Virginia
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Local Land Use Planning Provisions in Virginia

Land Use Planning Agencies/Responsibilities

Every locality, whether county or municipal, must establish a local planning commission to act in an advisory capacity to the local governing body regarding development and planning (VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-2210).  Adjacent municipalities or counties may enter into an agreement to form a joint local planning commission (VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-2219). In addition, a town may designate the local planning commission of the county in which it is located as its own local planning commission (VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-2218).

Every local planning commission must develop a comprehensive plan and recommend its adoption to the local governing body, and every local governing body must adopt (and review at least every five years) a comprehensive plan (VA. CODE ANN. §§ 15.2-2223, 15.2-2230).

Mandatory Local Plan Elements Related to Biodiversity

The local planning commission must study, among other matters, “natural resources” and “environmental . . . factors” when developing its comprehensive plan (VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-2224).

As noted above, counties, cities, and towns within Tidewater Virginia (VA. CODE ANN. § 10.1-2101) have planning and land use elements in their comprehensive plans that specify water quality measures to ensure protection of the Chesapeake Bay, including its aquatic (VA. CODE ANN. § 10.1-2107(B)).

Discretionary Local Plan Elements Related to Biodiversity 

Local comprehensive plans may include designation of areas for a variety of uses, which include “conservation; active and passive recreation . . . [and] floodplain and drainage” (VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-2223). For localities with populations greater than 20,000, comprehensive plans must designate one or more urban development areas that incorporate principles of “new urbanism,” which may include “preservation of natural areas” (VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-2223.1(B)). 

As noted above, local governments not within Tidewater Virginia may incorporate the criteria set out by the CBPA for water quality protection into its comprehensive plan (VA. CODE ANN. § 10.1-2110).

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