General Land Use Plan (GLUP) Implementation

The General Land Use Plan (GLUP) establishes policy for land-use decisions and development in Arlington. The following processes and planning documents are used to implement the GLUP in alignment with County goals and objectives for development.

Zoning Ordinance and Map

The Zoning Ordinance defines legal rights and constraints regarding land use. The Ordinance regulates use, size and coverage of lots, height, bulk and siting of buildings, parking requirements, and density of development for each parcel of land. Action on rezoning requests is generally taken at regularly scheduled public hearings of the County Board. If a proposed rezoning is inconsistent with the GLUP designation on the site, the applicant is also required to request an amendment to the GLUP.

Sector, Area & Revitalization Plans

Land use plans and studies are supporting documents to the Comprehensive Plan and define special planning areas that are guided by place-specific studies. These documents typically contain recommendations on elements such as land use, public space, building design, transportation, historic preservation, community revitalization and retail. Plans and studies use varying levels of public engagement throughout their process and many are ultimately adopted by the County Board.

Use Permit Process

The Zoning Ordinance distinguishes between uses permitted “by right” and uses allowed by “special exception.” The use permit is one form of special exception. Land and building uses allowable by use permit are generally those which are necessary in some types of districts, but which may have undesirable impacts if proper safeguards are not imposed. The use permit offers a process for considering and approving such uses.

Site Plan Process

A number of zoning categories permit development by site plan, a form of special exception under the Zoning Ordinance. The site plan review process provides for public review of such projects and permits the County Board to vary the uses, heights, setbacks, densities and regulations of a zoning district for a specific project to meet County goals, policies and plans, and to comport with good zoning practice. This may include such conditions as preservation of public open space, affordable housing, historic structures, or provision of improved infrastructure. The majority of site plan review proposals are for hotel, residential, office, and mixed-use development in certain high-density zoning districts.

Historic Preservation Districts

The County Board may establish historic districts to identify and protect those sites, buildings, structures and areas that exemplify the heritage and character of Arlington County. Historic districts are shown as an overlay on the zoning map, and establishment of a district does not affect the existing zoning or GLUP designation.

Subdivision Ordinance

The Subdivision Ordinance provides for the orderly subdivision of land for the purpose of sale, exchange or conveyance between property owners, and establishes procedures, fees and standards for the subdivision of land in Arlington County. The Ordinance provides standards for public streets, sidewalks, bicycle trails, water mains, storm drainage facilities, sanitary sewers, and street lighting facilities to serve newly-subdivided properties. It is also used to establish property boundaries and minimize the creation of parcels or outlots that lack access or adequate public facilities.

Capital Improvement Program

The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is the primary planning document for scheduling capital projects, including park and recreation facilities, transportation, community conservation, government facilities, utilities and schools. Following distribution of a proposed CIP, a series of public meetings and a public hearing are held between April and June of each fiscal year.