Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Planning Commission

May 14, 2009

Staff Lead:


Kimberley Johnson, Zoning Administrator

Community Development



A Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to Article 3 and Article 5 to Modify Requirements and Limitations in the C-1 Zoning District, to Include Changes to Setbacks, Addition of Use Limitations, Allowing Upper-Story Residential Uses By-Right, and Allowing Up to 100,000 Square Feet of Retail/Shopping Center With Approval of a Special Exception


Topic Description:

The proposed text amendment seeks to modify the provisions of the C-1 Zoning District in order to facilitate development within the District more in keeping with the neighborhood scale commercial and mixed use centers envisioned by the Comprehensive Plan.   Key changes include:

1.      Allow an increase in size for a shopping center from 50,000 to 100,000 square feet (with special exception approval) in order to facilitate mixed use development with upper story uses.

2.      Allow residential units to be located over commercial uses by-right instead of requiring special exception approval.

3.      Require buildings to be set closer to the street, with sidewalks and street-trees on street frontages and parking areas located to the side and rear of buildings.

4.      Add standards for all development in the C-1 Zoning District related to building orientation and massing, as well as access and parking, to require development consistent with a neighborhood scale.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

Conduct a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached Ordinance.

Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted.


Summary Staff Report:

The C-1 Commercial Neighborhood District is described in Section 3-200 of the Ordinance as:

Generally a town center type district allowing neighborhood commercial activities and some residential uses.  Its main purpose is to provide areas for neighborhood type retail and service convenience shopping.  The areas should be located so as to provide pedestrian access from nearby neighborhoods.  The size should relate to the neighborhoods served and the configuration should allow for internal pedestrian movement.

This neighborhood-scaled, pedestrian oriented character envisioned for the C-1 district is further reiterated in the Comprehensive Plan for areas with C-1, including New Baltimore and Marshall.  The proposed text amendment seeks to modify the provisions of the C-1 Zoning District in order to facilitate development within the District more in keeping with the neighborhood scale commercial and mixed use centers envisioned by the Comprehensive Plan.  Under existing regulations, such form often cannot be achieved without approval of waivers or modifications of provisions.

While this text amendment was stimulated by several pending rezoning applications in the New Baltimore Service District on land envisioned by the Comprehensive Plan to be Commercial Neighborhood, C-1 properties are found throughout the County and the proposed text amendment therefore has broader implications.   Staff has calculated that 412 parcels containing approximately 432.94 acres are currently zoned C-1, with the largest concentrations of C-1 zoning located in the Marshall and Calverton Service Districts.  An inventory of the parcels zoned C-1 is provided as Attachment 1.


This text amendment was first initiated by the Planning Commission on December 10, 2008.  Since that time, the Commission has held work sessions on the proposed text amendment and two public hearings (February 26, 2009 and March 26, 2009), making significant changes to the draft language in response to public input.  Earlier versions of the regulations required all but the smallest development in the C-1 district to be built as two-stories and located within 10 feet of the street, whereas the version ultimately recommended for approval by the Commission provides substantially more flexibility.  Only developments over 50,000 square feet must incorporate two-story buildings, and then only on a limited basis.   While buildings are still to be set closer to the street, with parking to the rear and side, more flexibility is provided in the amount of setback.   Flexibility is also enhanced through broad waiver provisions built into the regulations.

The key changes proposed to C-1 are discussed in more detail below. 

Proposed Changes

Increase in Total Development Size from 50,000 to 100,000 Square Feet

The existing C-1 regulations do not allow shopping centers (defined to be a group of three or more businesses and/or uses) to exceed a total of 50,000 square feet.   The proposed text amendment increases the total size of a shopping center allowed from 50,000 square feet to 100,000 square feet, with special exception approval, in order to facilitate mixed use development with upper story uses—a more traditional town form—rather than a typical strip shopping center.  To ensure that the increased square footage is utilized to create these traditional mixed use forms of development rather than just a larger retail shopping center, the following limitations are included for developments over 50,000 square feet:

A.  No individual building footprint shall exceed 15,000 square feet.

B.  No individual building size shall exceed 25,000 square feet.

C.  The amount of first-floor space shall not exceed 50,000 square feet.

D.     Buildings shall predominately be at least 25 feet in height, to include some two-story buildings.

E.     Any historic structures located on the property, as determined by the Board, are preserved and incorporated into the proposed development.

The intent of the standards is to assure that larger developments are comprised of a collection of small to medium sized buildings, rather than larger boxes.  The Planning Commission spent substantial time refining these standards, particularly as they relate to the issue of two-story buildings.  The original draft required two-story within development over 50,000 square feet in size.  The current standards require most buildings in such a development to be two stories in height, with only limited functional two-story buildings required.  For developments over 50,000 square feet, there will of necessity be some two-story buildings, as the increase over 50,000 square feet is only allowed to provide upper story uses.  The development community felt strongly that the absolute requirement for two functional stories for all buildings was economically infeasible.   This revised language provides significantly more flexibility for the County and an applicant to work through the issue of height on a case-by-case basis with the special exception process.    The last standard above, related to historic structures was added by the Commission to address concerns that the provisions do not have the effect of encouraging the removal of historic structures; the new standard addresses this issue with respect to developments over 50,000 square feet in size.

