Board of Supervisor’s Meeting Date: 

Wando W. & Kathleen E. Legg

June 16, 2003

Staff Lead:


Kimberley Johnson, Zoning Administrator

Community Development


Proposed Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to Section 3-309 (Outdoor Recreation) and the Addition of Section 5-919 to the Ordinance

Topic Description:


The applicant seeks to build an outdoor paintball facility on the property located at 7569 Greenwich Road (PIN #7924-45-6276).  The Zoning Ordinance does not currently provide for a paintball facility, therefore the applicant applied for a text amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to add paintball as a use in the RA zone under Section 3-309 (Outdoor Recreation) and to add standards for a paintball facility in Section 5-900 of the Zoning Ordinance.   On January 23, 2003 , the Planning Commission held a public hearing on the proposed text amendments and held work sessions on February 27, 2003 and April 8, 2003 .  On April 24, 2003 , the Planning Commission voted to send the text amendment forward with refined text, as provided in Attachment 1, for the Board of Supervisors public hearing and approval.

The applicant has proposed that paintball be allowed as a special exception in the RA zone.  The special exception process will allow the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to examine any impacts upon surrounding properties and nearby roadways.   As a special exception, the use would be subject to the general standards enumerated in Section 5-006 of the Zoning Ordinance, as well as the general standards for Category 9, Outdoor Recreation Uses, located in Section 5-901 of the Zoning Ordinance.

The applicant has proposed the following specific standards for a paintball field for incorporation into Section 5-919:

  • Minimum lot size of 15 acres;
  • No permanent structure shall be closer than 75 feet to any lot line;
  • The facility shall have direct access to a road designated as a major collector (or higher) in the Comprehensive Plan unless the Board of Supervisors finds that the type and amount of traffic generated by the facility is such that it will not cause an undue impact on the neighbors or adversely affect safety of road;
  • Limited hours of operation: Saturdays, Sundays, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.   Hours of operation will be adjusted for use of available sunlight (no outside lighting);
  • All safe and spectator areas must be protected by special paintball netting, or participants and spectators must wear approved paintball goggles; and
  • All play areas must have an established 75-foot buffer to prevent any paintball activity from encroaching upon adjoining properties.

At the request of the Planning Commission, staff reviewed the types of standards and conditions that other jurisdictions utilize when considering a paintball use.  Staff could find no other Virginia jurisdiction which listed paintball as a specific use in their zoning ordinance, or which included specific standards for paintball fields within the ordinance.  Typically, paintball is classified as an ‘outdoor recreation use’ in other Virginia zoning ordinances.    Staff was able to find a jurisdiction in Tennessee , Knox County , which included paintball as a specific use in their ordinance, with specific standards established for the paintball use.

In addition, staff located several approvals for paintball fields within other Virginia jurisdictions: Culpeper County , Greene County and Chesapeake City .   Each of these jurisdictions approved the paintball use subject to conditions intended to mitigate potential impacts of the use.

The Planning Commission asked staff to review and propose standards for paintball to address several specific areas of concerns:

  • Lot size,
  • Setbacks from property lines,
  • Landscape screening for structures, parking areas and play areas,
  • Netting,
  • Accessory Retail Use, and
  • Operations and Safety, including Emergency Services procedures.

These issues are discussed in more detail below, and proposed standards to address these issues have been incorporated into the proposed text amendment.

Lot Size

The applicant has proposed a minimum 15 acre lot size.   While the parcel being proposed for the paintball use includes a total of 24.46 acres, only 15 acres of that lot is planned to be utilized for paintball, with the residual remaining in residential use.   The Planning Commission felt that a larger lot size was necessary in order to provide the required buffers, and therefore increased the minimum lot size to 24 acres.

Setbacks From Property Line

The applicant has proposed a setback requirement of 75’ from the property lines for permanent structures and for the paintball play areas.   The standards for most of the other outdoor recreation uses listed in the Zoning Ordinance require a minimum 100’ setback from the property line for all structures.   Staff has also recommended that all structures associated with the use be set back a minimum of 100’ from property lines, in keeping with the typical standard for other outdoor uses.  While the applicant has proposed that only permanent structures be restricted from the buffer, it is suggested that no structures, permanent or temporary, be permitted in the buffer.  The existing additional standards for structures associated with other outdoor recreational uses do not differentiate between permanent and temporary structures.  The proposed layout for a typical paintball field includes “safety huts”—temporary structures used so players may rest while competition is taking place.  Those structures also should be subject to the setback requirements to protect neighboring properties.

