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Frequently Asked Questions

The Community Development processes can often times come with a lot of questions. Please see the links below to help answer some of the most commonly asked ones.

If you still have questions that were not answered here, feel free to email

Zoning Questions

When do I need a zoning permit?
A zoning permit is needed for any new addition, structure, ground cover (ie patio, sidewalk, driveway), moving, enlargement or alteration of any structure or the establishment of any land use.
Do I need a zoning permit for a pre-built "temporary" shed?
A zoning permit would be required for a pre-built shed, even if this structure does not have a permanent foundation. 
Where can I find the Zoning of my property?
The Zoning of your property can be identified using the County’s Online GIS Property Map.
Where can I learn what the permitted uses are for my property?
Permitted uses are determined by the zoning of your property.  Article IV of the Zoning Ordinance lists the permitted uses as well as conditional uses for each Zoning District.
Where can I find out what the setbacks are for my property?
Once you have determined your property’s zoning you can review the setbacks in Article IV of the Zoning Ordinance, or by calling Central Permitting Staff at (757)365-6211 with the address for the property in question.  If there is no assigned address, provide the Tax Map Number and staff can look up the property.
Where can I find a plat of my property?
The Planning and Zoning Department does not keep a recorded plat on file.  If you are unable to obtain a plat from the current property owner (normally produced with the property deed or land title) The Clerk of the Circuit Court may have it. You can reach their office at 757-365-6233
Can I run a business from my home?
Running a business from your home is considered a home occupation.  There is a Type I and a Type II home occupation and they are based on your zoning classification. Section 5-5002.H states the permitted uses for each home occupation as well as general standards.  A citizen must complete a home occupation application and receive a zoning permit prior to applying for a business license.
Does a fence require a zoning permit?
Yes. A site plan showing the location, size and type of fence should be submitted along with a Zoning Permit Application . Information on fence requirements can be found in Section  5-2000(G)
Is a zoning permit required for a shed, carports etc.?
Yes. All accessory structures require a zoning permit.
Is a zoning permit required to erect an agricultural structure?
Yes, agricultural structures are required to meet the minimum zoning setbacks for the district in which they will be constructed. Therefore, a zoning permit application and site plan is required.
When is a Health Department Site Improvement Form Needed?
A Health Department Site Improvement Form is needed if any new structure or addition is added to a property that has private well and/or septic system. It could also be needed if interior alterations are done in the house to change the occupancy.
When is a Health Department Chesapeake Bay Form Needed?
A Health Department Chesapeake Bay Form is needed in order to determine if a reserve drainfield is required for the septic system on the property. Lots which are created after the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Ordinance went into effect are required to have a second drainfield identified a s a reserve in case the primary drainfield has issues functioning properly in the future.
Can I have horses?
Yes, in RAC and RR zoning districts. No more than one (1) horse per acre, excluding one (1) acre for the residence, shall be allowed on any lot. This requirement shall not apply to lots with an area of ten (10) acres or more, excluding an acre for the residence.
Can I have chickens?
  • Chickens are allowed in RR and RAC as an agricultural use. Agriculture regulations apply.
  • Residential chickens are allowed in village center (VC), neighborhood conservation (NC), suburban estate (SE), suburban residential (SR), and only in conjunction with an occupied single family residence. The following standards apply.
  • All chickens shall be provided with a predator proof shelter that is thoroughly ventilated, provides adequate sun and shade and protection from the elements, and is designed to be easily accessed and cleaned.
    • All shelters and associated structures including fencing shall be located fully to the rear of the residential structure.
    • All chickens shall be kept in the shelter outlined in item a., shall have their wings clipped to prevent excessive ranging, and shall be prohibited from free ranging unless under the supervision of the owner or his designee.
    • The maximum number of chickens permitted on a residential property shall be six (6). The keeping of all other types of poultry or fowl are prohibited.
    • No roosters shall be permitted to be kept on a residential property.
    • All shelters and associated structures including fencing shall be kept in a neat and sanitary condition at all times, and must be cleaned on a regular basis so as to prevent odors outside the boundaries of the property. All feed for the chickens shall be kept in a secure container or location to prevent the attraction of rodents and other animals.
    • No person shall store, stockpile or permit any accumulation of chicken litter and waste in any manner whatsoever that, due to odor, attraction of flies or other pests, or for any other reason which diminishes the rights of the adjacent property owners to enjoy reasonable use of their property.
    • No commercial activity such as the selling of eggs or chickens for meat shall be permitted to occur from the residential property.
    • A zoning waiver shall be required prior to the keeping of chickens on residentially zoned properties or the placement of any associated structures.
Can I have an accessory apartment on my property?