Residential Uses

The type of development envisioned in the C-1 areas by the Comprehensive Plan is typically multi-story buildings with lower stories devoted to retail or other commercial uses and upper stories devoted to residential or commercial uses.    Yet the existing regulations only allow upper story residential uses through the special exception process, providing a strong disincentive to the provision of such units.   The proposed text amendment eliminates the special exception requirement for residential units over commercial uses.  The existing special exception standards for such residential uses are incorporated as use limitations in Article 3, continuing to limit density and assuring adequate open space for residents.  The specific limitations include:

1.      Multi-family dwellings are permitted only in buildings where the first floor is devoted to commercial use, with residential use on the first floor limited to the minimum area needed to provide an entrance and lobby to the residential units.

2.      The total residential density shall not exceed 8 units per acre.

3.      In addition to the 10% minimum landscaped green space required by Section 3-409 for the C-1 zone, development incorporating 10 or more residential units shall provide a minimum of 2,000 square feet of consolidated, usable open space, with a minimum dimension of 30 feet in any direction.  The consolidated open space shall be designed as an integral part of the development and shall be accessible to all residents by internal pedestrian sidewalks or walkways.  An additional 200 square feet of consolidated, usable open space shall be provided for each unit over 10. 

Building Relationship to the Street

The existing setback requirements in the C-1 Zoning District do not promote the traditional form of development envisioned for the District.  The setback requirements create a more suburban form of development, with buildings set back from the street and the large setback areas typically devoted to parking.

The proposed language eliminates the substantial setback requirement and prohibits parking and paving from being located between the building and street.  In combination, these two factors will encourage buildings closer to the street, with green space and sidewalks between the building and street rather than paved areas.  Larger setbacks are maintained along Route 29 where it may not be desired to have development actually address the street.  Existing buildings are allowed to expand without meeting this provision, and waiver provisions are also provided so that flexibility is available to address unique circumstances. 

Use Limitations on Building Orientation, Scale and Massing, Access and Parking

The proposed text amendment adds limitations related to building orientation, scale, massing, and access and parking which would apply to all uses in the C-1 district.   These limitations are intended to create development of a smaller form, scale and character consistent with surrounding neighborhoods.  The limitations also seek to establish a more pedestrian-oriented form of development.   

Building Massing and Orientation

The regulations do not eliminate the ability to do larger buildings.   However, they do require that buildings larger than 5,000 square feet be designed to avoid large blank building walls, discouraging the suburban form of development now possible under the C-1 provisions.  Such massing requirements already exist in the C-1 District for retail and office buildings over 5,000 square feet; the amendment extends the massing requirement to buildings for all uses.   

The provisions further require that buildings be designed with an entrance addressing the street, a key element to creating pedestrian character.  These requirements, in combination with the reduced setback requirements, should lead to a more traditional form of development in C-1 areas.

Questions were raised at the February Planning Commission meeting regarding which building faces must be articulated and which street must a building face when there are multiple streets.  In response, staff added language to the draft which clarified that the massing and articulation requirement apply only to building faces visible from a public street or public place, such as a park.   Language was also been added to clarify that the street a building must face is generally the existing public street.  Staff reviewed the existing C-1 lots in the County and determined that in almost all cases, the street and parcel layout is such that buildings should be designed to face these existing public streets.   Only in cases of larger parcels, where new public streets and/or private streets may be created in conjunction with development, does the question of which street is most important typically emerge.  Since a special permit or special exception or rezoning would typically be involved in these larger scale developments, the hierarchy of streets and relative importance of pedestrian orientation could be determined by the County in conjunction with these approvals.

Access and Parking

The proposed language also requires that parking be located behind buildings, rather than in front of buildings as is now allowed and is typically done.  In recognition that it may not always be possible for parking to be located entirely behind buildings, parking is also allowed beside buildings where necessary to meet minimum parking requirements.   Access into lots is limited to alleys and shared entrances, or for new streets created into the property.   Streets are required to be laid out to help create a grid in the larger surrounding area, where possible.

Waiver Provisions

The proposed text amendment incorporates waiver provisions allowing the Zoning Administrator, in conjunction with site plan approval, the Board of Zoning Appeals in conjunction with special permit approval, and the Board of Supervisors in conjunction with Special Exception or Rezoning approval to waive the use limitations set forth in Article 3 where:

-     the alternative proposed does not diminish the development’s neighborhood-scaled, pedestrian character, or

-     it is necessary to allow minimal use of the property; or

-     where it facilitates the preservation of an historic structure; or

-     or, in the case of open space for residential uses, where other open space and facilities are nearby.

No waiver is proposed for the special permit or special exception standards limiting footprint and building sizes for retail/shopping center development.


Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Department of Economic Development


1.      Inventory of C-1 Parcels

2.      Maps of C-1 Parcels

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