Zoning is the process by which the County legally regulates the use of property and physical configuration of development upon tracts of land within its jurisdiction. Zoning is an exercise of the “police power” and as such must be enacted for protection of public health, safety, and welfare. The power to regulate the use of land though zoning is delegated to local governments by state law. Zoning must be based on the Comprehensive Plan. The Zoning Ordinance is the local law adopted by the Board of Supervisors to assure orderly development according to specific standards established for the general public welfare and to implement the Comprehensive Plan.
The Zoning Ordinance governs the types of permitted land uses, maximum density, lot sizes, building heights, setbacks, etc. In addition to the text, the Zoning Ordinance consists of a Zoning District Map. This map divides the County into zoning districts for different types and densities of development, while the text specifies the regulations that apply to each district. Gloucester County originally adopted zoning in 1984. The Zoning Ordinance was most recently revised comprehensively in 1998 to implement the 1991 Comprehensive Growth Management Plan.
Any changes to the Zoning Ordinance, including rezoning of a specific property from the current zoning district to another zoning district, requires review by the Planning Commission. Staff prepares a report on the proposal and provides recommendations to the Planning Commission. Staff’s recommendations are based on the content of the application, its consistency with the Comprehensive Plan as well as recommendations from other departments, agencies, interested parties, and other factors relating to the proposal. Rezonings and Zoning Code amendments may also be sponsored by the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors.
The Planning Commission holds a public hearing to receive input from affected property owners and the community. After the public hearing, the Planning Commission forwards their recommendation for approval or denial of the zoning amendment to the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors also holds a public hearing and makes the final decision whether to approve the zoning amendment or deny it. In addition to preparing the staff report and background materials, staff provides administrative support which includes processing the application, notifying adjacent property owners and the public about the hearings, answering questions about the application and forwarding the Commission’s recommendation and back-up information to the Board of Supervisors.