Application Review Process & Timeline
What is the general review process for a land development application?
Once an application has been submitted, staff has 15 days to review the application to ensure that all necessary information has been provided before officially accepting the application for review or rejecting the application pending submission of required materials. The following generally illustrates the review process.
County Staff and State Agency Review
Once an application has been officially accepted, a project manager within the Planning Department is assigned the case and the application is sent out to relevant county staff, state agencies and town staff for review. This is referred to as the referral process. The amount of time necessary to prepare initial comments depends on the application type and ranges from 30 to 45 days. The project manager compiles all the comments received from county staff and state agencies and provides them to the applicant. The applicant responds to staff and agency comments and may request a meeting to discuss any questions or provide clarification. County staff and state agencies review the applicant’s subsequent response to the first referral comments and prepare a second referral report outlining any remaining outstanding issues. The applicant responds to the second round of comments and may request a meeting to discuss any questions or provide clarification. Once the project manager receives the applicant’s response to second referral comments, the project manager will prepare a staff report discussing any outstanding issues and staff’s recommendation for the application.
Planning Commission and Board Review
The Planning Commission and Board each conduct one public hearing each month. Prior to each hearing, the applicant will be responsible for notification letters sent to adjacent property owners and for posting signs on the property (instructions are provided by staff). The County is responsible for placing an advertisement in a local newspaper serving the area.
Prior to the Planning Commission (PC) public hearing, the project manager will provide a brief overview of the application to the PC. During the briefing, the PC may request additional information or ask questions to be answered at the public hearing. PC briefings are open to the public; however, the Commission typically does not comment from the applicant or the public at this meeting.
At the PC public hearing, staff and the applicant will provide a presentation of the project including additional information that may have been requested at the PC briefing. The Commission takes public comment, reviews the application, and may make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. Often an application will be sent to a PC worksession to discuss issues.
Once the Planning Commission makes a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, the project manager prepares a staff report for the Board of Supervisors public hearing. The process for the Board hearing is the same with the exception that the Board does not currently get a briefing from the project managers. It is generally the Board’s procedure to not vote on an application at a public hearing, placing the application on a future BOS business meeting for action or sending the application to a future Standing Committee meeting for further discussion. However, the Board may make a motion to suspend the Rules of Order at the public hearing in order to bring the application to a vote at the public hearing.
What is the general timeline?
The following is a general guide of the timeline for an application from the time it is accepted by the Planning Department until action or ratification by the Board of Supervisors. The actual timeline depends the complexity of the case, on how well staff and the applicant meet their deadlines, and Board and Commission meeting schedules:
- Commission Permit (CMPT) - Two to three months. The Planning Commission approves or denies the application after public hearing. The Board ratifies or overturns the Commission decision at a subsequent Board Business Meeting.
- Special Exception (SPEX) - Four to six months. The Board seeks to conduct its public hearing within 120 days of application acceptance.
- Minor Special Exception (SPMI) - Three to five months. The Minor Special Exception offers a slightly shorter staff review and eliminates the Planning Commission public hearing. The Board seeks to conduct its public hearing within 90 days of application acceptance.
- Rezoning (ZMAP) - Six to ten months. State Code mandates Board action within 360 days of application acceptance. The staff review should be completed within 120 to 140 days of application acceptance.
- Zoning Concept Plan Amendment (ZCPA) - See Rezoning, above.
- Zoning Ordinance Modification (ZMOD) - See Rezoning, above.
- Sign Development Plan (SIDP) - See Special Exception, above. Amending a previously approved Sign Development Plan follows the Minor Special Exception schedule.
When two or more applications are processed concurrently, the longer timeline applies. It is common for an application timeline to be extended for many reasons, including the applicant's desire to continue work on issues, delays in applicant response, or the application is sent to a committee at either the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors level of review. In any event, the extension of time must be granted by the applicant.
Information about specific land development applications may be found online through the Loudoun Online Land Applications system.