Land Disturbing Activity/Stormwater Permit –Frequently Asked Questions

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Land Disturbing Activity/Stormwater permit is required for any activities that disturb equal to or greater than 2,500 square feet of land, as required by the Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance in Chapter 57 of the Arlington County Code, Stormwater Management Ordinance, Chapter 60,  and the Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Program. The land disturbance and stormwater management permit is intended to reduce the pollution from sediment runoff and manage stormwater runoff from new development. 

What is Land Disturbing Activity?

Land disturbing activities include all actions that expose bare soil during a construction or landscaping project. The following activities are included in the total land disturbance area for your site:

  • Clearing and grading the site
  • Demolition of existing structures
  • New houses, buildings, additions, expansions, garages or any other new building footprint added to the site
  • Access pathway for construction equipment (backhoe, bobcat, wheelbarrows, etc.)
  • Area for construction dumpster
  • Storage or set-down areas for construction materials (roof trusses, prefabricated materials, etc.)
  • Grading for drainage – the ground must have 6 inches of fall within the first 10 feet from the foundation or must include drains or swales to ensure proper drainage away from structure (per the 2000 International Residential Code (IRC) R401.3)
  • Grading/excavation for construction of building footing
  • Excavated soil storage areas
  • New concrete/paved areas including driveways (include area for frame-up, if required)
  • Trenching or excavating for the installation, replacement, removal or capping of underground utility lines related to the land development project, including any land disturbing activities within the County right of way
  • New sidewalks, paths or stairs
  • Landscaping areas


How Can I Quickly Estimate the Total "Disturbed Area" of My Project?

As a rule of thumb, any total new building footprint area of 1,000 square feet or greater will usually indicate a land disturbance of greater than 2,500 square feet.

To calculate the land disturbance area for your project, add up the following areas for your site:

  1. The area of any proposed building addition or stand-alone structure and any other improvement (stairs, driveway, patio, etc.) that will result in land disturbance.
  2. A 10-foot wide work zone around the perimeter of the proposed structure, except:
    1. When the distance between the property line and the proposed structure is less than 10-feet, that distance may be used.
    2. For construction of improvements such as paved driveways, sidewalks, and ground level decks, a minimum of a 5-foot wide work zone around the structure may be used.
    3. For the installation, removal or capping of underground utility lines, a minimum of a 5-foot work zone centered on the utility line.
  3. A 10-foot wide work zone around any portion of the existing structure that will have an additional story added.
  4. Areas used for stockpiling. The area for the stockpile must include the access from the improvement area to the stockpile area, as well as the entire stockpile area itself.
  5. Unpaved areas that will be used as access to the proposed construction work area. A minimum 10-foot wide path from the street or driveway to the work area should be included in the disturbed area calculation.
  6. Unpaved areas that will be used as access to the proposed construction work area, staging and storing of materials, including dumpsters, gravel, stone, masonry, lumber and construction equipment.
  7. Areas over which excavated soil will be spread, that are not included in any of the above areas.

ThisCalculation Example can help to better determine how to calculate the area of disturbance for your project.

If your total disturbed area is between 2,000 and 2,499 square feet, you will be required to obtain a survey of the disturbed area with survey markings on your site to ensure it’s not larger than 2,500 square feet. Prior to receiving your permit, silt fence or other E&S perimeter control  approved by the County must be installed around the perimeter of your disturbed area to demarcate the area and prevent soil erosion.


How Do I Learn More About Fees?

Fee Schedules provide the range of fees charged for each type of application or activity related to land development in Arlington. Fees cover permitting, plan review, enforcement, inspection, service delivery, performance agreements and conditions. There are separate fee schedules for Inspection Services Division (ISD), Zoning and the Department of Environmental Services (DES). Some permits involve fees from more than one schedule.