In April 2017, Henrico County, Virginia, initiated an update of its zoning and subdivision ordinances to make the regulations more user-friendly and to better implement the county’s Vision 2026 Comprehensive Plan. The update also is intended to align the regulations with contemporary zoning and subdivision best practices. Given that the county’s ordinances are more than 50 years old, the update is a welcome effort.

On Nov. 2, 2017, the county released an assessment of the current ordinances, prepared by the county’s consultant, Clarion. The “Zoning & Subdivision Ordinance Assessment, Henrico County, Virginia,” sets out “the primary reasons why the county should consider revising its development regulations,” as well as key changes necessary to bring the ordinances up to standards. The assessment serves as a road map for drafting the updated regulations, and provides an annotated outline as a framework for the new ordinances. The county will hold a public meeting to present and receive comments and input on the assessment and the annotated outline. 

Many recommendations in the assessment relate to updating the structure of the current ordinances, which currently include a confusing mix of district standards, use standards, development standards, and procedures.  Other recommendations add flexibility by (1) providing alternative forms of compliance, (2) allowing for administrative modifications, (3) providing contextual development standards, and (4) providing sliding-scale rules for redevelopment of sites with nonconforming features. Clarion recommends that the new ordinances include graphic representations and tables for uses and standards. It also recommends neighborhood compatibility standards to address edge-area development adjacent to single-family neighborhoods, the removal of obstacles to environmentally friendly development, and the addition of density and urban scales to certain districts and areas.

The full assessment is available under the “Project Status” section of the county’s website, which also provides access to other information about each step in the process. 

The McGuireWoods land use group — including Ann Neil Cosby, Rob Benaicha and Adena Patterson — are closely following this process. For questions regarding ordinance updates, please email Ann Neil Cosby.