An accessory apartment is a Residential Use Type allowed on the same lot as a single-family detached dwelling or in a commercial use that is incidental/subordinate to the primary use. An accessory apartment is allowed as a permitted or conditional use in specific zoning districts, and the following shall apply:

  • An accessory apartment shall not be permitted on any lot which does not have one hundred percent (100%) of the minimum lot size requirement for the zoning district in which the use is located.
  • Only one accessory apartment may be located either in a primary dwelling unit or in an accessory structure on the same lot or parcel as the primary dwelling.
  • Only one accessory apartment is permitted per commercial use.
  • No more than two (2) bedroom are permitted in an accessory apartment.
  • Approval of water and sewage disposal shall be obtained from the Isle of Wight Count Health Department or the Department of Public Utilities.
  • The owner of the residential dwelling unit shall occupy at least one (1) of the dwelling units on the premises.
    • If an accessory apartment is in the primary dwelling, the apartment entry shall be located on the side or rear of the unit, and its design shall be such that the appearance of the dwelling will remain as a single-family residential structure. No accessory apartment shall be attached to a primary dwelling by open walkways, breezeways, patios, decks, etc.
    • The maximum floor area of an accessory apartment in a primary dwelling shall not exceed one thousand (1,000) square feet or thirty-five percent (35%) of the living area of the primary dwelling, excluding garages, breezeways, etc., whichever is less. The maximum floor area of an accessory apartment in an accessory building shall not exceed fifty percent (50%) of the floor area of the accessory building.
    • One (1) parking space shall be required in addition to the required parking for the primary dwelling.
  • A commercial accessory apartment may be located either above or attached to the rear of a commercial unit. In no case shall an accessory apartment be allowed in an accessory structure.
    • The maximum floor area of an accessory apartment located to the rear of a commercial unit shall not exceed thirty-five percent (35%) of the entire unit and shall not exceed fifty (50) percent of the entire unit if it is located above a commercial unit.
    • Parking for the apartment must be located to the rear or side of the commercial unit. Each apartment must be provided one and one-half (1.5) parking spaces in addition to what is required for the commercial use.
    • The entry to the apartment shall be located on the side or rear of the commercial unit, and the building design shall maintain its commercial character and appearance.
    • No accessory apartment shall be attached to a commercial unit by open walkways, breezeways, patios or decks.
How long does it take for a plan to be reviewed when permitting?
The application review time is approximately ten (10) days. Review times may be shorter or longer depending on the current work volume of the department. Review times may be longer if all required materials are not submitted at the time of application.
Do I need a permit to repair or replace my septic/drainfield?
Yes a zoning permit is ALWAYS required in addition to permits from the Health Department. If your property is located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed additional documents and permits may be needed.
Do I need a permit to remove trees from my lot?
A permit may be needed depending on lot, location and/or amount of trees being removed.  For more information please call 757-365-6211.

Building Questions

When is a permit required?

