Cluster Subdivision Amendments

Updated Sept. 15, 2004

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On Monday, June 7, 2004, the Board of Supervisors adopted amendments to the Zoning Ordinance (ZO-04-365), Subdivision Ordinance (17-04-101) and Public Facilities Manual (86-04-PFM) related to cluster subdivisions which became effective at 12:01 a.m. on July 1, 2004. These amendments were prompted, in part, by a 2002 amendment, to § 15.2-2286 (A)(12) of the Code of Virginia, which requires localities to amend their land use ordinances to comply with the amended statute no later than July 1, 2004. The Code of Virginia provides that localities may adopt standards to allow cluster subdivisions through an administrative approval process without a public hearing. The Code of Virginia also provides that localities may opt to allow cluster subdivisions through the rezoning or special exception process but in doing so, bonus density provisions must be provided. Finally, the 2002 amendment provides that localities may decide to eliminate cluster subdivisions as a development option in some or all of its zoning districts.

Zoning Ordinance Amendments

Under the adopted cluster subdivision provisions of the Zoning Ordinance effective July 1, 2004, cluster subdivisions are distinguished from conventional subdivisions by minimum open space requirements, minimum district size requirements, reduced lot size requirements in certain circumstances and reduced yard requirements. In addition, the cluster subdivision development option is available in the R-C, R-E, R-1, R-2, R-3 and R-4 Districts. However, the approval process for new cluster subdivisions varies by zoning district. Cluster subdivisions are allowed subject to special exception approval by the Board of Supervisors in the R-C, R-E, and R-1 Districts with a maximum potential density of 0.22 dwelling unit per acre, 0.55 dwelling unit per acre and 1.1 dwelling units per acre, respectively. These maximum potential densities for cluster subdivisions in the R-C, R-E and R-1 Districts reflect a 10% density bonus above the maximum permitted density for a conventional subdivision within the applicable zoning district. Additionally, cluster subdivisions in the R-3 and R-4 Districts that contain at least 2 acres but less than 3.5 acres of land area are allowed subject to special exception approval by the Board of Supervisors with a potential density bonus equivalent to one additional dwelling unit above the maximum density applicable to a conventional subdivision in those respective districts.

Cluster subdivisions within the R-2 District or cluster subdivisions with at least 3.5 acres or more of land area in the R-3 and R-4 Districts are subject to an administrative (by-right) subdivision review process with approval by the Director of the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services. In order to improve the integration of the proposed cluster development into an existing residential neighborhood, the Zoning Ordinance, as amended, provides increased lot size requirements for certain lots within a by-right cluster subdivision that are located on the peripheral boundary of the cluster subdivision.

Under the cluster provisions adopted on June 7, 2004, a new Sect. 2-421 was added to the Zoning Ordinance. This section clarifies the status of cluster subdivisions approved prior to July 1, 2004, the effective date of the cluster amendments, and cluster subdivisions that may be approved in the future. This section also describes the provision of bonus densities that are mandated by the 2002 amendment to the Code of Virginia. Par. 6 of Sect. 2-421 currently prohibits a rezoning to the PDH District when the existing zoning of the property has the same permitted maximum density as the requested PDH District and when such existing zoning permits cluster development with special exception approval. As such, a rezoning from the R-1 District to the PDH-1 District or from the R-3 or R-4 Districts to the corresponding PDH-3 or PDH-4 Districts for the development of single family detached dwellings, when the application area contains 2 acres or greater but less than 3.5 acres, is currently not permitted.

Subdivision Ordinance Amendments

Under the adopted amendments to the Subdivision Ordinance effective July 1, 2004, all by-right cluster subdivisions are subject to cluster subdivision development standards, including the provision of open space, tree preservation, and the protection of environmentally sensitive areas. These standards can not be waived. The Subdivision Ordinance cluster subdivision standards also require the submission of an existing vegetation map as defined in the Public Facilities Manual (PFM). In addition, the cluster subdivision standards require that a tree preservation plan be submitted by the applicant that includes the location, crown spread, species, size, and condition rating of individual trees and groups of trees proposed to be preserved.

The Subdivision Ordinance, as amended, requires the submission of a preliminary subdivision plat for by-right cluster subdivisions that includes the designation of the existing use and zoning classification for all parcels located outside of and contiguous to the proposed cluster subdivision boundary. Further, the written notice requirement for by-right cluster subdivisions has been modified to include a project description containing the preliminary subdivision plat name, number of units, number of acres, density, amount of open space provided, and a project location description, to include the name of the nearest road, the side of the road on which the project is located, and the estimated distance from the nearest existing road intersection and the name, address, and telephone number of a representative of the applicant.

Public Facilities Manual Amendments

The adopted amendments to the PFM achieve consistency with the cluster subdivision provisions of the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances by limiting encroachment into the Resource Protection Area and the flood plain and its adjacent slopes of 15% or greater.

Follow up Zoning Ordinance Amendment

When the Board of Supervisors adopted the current cluster provisions on June 7, 2004, there was discussion concerning Par. 6 of Sect. 2-421 of the Zoning Ordinance and its impact on pending and/or future rezoning applications. As a result of concerns regarding the previously discussed prohibitions on rezoning to a PDH District, the Board directed staff to prepare an amendment that allows for a rezoning from a conventional zoning district where cluster subdivision is not permitted by right to the PDH District with the same permitted maximum density as the existing zoning district with the potential bonus density of one dwelling unit. On Aug. 2, 2004 the Board of Supervisors authorized public hearings for a Zoning Ordinance amendment that revises Par. 6 to allow for such a rezoning, provided that the application property is rezoned from the R-1 District or is rezoned from the R-3 or R-4 Districts and contains a land area of two acres or greater but less than 3.5 acres, with the potential bonus density of one dwelling unit.

The Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors' public hearings on this amendment have been indefinitely deferred.

Related Documents


  Additional Information

Additional information on the proposed cluster subdivision amendment may be obtained by contacting Lorrie Kirst of the Zoning Administration Division at 703-324-1314. Written comments may be forwarded to the Zoning Administration Division, Department of Planning and Zoning, Suite 807, 12055 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, Virginia 22035 or the Clerk to the Planning Commission, Suite 330, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, Virginia 22035.

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