Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) – A local government body that grants relief from the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance. They hear from property owners and other interested parties that are potentially affected by such relief.

Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (CBPA) – A Virginia state law that aims to improve the state’s water quality, specifically targeting the Tidewater region. The Act implements many restrictions and other guidelines for land use in the area.

Comprehensive Plan – A document designed to present a vision for the future of the community, with long-range goals and objectives for all activities that affect the local government. It helps to plan infrastructure development, protect natural resources, plan for aesthetics, and guide future zoning changes.

Down-Zoning – When the local government rezones a property or multiple properties to a more restrictive zoning district. An example would be a commercial shopping district being rezoned to allow only single-family housing.

Exactions – A condition on a portion of land, infrastructure, or fees that the local government requires from a land-developer in return for subdivision or development approval. An example would be the municipality requiring a developer to set a portion of his land aside as a designated park in exchange for approval.

Impact Fees – Similar to Exactions, an Impact Fee is money requested by the local government from developers for off-site improvements that are made necessary as a direct result of the developer’s project.

Non-Conforming Uses – A use of property that was originally allowed under the Zoning Ordinance when it was established, but following subsequent changes to the ordinance, is no longer a permitted use. A type of Vested Right. 

Proffer – Similar to Exactions, a Proffer is also known as conditional zoning, where a landowner will voluntarily agree to limit the use of property or otherwise perform an action to obtain certain land use permits or authorizations. These, unlike Exactions, are to be voluntary.

Special Exception/Special Use Permit/ Conditional Use Permit – A permit for a property’s use or dimensional requirements that aren’t allowed as a matter of right, but may be permitted under certain conditions. A Special Exception is granted by the BZA.

Spot Zoning – This occurs when the zoning classification of a single parcel of land for a use classification is different than the surrounding zoning district.

Up-Zoning – The opposite of Down-Zoning, when the local government rezones to allow for more permitted uses. A common example is when municipalities rezone an area zoned for single family housing to allow for multi-family housing.

Variance – A variance may be granted by the BZA to give relief to the landowner, who, due to unique conditions, would face an unnecessary hardship in using the property in full compliance with the zoning ordinance. In Virginia, these are only available to provide relief from the strict application of dimensional requirements, such as setback or frontage requirements.

Vested Rights – Where the landowner has obtained government approval for the development of a project, and the landowner has relied in good faith on that approval, he is allowed to continue with the development if it is suddenly impacted by a change in the zoning ordinance.

Zoning Ordinances – They contain the local rules that define how the land in different zoning districts can be used. Not only do they regulate use, but also dimensional requirements such as density, frontage, and setbacks.