e. fitness centers with a play room dedicated for children under adult supervision)

  • Increasing the maximum number of children allowed in family day care homes from nine to 12

  • Allowing by-right family day care homes for up to nine children, and requiring a use permit for family day care homes with 10-12 children

  • Amending the parking requirement for child care centers from one parking space per employee to one space per eight children

  • Allowing parking requirements for child care centers to be reduced through the use permit process under certain circumstances, such as proximity to a Metro station entrance or bus stop along a high-frequency bus route

  • Allowing family day care homes with up to nine children by-right in RA7-16 Zoning District (not now allowed)


Local Child Care Code:

  • Incorporating much of the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) Standards for Licensed Child Day Centers into Chapter 52 of the Arlington County Code, except for teacher-to-child ratios, group sizes, and lead teacher qualifications

  • Incorporating much of the VDSS Standards for Licensed Family Day Homes into Chapter 59 of the Arlington County Code, except for teacher-to-child ratios


Backgroundchild care instructor reading to four kids on the floor


In spring 2017, the Board directed the County Manager to develop a work plan to guide efforts to expand and improve child care services in Arlington, including possible Zoning Ordinance and local child care Code changes. In summer 2017, the Child Care Initiative got underway, with the goal of developing an inclusive, integrated child care system that effectively serves all County families, with a focus on vulnerable populations.

An interdepartmental team working with the community researched demographics, land use, zoning, licensure and other issues. Based on input from this engagement, the Board accepted the Child Care Initiative Action Plan to increase the accessibility, availability, and quality of child care.

Related documents


Child Care in Arlington County: A Land Use Research Report.

Child Care Initiative

Child Care Initiative Action Plan

County Kicks Off Child Care Initiative