The Planning Commission’s discussion of setbacks suggested a more substantial setback for paintball play areas, linked to the distance a paintball could travel.   The Knox County standards provide for a minimum 200’ buffer area around the perimeter of the property, with an additional requirement that no paintball range be located within 500’ of residential use.   The permits approved in Virginia jurisdictions for other paintball facilities included setback requirements ranging from 10’ ( Chesapeake ) to 300’ ( Greene County ).  The Culpeper County approval set no specific buffers, but rather required the applicant to demonstrate through the site plan process that proper buffers are in place to insure that “no paintball activity leaves the boundaries of the site, including fired paintballs.”

The Planning Commission, in their discussion of this issue, indicated a desire to create a buffer sufficient in size so that a fired paintball would not leave the site, expressed as a specific standard that could be modified if the applicant can show that some lesser buffer provides the same protection.  In order to determine the appropriate buffer size, the Commission has asked how far a fired paintball can travel.  Several paintball sites on the internet provide a calculator for determining maximum range based on the type of paintball, “gun” pressure, and other factors.  Generally, the maximum range of a paintball under maximum pressure (300psi) is about 300’.  Based on this information, Planning Commission included a buffer of 300’ between all paintball play areas and property lines in the paintball standards, with flexibility for the Board to reduce the buffer as part of the paintball application in the event the applicant can demonstrate that lesser buffers provide the same level of protection.     

The text amendment also incorporates the minimum 500’ setback from adjoining residential properties as proposed by the Planning Commission. 


A plastic mesh netting around the actual play fields is typically used—and is required by the insurance industry—in paintball facilities in order to protect individuals not on the field from paintballs.  The insurance industry standard is a 10’ minimum.   The Planning Commission noted that the Knox County, Tennessee standard required 20’ minimum netting, providing additional protection when paintballs are fired at an angle.  The 20’ minimum netting requirement has been incorporated as a proposed standard.

Landscape Screening

The text incorporates a standard requiring screening for all parking and spectator areas, play areas and structures. Because the necessary type and amount of screening will vary depending on the site design, this requirement is flexible to allow the Board to assess the size and location of the particular facilities in determining the amount and extent of landscaping.

Accessory Retail Use

The applicant has indicated that some equipment would be sold on site to users of the site, similar in scale or character to a pro-shop at a golf course.  The Planning Commission asked staff to incorporate a condition restricting the retail use to such an accessory character; this standard has been included.

Operations and Safety

A standard requiring the preparation of an operations plan and a safety plan in conjunction with the special exception application has also been included.  This will allow the appropriate staff, including Emergency Services, to review the information and suggest any conditions necessary to assure safe and non-intrusive operations to the Board as part of the special exception review.

Other Standards

Standards have also been inculpated to limit the hours of operation to daylight, and to prohibit lighting and amplified sound.  The applicant proposed standards limiting use of the facility to weekends; however, staff has not incorporated this specific limitation as a standard for paintball use generally.   The Board could apply this limitation as part of any special exception granted for the use.

The applicant’s proposed language for a standard related to access and traffic, has also been incorporated, as the proposed language is typical for other outdoor recreation uses in the Zoning Ordinance.  This standard will require access from a major collector (or higher) level street, while still allowing the Board flexibility to determine a lesser street is adequate in specific situations depending on circumstances.

Site Plan

The applicant does not propose to require a site plan for the paintball use.  The Planning Commission supported a site plan requirement, in order to ensure actual recreation and parking areas are delineated to avoid future ambiguities.  A site plan also would tie down the location and size for any structures associated with paintball recreation, and required landscaping and screening would be delineated.  The Health Department and Virginia Department of Transportation also would need to sign off on a site plan application.  A site plan also would provide the Department of Community Development with the ability to establish adequate bonds to ensure the necessary improvements would be completed.  The Planning Commission discussion supported the site plan requirement; therefore the proposed text amendment language provided does require a site plan for the paintball use.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

Hold the public hearing for the text amendment as set forth in the attached Ordinance.

Financial Impacts Analysis:

No financial impact statement was conducted for this application.

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

Community Development

Attachment 1 Ordinance for approval