County Attorney  |  Land Use Law Handbook

The Albemarle County Land Use Law Handbook was created to be used by County officials as a resource for dealing with land use issues and is published online as a convenience to citizens.  The Handbook is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  The Handbook is maintained by the County Attorney's Office, and was originally issued in November 2001.  The Handbook was last comprehensively revised in July 2015, and is periodically amended as referenced. Please note that you will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader (or equivalent) to view these documents.


Land Use Law Handbook  PDF format document

Table of Contents

Introduction - Brief overview of handbook content (June 2016)

Chapter 1 - The County and Its Boards, Commissions and Officers: Composition, Powers and Duties

Chapter 2 - The Origins of the Zoning Power

Chapter 3 - The Objectives, Purposes and Nature of Zoning (June 2016)

Chapter 4 - The Scope of the Zoning Power 

Chapter 5 - The Dillon Rule and Its Limitations on a Locality's Land Use Powers

Chapter 6 - Constitutional Principles Affecting a Locality's Land Use Powers (June 2016)

Chapter 7 - The Preemption of Local Land Use Laws by State and Federal Laws: Total Preemption, Partial Preemption and Laws That Are Not Preemptive 

Chapter 8 - The Differences Among Legislative, Discretionary, Quasi-judicial, and Ministerial Acts

Chapter 9 - The Comprehensive Plan (June 2016)

Chapter 10 - Zoning Map and Text Amendments (June 2016)

Chapter 11 - Conditional Zoning: Proffers (January 2016)

Chapter 12 - Special Use Permits (June 2016)

Chapter 13 - Variances (January 2016)

Chapter 14 - Official Determinations by Zoning Officials 

Chapter 15 - Appeals of Officials Determinations to the Board of Zoning Appeals(January 2016) 

Chapter 16 - Interpreting Statutes and Ordinances (June 2016)

Chapter 17 - Classifying Primary and Accessory Uses (January 2016)

Chapter 18 - Nonconformities (June 2016)

Chapter 19 - Vested Rights 

Chapter 20 - Development Rights in the Rural Areas Zoning District in Albemarle County (June 2016)

Chapter 21 - Design Review: Selected Issues for an Architectural Review Board 

Chapter 22 - Subdivisions (June 2016)

Chapter 23 - Site Plans 

Chapter 24 - Roads 

Chapter 25 - Road Improvements in Conjunction with Land Development

Chapter 26 - Open-Space and Conservation Easements, Land Use Valuation, and Other Laws Related to the Use of Land (June 2016)

Chapter 27 - Enforcing the Zoning Ordinance (June 2016)

Chapter 28 - Notice Requirements for Land Use Proposals 

Chapter 29 - Meeting Procedures and the Freedom of Information Act 

Chapter 30 - Conflicts of Interest (January 2016)

Chapter 31 - Civil Liability of the County and its Officials for Land Use Decisions 

Chapter 32 - The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act

Chapter 33 - The Federal Laws Applicable to Railroads

Chapter 34 - The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (June 2016)

Chapter 35 - The Telecommunications Act of 1996 and Wireless Telecommunications (June 2016)

Appendix A - Authorized Signatories for Land Use Applications

Appendix B - The Freedom of Information Act: Ten Things to Know About Responding to a Request for Records

Appendix C - Closed Meeting Motions and Certification

Appendix D - Understanding the Citations of Judicial Opinions for the Non-Lawyer

Appendix E - Regulations and Guidelines: Their Legal Standing in Land Use Decision-Making

Appendix F - Principles of Deed Construction 

Appendix G - Strategies for Making a Decision

Appendix H - Digest of Key Matters Considered by the Planning Commission (June 2016)

Appendix I - A Comprehensive Approach to Planning:  Key Policies in the Comprehensive Plan that Guide Development (June 2016)

Zoning Ordinance  
Hot Topics
Water Protection Ordinance  
Contact the Department
County Attorney
401 McIntire Road
Charlottesville, VA 22902
FAX: 434-972-4068
Email the Department