Land and Development Management

​​​​​​Land is a most precious resource – limited in amount, highly valued and often exploited, a commodity that is constantly being sold, developed, or redeveloped.  

As the city matures, its land inventory becomes even more precious. Management of land in its natural state ​demands that we employ wise management and stewardship practices to safeg​​​uard the city’s natural heritage. Similarly, developed land should be used in​ a sustainable manner, so that its value to present and future generations is maintained or enhanced.

Virginia Beach is uniquely located along the Atlantic Ocean between the two largest estuaries in the world, the Chesapeake Bay and the Albermarle and Pamlico Sounds.    This physical location has resulted in a very special natural environment, which is vital for numerous exemplary living resources.​

The city's geographic area comprises a total of 307 square miles with 35 miles of Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean beaches.  The land area consists of 248 square miles with much of the northern sector devoted to more urban uses.  The southern part of the city, however, remains rural.  

Land Use in the Northern Urban and Suburban Area 

In 1979, the City of Virginia Beach established a Green Line, an urban-growth boundary, to concentrate development to the north part of the city and protect its agricultural land to the south.  The development pattern in the northern sector of the city is primarily suburban sprawl.

The Strategic Growth Areas​, as defined by the city, are mixed-use developments located along key transportation routes in the northern sector. Centering development around these areas​ can help to limit sprawl as well as protect our existing open spaces​.

The 2007 estimate of developable land for the north part was roughly 4,400 acres.  Currently, there are few opportunities for expanding the existing open space acquisitions; therefore, city acquisition of these parcels should be considered of the highest priority. 

​Land Use in the Transition Area

The city's Transition Area, located south of the Green Line, comprises nearly 3,200 acres of developable land.  Of this, about 1,700  acres are located inside the "Interfacility Traffic Area."  Some additional residential and non-residential growth is permitted in the remaining 1,500 acres consistent with planning policies.

Land Use in the Southern Rural Area 

The Southern area of the City of Virginia Beach is primarily agricultural and very low density development.  In 1995, the City Council adopted the Agricultural Reserve Program (ARP)  as a way to preserve and protect agricultural lands, located south of the Transition Area, through perpetual easements.  By purchasing development rights, the ARP will ensure that farm and forested lands will be available for future generations.


To date, the Agricultural Reserve Program​ has protected more than 9,223 acres.

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