Phase IIC: Use Classification System, Use Standards, Use Tables and Definitions
What is a use classification system?
A use classification system groups land uses and activities based on similar functional or physical characteristics, including the type and amount of activity; type of customers or residents; how goods or services are sold or delivered; likely impact of the use on surrounding properties; and site conditions.
Why incorporate a use classification system into the Zoning Ordinance?
The use classification system provides a basis for assigning land uses to appropriate zoning districts by describing the characteristics of each category, identifying common accessory uses for each category, and examples of uses included and not included in each category. The use classification system will also provide the Zoning Administrator with a basis for interpretations about specific uses that are listed in the Zoning Ordinance as well as other uses that may not be listed in the Ordinance or may not have been anticipated.
How will the use classification system impact the existing use tables in the Zoning Ordinance and what else will change in the use tables?
The use classification system will provide an organizational structure for the use tables. Currently the uses in the use tables are listed alphabetically, and a user needs to know exactly how the County has named a specific use in order to find it in the table (e.g. health club vs. athletic club; correctional institution vs. jail). Under the new use classification system:
- Uses will be grouped under logical categories (e.g. residential; public and civic; Retail and service commercial; etc.) with specific uses listed under each category, making them easier to find;
- Duplicate uses will be consolidated under a single term (e.g. office; office development; office commercial; office buildings);
- Lists of distinct uses currently combined on one line will be divided into individual uses (e.g. fire stations, libraries and art galleries);
- Archaic uses will be eliminated (e.g. draying; tourist home);
- Uses that have use standards associated with them (e.g. open-air markets, grocery stores) will continue to have an individual row in the use table. Uses that do not have specific use standards and are not proposed to have specific use standards (e.g. book store, stationery store, antique store, hardware store), may no longer be listed individually in the use table. They may instead, be captured by a row that allows, for example, “all other sales-oriented uses.” The use classification system will then provide further explanation about what uses are included in each sub-category.
What are use standards?
Use standards are specific provisions that are always associated with a particular use. This concept is not new to the 2013 Zoning Ordinance. The 1950 Ordinance contained a number of use standards, and at that time, such standards were sometimes repeated in each district in which the use was allowed, and at other times, were consolidated into a single place and simply referenced in each district the use appeared. The 2013 reformat consolidated all existing use standards into a single Article (12) and provided quick links within the use table for each use for which standards existed. This final phase of the update will:
- Create specific new use standards, and move use standards that still exist in the use table into Article 12. New use standards will include live entertainment (consistent with Zoning Administrator written determination); accessory uses; and short term (temporary) uses;
- Consolidate use standards for similar uses into a single use and single standard. For example, there are several medical office uses, each with specific, but similar standards resulting from multiple amendments to the 1950 Ordinance over many years;
- Update existing, and add other new use standards as identified through the review.
What do the letters in the use tables mean?
- P = Permitted uses. The “P” in the use table indicates that the use may be approved by-right, and may also be allowed administratively in buildings approved by site plan or use permit, but only subject to site plan and use permit conditions that do not otherwise preclude such use or require another specific use. Site plans (and new development approved by use permit) are approved for specific uses and typically for a defined amount of floor area for a particular use. Zoning Ordinance provisions for site plans (15.5) articulate what changes trigger site plan amendments, and specific site plan conditions may also trigger site plan amendment requirements. For example, conditions may specify or preclude a particular use in a particular area of the building (e.g., the ground floor).
- U = Use permit approval required. The “U” in the uses table indicates uses that require legislative approval by the County Board. Many uses allowed by use permit are approved with subsequently scheduled legislative or administrative reviews, to ensure that the conditional use is being operated as approved and consistent with approved conditions. Examples include live entertainment, food delivery, home day care, etc. The Zoning Administrator may require a use permit for such use, even in buildings already controlled by use permit or site plan.
- S = Site plan approval required. The “S” in the use table indicates uses allowed subject to site plan approval by the County Board, and may often be allowed to be approved with modifications to density, height, parking and other development standards. These uses may be considered only as part of a site plan application. Uses designated as subject to site plan approval are not permitted by-right. In most districts where site plan is available, only a limited number of uses are allowed by-right.
- C = Site plan and use permit approval required. A new designation is proposed to be added to the commercial/mixed-use use table to indicate uses requiring a use permit that may be considered only on properties controlled by site plan. These uses are designated with a “C”. This new designation is proposed to be added in order to distinguish such uses from those uses that may be considered by use permit in by-right buildings.
Why are uses allowances for the same use different in different zoning districts (e.g. a drugstore is by-right in C-O-A and requires a site plan in C-O)?
