Zoning Ordinance Glossary of Terms
Glossary of Zoning Terms
- Agricultural and Forestal District: Land areas voluntarily designated as districts by landowners. Must have a core of 200 contiguous acres. Adopted by the Board of Supervisors by ordinance, which establishes the district for a length of time from 4 to 10 years. The Board may impose development restriction. Use-value assessment is guaranteed by the state ordinance.
- Ancillary: Subordinate, subsidiary, auxiliary, supplementary. An ancillary use complements a primary use such as an office supply store in an office park and is only to serve the principal uses within the district.
- Area Plans: Specific detailed land use plans, which Loudoun County adopts for various areas of the county.
- Buffer: An undeveloped or relatively undeveloped land area that lies between two areas with conflicting land uses. A buffer is intended for the purpose of reducing or eliminating harmful conflicts and screening one use from another. A buffer may include trees, plants, or other devices to further shield one use from the other.
- By-Right Uses: Uses or structures that are allowed under a particular zoning district classification without the need for a special permit.
- Cluster Development: A cluster design is defined as the grouping of building units on smaller lots within a portion or portions of the site, with the intention of retaining a significant area of the land as a contiguous tract of unbuilt open land. Clustering is both visual and spatial with the dwellings scaled and sited to maintain coherent relationships to each other and the surrounding landscape. The open space accounts for the overall lower density of the site and may serve to preserve environmentally sensitive areas while catering to active or passive recreational uses and fostering the rural character by promoting agricultural, forestal, or other rural economy uses.
- Commercial Use: Any wholesale, retail, or service business activity established to carry on trade for profit.
- Community Plan: Specific detailed land use plans to be developed for the four communities of the Suburban Policy Area: Ashburn, Dulles, Potomac, and Sterling.
- Comprehensive Plan: The general plan for the county and its supporting components. Every county in Virginia must have a Comprehensive Plan, which spells out policies for future development in order to ensure orderly growth and the protection of the public health and welfare. The Comprehensive Plan may consist of a number of components, such as local area plans, service plans, and specific land-use related resolutions of the Board of Supervisors.
- Density: The amount of development permitted per acre. It may be expressed in dwelling units per acre for residential development or as building square footage per acre (floor area ratio [FAR]) for commercial/industrial development.
- Easement: An interest in land owned by another that entitles its holder to a specific and limited use or enjoyment.
- Facilities Standards Manual: An adopted document that sets out specific regulations and design standards for such facilities as water/sewer service, roads and streets, soils review, etc.
- Floor Area Ratio (FAR): The enclosed gross floor area of buildings on a given lot divided by to the total area of the lot.
- General Industrial Use: Labor-intensive industrial and commercial uses with outdoor storage requirements, noise levels, and emissions that make them incompatible with residential development or other business areas.
- Heavy Industry: A variety of uses that have public nuisance potential and, under the Zoning Ordinance, are subject to sensitive review for locational impact on surrounding land uses and the environment. Such uses are generally planned for land within the 65 LDN (day-night sound level) noise zone or where residential development is otherwise undesirable. These industries include
such uses as metal fabrication and quarries, asphalt or concrete mixing plants, and junkyards.
- Historic District: A zoning district overlaid on an existing zoning district and adding additional architectural and design controls to the regulations of the base district. Historic Site Districts (HS) comprise one property with its related structures; Historic and Cultural Conservation Districts (HCC) comprise a number of properties related in some way to each other.
- Historic Site: An architectural, engineering or archaeological area, structure or object that has historic significance to the region, locality, community, or nation.
- Industrial Uses: Nonresidential and noncommercial employment uses such as mining, milling, and manufacturing. Industrial Uses include both General Industrial and Heavy Industrial Uses.
- Institutional Uses: Government offices and facilities; and public or private health, recreational, or educational uses and facilities such as schools, training centers, universities, libraries, hospitals, camps, congregate care facilities or similar facilities.
- Intensity: A measure of the extent to which a tract of land is developed. Residential density in units per acre is a measure of intensity; floor area ratio is also a measure of intensity, as is square feet per acre. Intensity can also be described or measured in terms of impacts such as traffic loading, sewage disposal needs, etc.
