QUESTION: Why Do Some Development Projects Need City Council or Planning Commission Approval and Some Do Not?

ANSWER:​ Some development is considered "by right," meaning the project conforms to an area's zoned use. If someone wants to build a surf shop on property that is zoned for commercial use, it's consistent with the zoning of that property and does not require any additional approval. ​​
HOUSE WITH REZONING SIGN IN FRONTThe City’s zoning ordinance​, adopted by City Council, specifies the zoning districts throughout Virginia Beach. The districts outline what type of activity or development can happen on any given zoned parcel. With the exception of City-owned rights-of-way, all land in Virginia Beach has a designated zoning district.

When someone wants to build a structure and it matches the zoning use of the particular parcel, City staff can approve the project without taking it before City Council or the Planning Commission because they’ve already approved such use on the parcel. In general, you want uses that are consistent and compatible and zoning districts establishes these.  

It is only when someone wants to build something that isn’t already permitted in the zoning district that a plan must get additional approvals from a Council-appointed board or City Council. Part of that process includes getting public input and feedback on the proposed change. The Zoning Office follows the ordinances established by City Council and examines each project based on its merits. 

If it turns out a project is going before a board or commission to have an area rezoned, there will be signs – and we mean this literally. Depending on the parcel, the sign will be bright yellow, orange, green or blue, announcing the purpose of the project, along with where and when a meeting will take place to brief attendees and get input.
For more information, a copy of the zoning districts and definitions is available in the sidebar to the right. If you’d like to know more about the application process, forms, appeals and a searchable records database, please visit​, or call the Planning Department at 385-4621.

Contact Information

VB411 - By Right Development & Laskin Feeder Roads