A permit is required before beginning any of the following work:

  • Constructing, enlarging, altering, repairing, or demolishing a building or structure including decks, porches, lean-tos, etc.
  • Changing the use of a building when the new use requires a greater degree of structural strength, fire protection, exit facilities, ventilation or sanitary provisions
  • Installing or altering any equipment which is regulated by the building code
  • Removing or disturbing any asbestos containing materials during demolition, alteration, renovation of or additions to buildings or structures


  • Having a pre-manufactured shed or garage, over 256 square feet, delivered or constructed on site.
  • Adding or replacement of a deck
  • Finishing an unfinished attic, basement or a room over garage
  • Installation of any swimming pool that is either in-ground or above (when more than 24 inches deep)
  • Replacement or installation of water and/or sewer lines
  • Installation of new electrical equipment or wiring
  • Installation of gas fired appliances such as water heaters, stoves or fireplace log sets
When is a permit not required?

Generally, a permit is not required when the work is of a minor nature or constitutes general repairs such as:

  • Replacing plumbing fixtures when alterations are not necessary to the supply or drainage piping
  • Replacement of electrical fixtures when no new wiring or circuits are necessary
  • Painting
  • Replacement of cabinets and counter tops
  • Pouring concrete patios or driveways at grade level (This requires a zoning permit however)
  • Replacement of roofing materials on a single family dwelling
What are the permit fees?
  • Permit fees are based on the square footage of the building or structure for new construction.
  • Electrical permit fees are determined by the service size in amperage.
  • Mechanical permit fees are determined by valuation.
  • Plumbing permits are determined by the number of fixtures to be installed.


Who may apply for a permit?
The building or property owner, lessee or agent of either of these may apply for the permit. Additionally, a Virginia registered architect or engineer, a licensed contractor or subcontractor or their designated employee or agent employed in connection with the project may obtain the permits. Engineers, architects, contractor, or subcontractors are required to provide evidence they are properly licensed or registered by the Commonwealth prior to obtaining permits.
May I obtain permits over the phone or by mail?
Permits can be issued by mail, in person or via email at
May someone else obtain a permit for me?
Yes, as stated above, certain professionals employed in connection with the project may obtain permits. Additionally, the owner may have a designated agent obtain permits for them. An agent is anyone the owner has given authority to act on his or her behalf. An agent must submit a written document from the owner designating them as agent prior to obtaining permits. This form can be found here.
Should I purchase the permit or require the contractor purchase it?
In all instances the contractor should be required to obtain the permit as part of the contract. The permit holder is responsible for ensuring the work meets the requirements of the building code. If the owner obtains the permit for the contractor the contractor cannot be held responsible for complying with the code. If you are dealing with a reputable contractor they should not have a problem obtaining the permit. It is usually the unlicensed contractor who requests the owner obtain the permit. This is a sure sign for you to consider another contractor.
How would I know if a contractor is licensed?
Virginia law requires all contractors to include their license number on all documents to include contracts, proposals, bid forms and advertising. It would always be prudent to ask to see a copy of the license before signing any contract. Once you have the number you can confirm the license by calling the State Board for Contractors in Richmond at (804) 367-8511. Additionally, you can check their information at the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation website at
How long is the permit valid?
Every permit issued shall become invalid unless the work authorized by such permit is commenced within 6 months after its issuance. It will remain valid as long as regularly scheduled inspections continue to happen. The Director of Inspections is authorized to grant, in writing, one or more extensions of time, for periods not more then 6 months each. The extension shall be requested in writing and justifiable cause demonstrated.
May a permit be voided?
The Director of Inspection may void permits when false or fraudulent information has been provided to obtain the permit. Otherwise, the permit may be cancelled by the permit holder.
Can I get a refund on the permit if I decide not to do the project?
The permit holder can cancel a permit anytime prior to completion of the project. Upon cancellation, a refund for the portion of the work not completed can be requested. Generally, refunds will be issued minus the amount of work completed and an administrative fee to cover the cost of processing the refund.
How long does it take for a plan to be reviewed when permitting?
The application review time is approximately ten (10) days. Review times may be shorter or longer depending on the current work volume of the department. Review times may b elonger if all required materials are not submitted at the time of application.