- Joint Land Management Area (JLMA): The growth area surrounding an incorporated town and served by public water and sewer or projected to be served in the near future. The JLMA is planned cooperatively by the County and the Towns. The boundary of the JLMA marks the edge of utility service and distinguishes between significantly different land uses and thus is an urban growth boundary.
- Ldn: Day-Night Sound Level: The energy-average level of sound for 24 hours adjusted to include a 10 decibel penalty for noise exposures during night-time hours (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.).
- Leq: Equivalent Sound Level: The average energy level of sound over a given period of time. The period of time is normally shown in parenthesis. For example, Leq (8) would be interpreted to mean the average energy level of sound over an 8-hour time period. Leq (h) in text is intended to represent the appropriate number of hours.
- Light Industry: Uses that have less deleterious impact on their locality than the heavy industries, located in industrial parks or in conjunction with large mixed-use development. May include such uses as manufacture and distribution of such products as scientific and precision instruments and other items that may be manufactured without unpleasant impacts on their surroundings. In the mixed-use communities, it should not require outdoor storage and be of architectural design and size compatible with non-industrial uses.
- Moderately Steep Slopes: Surface formation with a vertical incline greater than 8.5 degrees or 15% and up to 22.5 degrees or 25%, a sufficient steepness to cause problems such as erosion or increased flooding when disturbed for land development or other purposes. (See also steep slopes.)
- Open Space: Any parcel or area of land or water essentially unimproved and designated for public or private use or enjoyment or for the use and enjoyment of owners, occupants, and their guests of land adjoining or neighboring such open space.
- Overlay Zoning District: A zoning district superimposed on another, but having validity in governing the use of the property. For example, Historic Districts are overlay zoning districts.
- Performance Standards: A set of regulatory criteria or limits relating to certain characteristics that a particular use or process may not exceed.
- Reasonable Use: A use that is fair and suitable under the circumstances, brings fair economic return (not necessarily highest economic return), is compatible with the general purposes of promoting the health, safety and general welfare of the public, and furthers a legitimate zoning purpose.
- Rezoning: A change in zoning district and consequently in allowed land use or allowed intensity of land use for a given parcel or group of parcels of land.
- Setback: The distance from a property line to a structure or use such as parking. Governed by the Zoning Ordinance or by covenants and/or easements or by proffers or conditions at the time of rezoning or special exception.
- Special Exception: A use permitted in a zoning district only upon showing that such use in a specified location will comply with all the conditions and standards specified in the Zoning Ordinance and/or imposed by the Board of Zoning Appeals and/or the Board of Supervisors at their discretion.
- Steep Slopes: Surface formation with a vertical incline greater than 22.5 degrees or 25%, a sufficient steepness to cause problems such as erosion or increased flooding when disturbed for land development or other purposes. (See also moderately steep slopes.)
- Stream Buffer: Defined as part of the River and Stream Corridor Overlay District as a minimum area of land directly adjacent to and on either side of a river or stream, designated as no-build where disturbance is not allowed. The primary purpose of the stream buffer is to preserve or enhance natural vegetation in order to provide adequate filtration of pollutants and improve water quality.
- Subdivision: The division of a parcel of land into two or more new parcels. The process of subdividing is regulated by the Land Subdivision and Development Ordinance (PDF).
- Subdivision Ordinance: (Land Subdivision and Development Ordinance-LSDO (PDF) ) The local ordinance that sets forth the regulations that guide site development standards such as road and grading requirements, utility provision, etc.
- Town Center: A mixed-use, concentrated community core, which will serve as a downtown for each of the four suburban communities. A town center will emphasize pedestrian movement over vehicular movement to create a pedestrian-friendly environment, with a full complement of services and amenities.
- Transit Oriented Development (TOD): Moderate- and high-density housing, along with complementary public uses, jobs, retail, and services concentrated in mixed-use developments along points along a transit system.
- Watershed: A broad area defined by natural hydrology that collects and discharges water into surface water bodies or that recharges groundwater or both. A watershed generally includes rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, and the surrounding landscape.
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