Board Sets March Hearings for Child Care Initiative Proposed Zoning,

Published on February 23, 2019

  • Proposed changes aimed at improving availability, accessibility, affordability, quality

  • Recommendations developed through year-long community engagement process

The Arlington County Board today ratified advertisements of public hearings on proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance and local child care Codes aimed at improving the availability, accessibility, affordability and quality of child care in Arlington. 

The proposed changes arise from recommendations included in the Child Care Initiative Action Plan the Board accepted in July 2018, after a year-long community engagement process. The plan's short-term recommendations include increasing flexibility in Zoning Ordinance provisions that regulate center-based and family-based child care programs in Arlington, and examining local child care regulations to incorporate Virginia state standards. The proposed changes are meant to eliminate perceived and actual barriers to child care in the County.

"The Child Care Initiative's research, particularly the "Risk and Reach' Study, confirmed that Arlington's childcare crunch isn't just an anecdotal challenge for individual families, it's a systemic problem that affects Arlington's economic competitiveness, and our goals of achieving equitable outcomes for all our kids and families," said Board Member Katie Cristol, who proposed the initiative as the Board's 2018 Chair. "These proposed changes to our Zoning Ordinance and Childcare Codes represent a coordinated, comprehensive approach to the problem, and reflect nearly two years of dedication, analysis and compromise among stakeholders in the initiative."

The proposed changes are the result of a comprehensive outreach and engagement process that included parents, child care program staff, and other local stakeholders.

"The hard work of a lot of people in this community, in partnership with our Department of Human Services, has produced proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance and County Code that, if adopted next month by this Board, will improve child care options in Arlington for all our families," Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said. "As a father, I know how stressful the hunt for high-quality, affordable child care can be. I am so proud of the creative, can-do approach of all those who participated in the Child Care Initiative. Arlington families, for years to come, will thank you for your efforts." child care instructor reading to four kids on the floor

The Board voted unanimously to ratify the Requests to Advertise for March public hearings on the proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance and local child care Code. To read the staff reports, scroll to items No. 21, 22, and 23  on the Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 County Board Meeting agenda. 

Proposed Changes 

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

If adopted, the Zoning Ordinance and local child care Code changes will be the first step in implementing the Child Care Initiative recommendations. Phase II recommendations will be considered later this year through 2020, and Phase III efforts will get underway in 2021 and beyond.


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