Go To Search
Click to Home
Site Tools
Special Exception / Minor Special Exception / Sign Development Plan

What is a Special Exception / Minor Special Exception?
A Special Exception (SPEX) and Minor Special Exception (SPMI) process is used to evaluate certain uses listed in each zoning district that may be appropriate, but because of potential impacts on their neighbors are not permitted by right.  Such uses may be permitted if the Board of Supervisors is satisfied the impacts can be addressed.

The SPEX process allows the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors opportunities to review the request, hear public comment on the proposal, and impose appropriate conditions or restrictions on the use (referred to as “Conditions of Approval”) to minimize the negative impacts. The SPMI process differs in that it requires only a Board of Supervisors Public Hearing. Approved Special Exceptions and Minor Special Exceptions have a limited period or validity, typically five (5) years within which a project must be commenced. The Special Exception and Minor Special Exception processes are also used by the Board to review requested modifications to certain Ordinance performance standards or changes to approved concept development plans.

What is a Sign Development Plan?
A Sign Development Plan (SIDP) process is essentially the same as a special exception but used solely for reviewing one or more signs that do not conform to the sign standards of the Zoning Ordinance .  The SIDP has its own submittal requirements but like the SPEX, is heard by both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.  When an applicant wishes to amend a sign development plan that was previously approved, the amendment follows the SPMI process, which requires only Board of Supervisors review and Public Hearing.

What is the first step in the application process?
Prior to submitting an application, the applicant or a designated representative must schedule a Pre-Application Conference by contacting the Department of Planning and Zoning at 703-777-0246. The meetings are free and are scheduled every two weeks.  The Director of Planning and Zoning may waive the Pre-application meeting if the applicant is familiar with the process or the application has a limited scope,

What is a Pre-Application Conference?
A Pre-Application Conference is a meeting between a prospective applicant and County staff to discuss a development proposal and the process for review.  The Department of Planning and Zoning arranges the meeting and staff from other departments will attend to comment on the proposal and to answer questions.  The meeting must occur before the application may be formally filed. More details are available here.  The form used to request a pre-application conference is available for you to download or print.

What materials do I need to make a Special Exception application?

How do I apply for a Special Exception application?
Submit a completed Land Development Application and the other material listed in the appropriate Minimum Submission Checklist to the Department of Planning and Zoning at 1 Harrison Street, Third Floor, Leesburg, VA 20175.

The application fee is paid after the application has been accepted for review. For more information, view the fee schedule.

What is the County process for a SPEX, SPMI or SIDP application?
The Department of Planning and Zoning will review your submittal to make sure it is complete (has all the Minimum Submission requirements) and correct (has all the correct property information and the right zoning districts, for example).  Once the application is accepted for processing, the Department of Planning and Zoning will assign a project manager. This person will serve as the point of contact and coordinator during the entire review of the application. The following generally illustrates the review process.

  • Pre-Application meeting
  • Application filed / reviewed for completeness
  • Application accepted as an active case or rejected pending submission of necessary materials
  • Application reviewed by County agencies and if necessary State and Town agencies.
  • Staff and applicant review identified issues and seek agreeable solutions
  • Conditions of approval developed
  • Staff report prepared
  • Planning Commission public hearing / review / recommendation
  • Board of Supervisors public hearing / review
  • Board of Supervisors decision

Where can I get more information about the process?
Information about specific land applications is available online through the Loudoun Online Land Applications system. You may also contact:
Loudoun County
Department of Planning and Zoning

Ph: 703-777-0246 

1 Harrison Street, S.E.
PO Box 7000
Leesburg, VA 20177-7000

Loudoun On
Site Tools