Zoning Information

General Zoning definitions and information.

Page updated on Feb 24, 2020 at 9:15 AM

Zoning Information

Contact the Permit Center at 311 or 703.746.4311 for additional information.

Change of Ownership

Please contact P&Z staff for guidance regarding necessary permits. If you are purchasing an existing business permitted in that location, you will usually need to get permits only for planned modifications. Further, you will need to obtain a new business license. If you are purchasing a business that requires a permit from the Health Department or which is operating under a Special Use Permit, you should discuss your plans with P&Z so we can assist you. If you are buying a business governed by an SUP, you will need to fill out a Change of Ownership Application. On this form, you will indicate any changes you may plan to make.

The application will be reviewed internally and the proposed change of ownership will be advertised in the newspaper so that nearby neighbors and others will be made aware of the application. Typically, P&Z staff will handle most approvals administratively. If, however, you intend to make substantial changes, your application will need to go through public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council to gain approval.

Checklist - Concept Review

Each development application requires submission of a checklist to include basic information for the proposed project as well as specific requirements that depend on the application type (i.e., Special Use Permit, Development Site Plan, Variance, or Board of Architectural Review). Prior to submission of a formal site plan, applicants must meet with City staff to discuss and resolve major land use and site plan issues. The City provides feedback to the applicant and determines if the project should proceed.  Concept Review Checklist form.

Checklist - Preliminary

The purpose of the Preliminary Site Plan phase is for an applicant to submit a formal application to the City that staff reviews and determines to be complete pursuant to the Zoning Ordinance requirements. At the end of this phase, staff will make a recommendation and present the application to the Planning Commission and in some cases, the City Council, at a public hearing for approval or denial. Preliminary Checklist form.

Checklist - Final

The Final Site Plan phase allows City staff to work with an applicant to prepare a final site plan that meets all conditions of approval and which will be used during construction. Once completed, the approved and released final site plan will be included with all building permits and will be available for review on site throughout construction..  Final Checklist form.

Development Site Plan (DSP)

A DSP is required in all zones for any development that: contains three or more dwelling units; is a building or addition that is 3,000 square feet or larger; provides a parking lot with five or more parking spaces; is a building addition that is 1/3 or more of the existing gross square feet of the building; and falls under other criteria listed in Section 11-400 of the Zoning Ordinance.  Development Site Plan application.

Development Special Use Permit (DSUP)

A DSUP is required in all zones for any development that requires a site plan and is requesting approval of a special use permit for the following:  a modification of the parking ratios; a modification to the yard, landscape or open space requirements; increased building height; increased Floor Area Ratio; affordable housing bonus density; and other special requirements listed in the applicable zone in the Zoning Ordinance.  Development Special Use Permit application.


An encroachment is an intrusion by a private entity into a public street, alley, sidewalk or other right of way. Some examples of encroachments include fences, outdoor seating at restaurants, or even extensive landscaping in the public right of way. An application for encroachment must go before the Planning Commission and be approved by City Council.

Floor Area Ratio (FAR)

Floor area of a building is the sum of all gross horizontal areas under a roof. Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is the total aggregate floor area of a building divided by the area of the lot or tract of land on which it is located. The City Zoning Ordinance regulates neighborhood density by regulating FAR. FAR in the City varies depending on the type of neighborhood and zoning category.

Height Regulations

Height regulations vary depending on the zoning of a particular area. To find out which zone a particular property is in, go to the GIS parcel viewer.

Home Occupation Regulations

If you are considering a home business, please contact P&Z staff. In general, the rules for Home Occupations are designed to ensure that the house is perceived as a residential use, not a commercial use. These rules are meant to ensure the integrity of the neighborhood and reassure adjoining neighbors. Home-based businesses are permitted in Alexandria with limitations. In-home child-care providers are not considered standard home occupations, and are subject to additional permits, license and regulations. For more information, please contact the Permit Center at 311 or 703.746.4311.

Homeowner Plats

The Department of Planning and Zoning does not keep individual property plats on record. A plat is usually included with your deed at settlement when you purchase the property. You can contact your settlement company or have the property re-surveyed.

Master Plan Amendments

A Master Plan Amendment is a change to any section of the City's Master Plan including maps, charts, land use designations or other materials that comprise the Master Plan. City Council, Planning Commission, P&Z staff or an applicant who has a legal interest in the property may initiate a Master Plan amendment. The Planning Commission recommends approval or denial and City Council determines final action.

Parking Requirements

Contact P&Z staff for assistance in determining the specific parking requirements for your business. Parking requirements vary for different types of businesses and for different locations within the City. If you cannot meet the parking requirements for your particular use and location, you may apply for a  Special Use Permit for a parking reduction.


A rezoning is a change to the boundaries of the zones established by the official zoning map, initiated by City Council, Planning Commission, P&Z staff or an applicant who has a legal interest in the property. The Planning Commission recommends approval or denial and City Council determines final action.


A setback ratio is the ratio of the horizontal distance between the edge of a building or structure and the nearest side or rear property line or the nearest building or the center line of a street or alley to the height of the building. Setback requirements vary depending on the zoning of the location of your business. Please contact P&Z staff for assistance.

Sign Regulations

All signs are reviewed and approved with a sign permit, which can be applied for at the Code Administration. Three agencies will review your sign permit. P&Z will look at the size and design of signs. Code Administration will look at the structural details, such as the method of attaching a sign to a wall or the base of a freestanding sign. T&ES will ensure that there are no pedestrian or car safety issues that would result from the proposed sign.

Special Use Permits (SUP)

Typically, a  Special Use Permit (SUP) is required for businesses such as restaurants, beauty salons, fitness studios, dry cleaners, or other businesses that need special review because they have the potential to create noise, odors, fumes, pollution or significant parking impacts. The process is designed to ensure that potentially affected neighbors are both informed of and are provided an opportunity to comment on the proposed business. The City Zoning Ordinance regulates the location of various uses. Contact P&Z staff for assistance in determining if an SUP is required.


The division of a lot, parcel or tract of land into two or more lots, plots, sites, parcels or other divisions for the purpose, whether immediate or future, of sale or building development. This includes the resubdivision of existing lots, parcels, tracts or other divisions of existing and duly recorded subdivisions. Any tract of land upon which a street, alley or public right-of-way is dedicated shall be considered a subdivision. An application for subdivision requires approval only from the Planning Commission.

Transportation Management Plan (TMP)

A Transportation Management Plan (TMP) special use permit must be submitted and approved for any building or structure, combination of space, project, complex or development which contains:

  1. 50,000 or more useable square feet of commercial and/or professional office space;
  2. 40,000 or more useable square feet of retail space;
  3. 250 or more residential units.

The purpose of a TMP is to mitigate the traffic and related impacts of certain office, retail, industrial and residential uses.

TMP requirements are detailed in section 11-700 of the Zoning Ordinance.


A vacation occurs when the City agrees to relinquish city property to a private entity at a cost determined by the city. Examples of vacations include alleyways or City property that appears to be part of an owner's yard. A vacation application must go before Planning Commission and be approved by City Council.

Zoning Text Amendments

A Zoning Text Amendment is a change to the text of the Zoning Ordinance adopted in 1992. Generally, City staff (or Council members) will initiate a text amendment, however, citizens or the applicant of a case may prompt the need for a text amendment. The Planning Commission recommends approval or denial and City Council determines final action.