AAA Rated Standard & Poors July 2014

Planning & Community Development

442 West Washington Street
Suffolk, VA 23434 map
(757) 514-4060
fax (757) 514-4099

Welcome to the Planning Division!

The Planning Department strives to preserve and enhance the quality of life of Suffolk citizens by providing sound and efficient management of the City's overall land use planning program and to develop mechanisms for Council to utilize in managing and guiding growth when considering land use changes and the development of the City.

The mission of the Planning Department is to provide effective management of the City's overall land planning program; to develop mechanisms for Council to utilize in managing and guiding growth when considering land use changes and the development of the City; to assure orderly and efficient new development; to protect existing stable neighborhoods through sound regulatory controls; to help plan and manage the revitalization of declining areas; and to develop, maintain, and make available current information on physical, social, economic, and environmental conditions.

Tasks include overall Departmental oversight and supervision, budgeting, personnel management, work program management, policy analysis, strategic planning, and staffing of the Planning Commission including serving as Secretary, and extensive interaction with other Departments in cooperative team activities. Extensive interaction and work with the City Manager, Assistant City Managers, City Attorney, City Council, Board of Zoning Appeals and Planning Commission is performed. (757) 514-4060. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1.      Can I submit a photo or photocopy of the signed document?

a.  Original signatures are required for all submission. All original must be obtain prior to receiving approval.  

2.      In what zoning district can I operate my business?

a.  Unified Development Ordinance, SECTION 31-406, TABLE 406-1: PRINCIPAL USES PERMITTED IN ZONING DISTRICTS, Provide the location/ address, Tax map number or the parcel Account number for someone to identify the parcel(s) zoning district. 

3.      What do I need to find out the zoning on my property (parcel)?

a.  Contact our office with the location/ address, Tax map number or the parcel Account number to identify the zoning district designated to the parcel. 

4.      What is the estimated review time on my review (submittal)?

a.  The estimated review time may vary, please consult the planner assigned to your case for a status update. 

5.      When is the submission deadline for Land Use items?

a.  Land Use submission deadline(s) is the last business day of the month before 4p.m anything submitted after the specified time will be stamped for the next business day. 

6.      Can I have horses or chickens in my zoning district?

a.  According to the City of Suffolk Unified Development Ordinance, Section 31-702(b) Agricultural Animals. AGRICULTURAL ANIMALS. Agricultural animals and livestock shall be permitted in the A (Agricultural), RR (Rural Residential) and RE (Rural Estate) zoning districts and shall be prohibited in all other zoning districts. 

7.      How many horse(s) can I have on my size lot?

a.  The minimum acreage for keeping one horse is two acres, which may include a homesite. For parcels of three to five acres, three additional horses per acre may be kept. For incremental acreage increases of six through ten acres five horses per additional acre are permitted. 

8.      “I wanted to remove my property line and create one (1) lot.  What should I do?”

a.  See the Planning Department for a Minor Subdivision application. This application will allow you to create up to 3 parcels with a parcel remaining of the original parcel.

 i.  Please note: If the parcel has exceeded its number of cuts, please speak to staff regarding other options of subdivisions. 

9.      “My lots are side by side and someone recommended an Administrative subdivision?”

a.  The city of Suffolk only recognizes boundary line adjustments or parcel(s) conjoined through a Minor Subdivision application. This is to ensure all proposed changes are at the request of all parties involved and meet specified requirements in the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). 

10.    My property is located within the Historic Conservation Overlay District, what do I need to do in order to make exterior changes or improvements?

a.  All exterior changes in the historic district must obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness (link to document) prior to commencing any work. The application fee ranges from $35 to $250 (link to fee schedule). 

First, you should consult with a comprehensive planner to discuss the proposed changes and whether they would be considered a minor action, which is reviewed administratively within approximately two weeks, or a major action, which is reviewed by the Historic Landmarks Commission and requires approximately 45 days. Staff can also advise you on the compatibility of the proposed changes with the Historic District Design Guidelines (link to guidelines). 

11.    What is required for a Conditional Use Permit application? What is the cost, process, and timeframe?

a.  The submittal requirements for a CUP are listed in Appendix B, Section B-5 of the Unified Development Ordinance (link). The minimum cost is $820 ($800 base fee + $20 per acre) and the estimated timeframe is a minimum of 90 days. The application deadline is the last working day of the month, it is reviewed by the Land Use Review Committee the following month, and if the application is complete and ready to be heard by the Planning Commission, it will be forwarded to the Planning Commission the subsequent month. After Planning Commission, the application is referred to City Council the following month. Please consult with a city planner to discuss any questions with regard to the requirements, process, and timeframe for a CUP. 

12.      I want to resubdivide my land, what do I need to know or do to accomplish this?

a.  Resubdividing a parcel involves adjusting an existing boundary line. This can be accomplished through a Minor Subdivision Application and requires that all property owners involved in the process sign the application, as well as provide title reports for the subject parcels, in support of a plat completed by a professional land surveyor. Resubdivision requires that all the parcels involved still meet the minimum zoning dimension and density regulations as listed in Table 407-1 of the UDO. Resubdivisions do not count against a parcel’s minor subdivision cuts. 

13.     There are nontidal wetlands on my property, can I fill them or cut trees in this area?

a.  The US Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulate activities in waters of the United States, and state waters which include wetlands. As such, proposed filling of nontidal wetlands, or alteration of such wetlands, must be approved by these authorities before the City of Suffolk may issue subsequent permits for development. Please fill out the Standard Joint Permit Application and submit it to the Virginia Marine Resource Commission; all applicable federal, state, and local agencies will review the application before issuing necessary permits. 

14.    My property is suffering severe upland erosion, what options are there to stop this?

a.  Upland erosion is compounded when a property has a steep slope or a high ratio of impervious area (hardscape surfaces), and these two situations act together to increase the amount and speed with which rainwater moves across a property. Solutions will vary with the unique topography and geology of a given property, but installation of rain gardens, residential stormwater best management practices (BMPs), or other bank stabilization projects such as Geowebbing, Flexamat, or retaining walls can help mitigate this erosion. 

The Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP) is an urban cost-share program that provides financial incentives and technical and educational assistance to property owners installing eligible Best Management Practices (BMP’s) in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed. For more information, please visit the VCAP website. If your property is within the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Overlay District, and adjacent to a tidal body of water, installation of such erosion control measures may also involve a CBPA Exception, Encroachment, or Buffer Restoration Plan in addition to necessary building and zoning permits. Please call the Planning division at 757-514-4060 to discuss site specifics, and to learn which application you need to complete. 

15.     My property has the 100-foot Resource Protection Area Buffer, what can and cannot be done in the Buffer?

a.  Section 31-415(d)(1)(A) outlines the permitted types of development activities within the RPA Buffer, which includes water dependent facilities; redevelopment or development within an Intensely Developed Area (IDA); roads or driveway crossings; or flood control or stormwater management facilities, all of which must mitigate for the impact or removal of vegetation within the 100-foot RPA Buffer through City of Suffolk review as either a CBPA Exception Request, Encroachment Request, or Buffer Restoration Plan. For more specific questions pertaining to single family homes, please see our frequently asked CBPA questions

16.      I want to build in the 100-foot Resource Protection Area Buffer, what do I need to know and do to accomplish this?

a.  The City of Suffolk Planning division regulates development within the 100-foot Resource Protection Area Buffer. Any land disturbance, whether permanent or temporary, or removal of vegetation must be mitigated for through the installation of approved native vegetation which is overseen by the Planning division. Please see our frequently asked CBPA questions for more information on the different types of applications certain development may require.

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