County Streamlines Process for School Use Permits

Published on January 08, 2019

As the Arlington County Board discussed the now-approved use permit for Reed School in November, County staff revealed a streamlined set of standard conditions of approval for all school use permits that will make the permitting and construction review process more efficient and help avoid cost and timeline overruns on school projects.

County planning staff took the review of the Reed School use permit as an opportunity to evaluate the standards set for school use permits—reducing the number from 64 to 21.

MORE: Learn about use permits

The review was initiated after staff determined that the conditions were structured similarly to the site plan conditions—and were treating school projects more like mixed-use projects. The large number of standards were creating delays in construction and the need for use permit amendments to address some of the complications caused by the conditions, which resulted in increased costs.

County staff worked with Arlington Public Schools to set 19 baseline conditions, with two additional conditions that would be applied on a case-by-case basis. The conditions are also expected to be modified in every project, in recognition that no two school projects are alike.

For example, in the Reed School use permit review, modifications were made to two of the 19 baseline conditions (outreach during construction; streetscape and utility improvements) to meet the needs of the specific proposal. Then, four site-specific conditions were added, bringing the conditions total to 23.

MORE: Watch the Board presentation

In reviewing the standards for school use permits, County and APS staff examined five areas:

  1. Eliminating conditions that do not apply to public school projects (e.g., public art contribution, retail configuration)

  2. Eliminating conditions that duplicated compliance provisions in existing codes and ordinances (e.g., parking space compliance with zoning ordinances or snow removal ordinance)

  3. Modifying conditions for the Civic Engineering Plan (CEP) and Final Landscape Plan submission process (e.g., allow submission and review in accordance with published guidelines for by-right projects)

  4. Revising conditions related to permit issuance (e.g., allow permits to be issued in a more efficient manner)

  5. Modifying conditions related to design and operational issues to align them with current APS practices and procedures (e.g., Transportation Demand Management (TDM), Green Building Design)

For more information on use permits, go to