The proposed amendments do not, for the most part, propose changing existing use allowances. Generally, if the use is currently allowed by-right (P), it is proposed to continue to be allowed by-right. If it is currently allowed only under site plan (S), it is proposed to continue to be allowed only under site plan. The amendment will, however, explicitly codify that such use is allowed under site plan by filling in that column with an (S), whereas under the current ordinance, the Zoning Administrator relies on longstanding practice to allow such use under site plan.
Generally, many of the commercial/mixed-use districts (e.g. C-O-1.0, C-O-1.5, C-O-2.5, C-O, C-O Rosslyn, C-O Crystal City) were originally developed based on the C-1-O district, which allows a very limited number of uses. The C-O-A district was developed based on the C-2 district, which allows a broad array of commercial uses, so allowances in that district are different than in many of the other mixed-use districts.
If a site plan is approved in a zoning district, does the site plan automatically permit all uses that have an “S” in the use table for that district? Are “P” uses automatically included in the site plan approval? What about “U” uses and “C” uses?
Not necessarily. Site plans are approved for specific uses and typically for a particular use. Zoning Ordinance provisions for site plans (15.5) articulate what changes trigger site plan amendments, and specific site plan conditions may also trigger site plan amendment requirements. For example, conditions may specify or preclude a particular use in a particular area of the building (e.g. the ground floor).
- The S in the use table indicates that a use is allowed only subject to site plan approval (this is articulated in 7.1.2.C). Uses with an (S) are not permitted by-right. Once a site plan is approved, uses allowed in that building will be controlled by the site plan and all relevant conditions.
- The P in the use table indicates that the use may be approved by-right, and may also be allowed administratively in buildings approved by site plan or use permit, but only subject to site plan and use permit conditions that do not otherwise preclude such use or require another specific use (this is articulated in 7.1.2.A).
- Uses with a U or C are allowed only subject to use permit approval (this is articulated in 7.1.2.B and 7.1.2.D, respectively). Uses with a C may be considered only on properties controlled by site plan, whereas uses with a U may be considered on any property.
What is the purpose of the proposed new use allowance “C” in the commercial/mixed-use table?
The C is used in the use table to codify the practice that such use is allowed only in buildings approved by site plan, but additionally a use permit will be required. This use permit allows for ongoing legislative or administrative review and required renewal of such use, whereas site plan approval does not typically involve such review. A use permit cannot be requested for a C use unless the property is already controlled by site plan (this is articulated in 7.1.2.D).
If a church is proposed on the ground floor of a building approved by site plan, in a space approved for retail, is a site plan amendment needed to change the retail designation and then a use permit for a church use?
Churches are allowed by-right (P) in all commercial/mixed-use zoning districts, so a use permit would never be required. However, if a site plan is approved for retail on the ground floor and a church use is proposed, a site plan amendment would be required, and the church use would be allowed only subject to County Board approval, and all relevant policies would be considered. §15.5 identifies modifications to approved site plans that trigger major and minor amendments. These triggers are not proposed to be amended.
If a drug store is “P” in the use table in the C-O-A district, does that mean we do not need a site plan amendment to put in a drug store on the ground floor; or does that mean that a drug store is only eligible in by–right development in C-O-A, which rarely occurs?
For site plan properties, both site plan conditions and the Zoning Ordinance will control when/if a site plan amendment is required for a change in use. Typically, site plans on streets where retail is envisioned, will be adopted with a condition identifying specific types of retail uses for the ground floor, consistent with adopted policy for retail. Assuming 1) such a condition exists, and 2) the proposed use is a drug store (classified in the “retail, sales” use category in the proposed amendments), then the drug store use may be administratively approved on the ground floor (because retail sales uses are envisioned on all identified retail streets, according to both the current and proposed retail plans).
Uses identified with “P” may be approved administratively in all buildings, including buildings controlled by use permit or site plan, unless the subject use permit or site plan has conditions either requiring a specific use other than that proposed, or precluding the proposed use or a particular use category (either specifically or by reference to an adopted policy). This is articulated in 7.1.2.A (and also in Articles 4, 5, 6, 8 and 11).
In C-O districts, a drugstore is “S” in the use table. Does that mean that a drugstore must be specified in site plans or is it included in retail? Uses that are “S” in the use table may be considered only in buildings controlled by site plan. Once a site plan is approved, that site plan controls the property, and such use would likely be controlled by site plan conditions. A drug store is classified as “retail, sales.” Therefore, post-site plan approval:
- If there is a condition allowing or requiring retail sales uses in the proposed location, then the use can be approved administratively.
- If there is a condition requiring a specific use other than retail sales, requiring a specific retail sales use, or explicitly prohibiting a drug store, then the use cannot be approved administratively. A site plan amendment will be required and all relevant policies will be considered.
- If there is a condition allowing or requiring retail uses (without specifying sales), then a drugstore, or any other retail sales, personal service or repair use can be approved administratively.