FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about the Accomack County Zoning Process
1. How do I know what I am permitted to build on my property?
The first thing that every property owner, prospective buyer or realtor should do is determine the current zoning of the property. This can be done by looking up the property in AccoMap which is on the County’s Geographic Information System (GIS) website. You can search by:
• Owner’s name
• Parcel ID
• Tax map number
Refer to the “Details” tab after you have located your parcel. Under the “Summary” tab refer to the section entitled “Base Zoning”. This is the current zoning for your property. The website can be found HERE
The second thing to do is to refer to the Accomack County Zoning Ordinance. The Zoning Ordinance is the municipal statute that governs the way that land can be used in Accomack County. The ordinance addresses most every type of functional use for a structure and the zoning districts in which that use is permitted. The two primary uses that are considered in zoning for most uses are:
• “By Right”, permitted without additional consideration
• “Special Use” permitted by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).
The link to the Zoning Ordinance can be found HERE
Applications to the BZA can be found HERE
2. I want to build a house in an Agricultural District, is that permitted?
Houses are permitted “by right” in Agricultural Districts, but they must meet the following criteria:
• Lot size (5 acre minimum)
• Road frontage (150 feet along road across front property line)
o 50 feet from road right of way or front property line
o 15 feet from side property lines (5 feet for accessory structures)
o 35 feet from rear property line (5 feet for accessory structures)
o No accessory structures are permitted in the front setback area
o Not to exceed 35 feet
o Accessory structures not to exceed 12 feet at the eave line
o Accessory structures that exceed 12 feet at eave line must be more than 10 feet from any property line
The link to the appropriate section of the ordinance is found HERE
3. Can I build a restaurant in the Agricultural District?
Restaurants are not permitted “by right” in the Agricultural District. To learn the process for locating a restaurant and other “special exception” uses in the Agricultural District, you should refer to the Special exceptions—Special use permits section of the ordinance which is found in Section 106-53. The link to that section of the ordinance is found HERE.
4. I plan to buy a mobile home, but I think my property is located in the Residential District. Is that permitted?
Mobile homes are not permitted “by right” in the Residential District. If you would like to locate a mobile home in the Residential District you will have to first apply to the Board of Zoning Appeals for a Special Use Permit. The zoning ordinance states specific building code standards for constructing mobile homes.
Your request should cite the section in the ordinance that refers to the special exception that you are requesting, in this case mobile homes. To see the list of “special exceptions” in the Residential District, please refer to the following section in the ordinance HERE
5. Do I need a building permit to build a shed in my yard?
A shed that is smaller than 256 square feet requires:
• Zoning permit
• No building permit
• Setback requirements for accessory structures
A shed that is larger than 256 square feet requires:
• A building permit (which includes zoning permit)
• Setback requirements for accessory structures
6. Do I need a building permit to build a pole barn on my property?
Agricultural (farm) buildings that are:
• Not used for residential purposes
• Frequented generally by:
o the owner
o members of his family
o farm employees
shall be exempt from the provisions of the USBC, but if the building lies within a floodplain or in a mudslide-prone area, the flood proofing regulation or mudslide regulations will apply.
7. I want to build a shed in my back yard, but Accomap says that I live in the “AE BFE 8” area. Can I still build an accessory structure?
You live in area to which the ordinance refers as a “special flood hazard district”.
Whenever you seek to build anything, if your property is located in one of these flood zones, you should thoroughly review the section of the ordinance that covers the permitted uses and building code standards in those areas. Accessory structures are permitted but the standards for the building are much more restrictive. See ordinances HERE
8. I plan to build in a subdivision in an Agricultural District, am I required to meet the set-backs of the ordinance or the subdivision plat?
In the case of an approved subdivision that is on record with the County, the set-back and frontage requirements should be stated on the plat or in the covenants and those would be the standards that are considered for the zoning review process.
9. What is the process if I live in Captain’s Cove, Trail’s End or an incorporated town?
If you live in Captain’s Cove, Trail’s End or in an incorporated town, you should first apply to that entity for approval to build.
10. How many steps are required after I apply for my building permit in order to be approved to build?
As soon as you are ready to build, it is important to submit your building application right away. As soon as you do, there are several reviews through which most applications must proceed. The following reviews are required for most applications:
• Environmental Department
• Zoning Department
• Health Department
• Treasurer’s Office
• Building Department
There is nothing that you need to do during this time unless you are contacted by a representative of those departments for additional information.
The Zoning Ordinance is the law of Accomack County for what can be built and where it can be located. You are encouraged to refer to it anytime you are planning to buy or build! We are always available to assist you with that process.
** Please also refer to FAQ about Building in the Floodplain and FAQ about Applying for a Building Permit in Accomack County