Small Business Zoning

Welcome to the Department of Planning & Zoning's small business information page. The City of Alexandria recognizes that small businesses are the backbone of our local economy. Below, please find information regarding current and past initiatives as well as resources for existing and prospective businesses based in the City.

Page updated on Jun 30, 2016 at 8:59 AM

What's New?

  • Alexandria City Council Approves Changes to Simplify Zoning Approvals for Small Businesses

    On June 18, Alexandria City Council voted 6-1 to approve changes to sections of the Zoning Ordinance for certain businesses.  The changes will streamline the process for businesses to obtain Special Use Permits to operate in the city.  The policies, which were recommended by the Planning Commission, came after significant public outreach, community meetings, and public forums.

    The approved changes:

    •          Allow administrative review of Special Use Permits for certain uses that previously required a hearing;
    •          Allow certain uses requiring a Special Use Permit to be permitted by-right;
    •          Update various use categories and definitions to clarify and identify certain uses; and
    •          Amend the criteria for some Minor Amendments and the outdoor dining administrative review.

    City Council’s action included definition updates and clarifications regarding businesses providing pet and animal care, food and beverage production, and light and general automotive services. Other revisions extend the parking exemption for outdoor restaurant seating citywide if located on private property, and Minor Amendments regarding restaurant and business expansions.

    “These changes build on significant improvements to the City’s administrative processes over the last few years,” said City Manager Mark B. Jinks. “While we often receive feedback from small businesses that our permitting process is among the best in the region, our goal is to continuously improve and help add desirable amenities to our neighborhoods and business districts.”

    The modifications adjust, improve, and continue the work of the City’s Small Business Zoning Task Force, which delivered an initial set of recommendations in 2008. They are part of Alexandria’s commitment to review how it regulates businesses while maintaining the balance between supporting small business and protecting the City's award-winning quality of life.


In response to City Council's call for recommendations to improve the City's business environment, the Department of Planning and Zoning (P&Z) has begun the next phase of the Small Business Zoning initiative. P&Z is proposing amendments to the Zoning Ordinance that offer City-based businesses opportunities to save time and money by reducing the amount of City review time and application costs, increasing the number of business friendly locations, and modernizing language in the City's Zoning Ordinance. P&Z presented these draft amendments at a public meeting on March 19, and the Planning Commission held a Small Business Zoning work session on April 5. P&Z staff will present a Zoning Text Amendment report to Planning Commission on Thursday, June 9, 2016 and City Council on Saturday, June 18, 2016. 

Efforts to improve small business relations began in 2006 when City Manager James Hartmann created the Small Business Task Force. The recommendations of the task force resulted in a number of regulatory and organizational changes designed to improve interactions between small businesses and the City government. In the initial phase in 2008 and second phase in 2010, City Council adopted changes to the Zoning Ordinance. For more information, see below Zoning documents.

Planning Commission Public Hearing: Thursday, June 9

  • On June 9, the Planning Commission engaged in discussion regarding the consideration of a text amendment to various sections of the Zoning Ordinance. The proposed text amendment would allow administrative review of special use permits for certain uses that now require a special use permit; allow uses to be permitted by-right for certain uses that now require a special use permit; update various use categories and definitions to clarify and identify certain uses; amend the criteria for Minor Amendment and Outdoor Dining administrative review of special use permits; and various technical corrections.
    • The Planning Commission recommended approval of the proposed text amendment with the following changes
      • Commissioners accepted and recommended incorporation of staff’s proposed changes for sections 11-513(C) and (L) in its memorandum dated June 8, 2016.
      • Commissioners rejected and did not recommend incorporation of staff’s proposed change for Section 11-513(B) in its memorandum dated June 8, 2016
      • Commissioners amended Section 11-513 on specific standards for health and athletic clubs to clarify hours of operation.
    • Visit the Dockets & Webcasts page to review documents associated with this draft text amendment.

City Council Public Hearing: Saturday, June 18

    Small Business Zoning Documents

    Small Business Zoning Resources


    • For questions about the Small Business Zoning project, contact Sara Brandt-Vorel or Taryn Toyama, Department of Planning and Zoning, 703-746-4666.
    • For questions about zoning issues related to opening or operating a business in the City, contact Planning and Zoning staff in the City's Permit Center, 703-746-4333.