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Arlington County Civic Federation

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A Note on Zoning Regulation Details

Martha Moore has prepared this summary of Arlington County's residential zoning laws.

The technical difficulty of preparing the summary will probably result in some detail changes over time. This addendum by Martha Moore is dated 5/6/05

Special Rule for Undersized Lots

If a house was built in 1950 or earlier AND is on an undersized lot, the house can be expanded to have 50% more living space that it did in 1950 (on the date that Section 35-A-3b of the zoning ordinance was adopted). Living space includes basements but not attics or crawl spaces. They are enforcing it but also supporting variances.

If the house was built after 1950, the basis for expansion is what was built at that time. People who buy homes on undersized lots need to be aware of this. They need to know/prove what additions have been done in the past. This is a kind of separate rule much like what the County Manager is proposing.

Rebuilding Rights

Section 35-A-4 controls rebuilding rights based on the amount of destruction you have. The destruction is based on the value of the structure minus the foundation. I guess it s calculated based on what the insurance pays. I've been told the foundation is worth 15%, but who knows. Part of its value is the sewer/water hookup and that fact that there is a hole there and excavation is expensive.

If you have >75% destruction, you must rebuild to the current rules (height, setbacks, etc.). If you have less than 75% destruction, you can rebuild the prior structure provided you do so within a year.

The County Manager would exempt any new coverage restrictions from the rules you would need to comply with for rebuilding and gives two years to rebuild. Many people mistakenly think that his proposed language eliminates the above, which is does not. The County Manager proposes to revise the wording of Section 32-C (Coverage) and does not change the wording of Section 35-A-4.

We are lucky in Arlington in that we have had few homes destroyed by fire or other calamity in the last 10 years. Here is an example (not reviewed by staff) of how I think it would work.

Property is assessed at $600,000: $350,000 for land and $250,000 for structure. Foundation is valued at $37,500 (15% of $250,000). Remainder of building valued at $212,500 ($250,000 minus $37,500). 75% destruction would be $159,375. It s not inconceivable that this number could be reached with a substantial fire and a lot of water damage.

More Info added: August 2005

As you know, this summer the County Board advertised a third Lot Coverage option and delegates will vote on the option at our October 4th meeting. The Civic Federation´┐Żs Planning & Zoning Committee asked staff to provide data about how the third option would affect individual properties well in advance of the meeting. You can now retrieve the new data on Martha Moore's Web site.

When you get to the site, you will see several folders. The new data is in the folder marked "Third Option Analysis." Download the file, which is a zipped Excel document. Do not try to open it on the site.

The committee has not analyzed the data yet, but wanted to make sure it was available ASAP, so civic associations could see how option 3 impacts properties in their neighborhoods. When the committee does an analysis, they will put other documents in the folder and we will notify you that you should check for updates either there on on the Civic Federation website.

Please also note that the other folders have materials related to the two earlier lot coverage proposals that are still under consideration.

If you have questions, email Martha Moore at martha+.

This page was last revised on: September 1, 2005.
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