A Zoning Permit is issued by the Zoning Administrator or his/her designee and authorizes a lot and/or structure to be used, whether temporarily, seasonally, or permanently, in a manner permitted by the Zoning Ordinance, as detailed in Section 15-1 of the Zoning Ordinance. Zoning Permits are reviewed through an administrative process for any establishment of a use or change in use for a building, structure, or parcel as well as construction of new buildings or alterations of existing buildings. No building or structure shall be erected, added to, structurally altered, or land use be established or changed in use without a zoning permit. For some uses, establishment may also require approval from the Board of Supervisors (BOS) through a Rezoning or Conditional Use Permit (CUP) or Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) through a Special Exception (SE). Zoning Permits for uses or structures proposing at least 2,500 square feet may require a Land Disturbance Permit through the Environmental Programs Division or a Site Plan through the Community Development Office.
Exempt Uses and Structures
In the County’s agricultural districts (RC-1 and RC-2 districts), buildings or structures associated with bona fide agriculture or forestry uses are exempt from obtaining a Zoning Permit, but still must meet all applicable setback requirements. Certain uses and structures, such as fences and flag poles, are not regulated by the Zoning Ordinance and, therefore, do not require a Zoning Permit. However, agricultural and forestry uses as well as uses and structures not regulated by the Zoning Ordinance still must observe any applicable local, state, or federal requirements. Buildings and structures used for agriculture or forestry within non-agricultural districts do require a zoning permit.
Nonconforming Uses and Structures
Legally established uses or structures that do not conform to the current Zoning Ordinance regulations are recognized as legal, nonconforming uses or structures. Modifications to these legally nonconforming uses or structures are permitted, as detailed in Article 10 of the Zoning Ordinance.
Administrative Review Process
A Zoning Permit application can be submitted to the Department of Planning and Zoning for review by the Zoning Division staff. Zoning Permit applications requires, at a minimum, the application form clearly explaining the existing and proposed uses, a plot plan drawn to scale, and the $35 review fee. A survey is not required, but the plot plan must be drawn to scale so staff can confirm the setbacks, square footage and other requirements for the use(s) proposed are satisfied. Sign Permit applications undergo the same administrative review process and require the same application materials (including a $50 review fee) along with all additional information (including height, size, and location) detailed in Section 12-2(1) of the Zoning Ordinance to determine conformance with the Sign Ordinance.
Zoning Permit Review
Zoning Division staff will review the contents of the application and either approve or deny the Zoning Permit application within 30 days of receipt of a complete application with an accompanying paid fee, as required by the ordinance, but typically in less than 10 working days. If an application is determined to be incomplete or insufficient information is provided to perform a full review, staff will notify the applicant of the necessary steps required to enable staff to perform a full review. If the applicant resolves all inadequacies in the application within the 30-day review period, staff will perform the review and either approve or deny the application. If any inadequacies are not resolved within this time frame, staff will deny the Zoning Permit application in writing and provide the reasons for the denial as well as the appeals process. If a Zoning Permit application is denied and the applicant wishes to submit another application, the applicant shall provide a separate application with all appropriate materials (including the review fee) and staff will review the materials as if it is a new application. Similarly, applications to enlarge or modify a use and/or structure previously permitted shall submit a new application with all appropriate materials (including the review fee).
Establishment of the Use or Structure
Establishment of or construction for uses and/or structures issued permits by the Department of Planning and Zoning shall begin within 1 year of the issuance of a Zoning Permit and must be substantially completed within 2.5 years of the issuance of a Zoning Permit. If work has not begun within 1 year of issuance or completed within 2.5 years of issuance, the Zoning Permit shall expire. Unless an extension is granted by the Zoning Administrator, work cannot resume for uses and/or structures with expired Zoning Permits until a new application (with all relevant materials) is submitted and a Zoning Permit is approved by the Zoning Division staff.
In certain cases, staff may need to inspect a site to confirm that any conditions of the Zoning Permit (or rezoning, Conditional Use Permit, or Special Exception) are installed appropriately prior to issuance of a Final Certificate of Occupancy (CO) by the Building Official. When this is necessary, Zoning Division staff will note on the approved Zoning Permit any applicable conditions or reference an approved site plan, Conditional Use Permit, Special Exception approval, or other approval. The applicant should be aware of all required improvements referenced on an approved Zoning Permit. To schedule an inspection, the applicant, developer, or contractor should contact the Department of Planning and Zoning to set an inspection date prior to request for a Final CO. Since Planning and Zoning staff perform inspections on an as needed basis (which does not occur daily), staff may not be able to perform an inspection immediately and will need to schedule any inspection around other responsibilities, including permit, plan, and other application reviews, which occur under mandated deadlines.
Forms for the Zoning Permit application and Sign Permit application can be found on the department’s Forms and Policies page.