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State Land Use Planning Provisions in Virginia

State Planning Enabling Law 

VA. CODE ANN. §§ 15.2-2200 to 2238.

Inter-Jurisdictional/Regional Elements

Localities within a regional “planning district” (a contiguous area within the boundaries established by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development) are authorized to create by written agreement a planning district commission, provided at least 45 percent of the district’s localities enter into the agreement (VA. CODE ANN. §§ 15.2-4200 to 4208).  The purpose of the commission is to encourage cooperation among localities, as well as between localities and the state, on planning issues that affect regional interests (VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-4207(A)). Each planning district commission must prepare, and revise at least every five years, a “regional strategic plan” to address regional issues such as transportation, housing and environmental management VA. CODE ANN. §§ 15.2-4209(A), 15.2-4213). Before adopting the plan, the commission must submit the plan for comment and recommendations to the state Department of Housing and Community Development and to localities within the (VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-4209(B)). All actions taken by the commission must be consistent with its strategic plan (VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-4210). Localities may choose to adopt the plan to guide actions of the local governing body (VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-4209(C)). 

Planning to Protect Specific Areas

The state allows the cities of Chesapeake and Hampton to establish a “duplicate” planning commission to ensure that planning decisions are in accord with the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (CBPA) (VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-2220).

State law also requires counties, cities and towns in the Tidewater area to include in their comprehensive plans a delineation of lands within their jurisdiction that qualify as Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas and to develop land use planning for the protection of water quality in those areas (VA. CODE ANN. §§ 10.1-2109). The state’s Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board must develop regulatory criteria to be used by local governments when considering requests to develop land in these areas. Among other things, the criteria must promote water quality that “support[s] the propagation and growth of all aquatic life” in state waters (VA. CODE ANN. § 10.1-2107(B)). Localities outside of the Tidewater area may elect to incorporate these criteria into their comprehensive plans (VA. CODE ANN. § 10.1-2110). 

State Assistance to Localities

The Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board is authorized to provide information, technical assistance and financial assistance to local and regional governing bodies in developing comprehensive plans and on other land use and water quality matters in furtherance of the CBPA (VA. CODE ANN. §§ 10.1-2102, 2103).

Virginia law creates a Regional Cooperation Incentive Fund aimed at “encouraging inter-local strategic and functional area planning and other regional cooperative activities” (VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-4217). Funds are administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development subject to state appropriations and a 25% local match.

Planning district commissions are entitled to receive state financial support to carry out their duties (VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-4216).

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