Out of an abundance of caution due to novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), all City of Portsmouth offices are currently physically closed to the public. However, our staff is still working and is here to assist you virtually. The public is encouraged to use the city’s online options for services.

Zoning Clearance

Most forms of development require the review and approval of a zoning compliance permit prior to the issuance of a building permit, business license, or certificate of occupancy.

We can help you with ….

  • Determining Permitted Uses
  • Construction Project Requirements - including setbacks
  • Fence Permits
  • Sign Permits
  • Business License Clearances

When staff is reviewing your project, other reviews might be triggered including Flood Zones, Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas, Historic Districts, and subdivision regulations.

In addition, other permits and clearances may be needed from other departments such at Permits and Inspections, Engineering, and the Commissioner of the Revenue. Contact those departments directly to discuss their requirements for your project.


Chapter 40.1 of the Portsmouth City Code is the Zoning Ordinance. It is a set of regulations devoted to Land Use that defines:

  • How far buildings must be from the property lines
  • How far buildings on the same lot must be from each other
  • How many parking spaces are needed for a particular use type
  • Size and configuration parking spaces and lots 
  • Building heights
  • Sign regulations
  • Site plan review requirements
  • Use permit regulations
  • Other similar requirements


Other Planning and Zoning Forms can be found here.


For more information contact Zoning at 757-393-8522. 

Or contact Zoning staff via email.

Staff Directory

"CAN DO" Help Video 

Need a Zoning Clearance? Interested in development or obtaining a business license in the City of Portsmouth? Check out our informational video!


Section 15 of the Code of Virginia provides for these regulations to be adopted and enforced. 

Enforcement of violations is handled by staff of the Department of Permits and Inspections.

Zoning Ordinance Amendments

The Zoning Ordinance was updated December 9, 2014. The City Council has since adopted the following Zoning Ordinance Amendments

  1. Ord. No. 2015-83: Requirement to obtain a Use Permit for the development of multifamily housing.
    Corresponding Staff Report.

  2. Ord. No. 2016-07: Authorizing and regulating food trucks.
    Corresponding Staff Report.

  3. Ord. No. 2016-09: Uptown D2 Form-Base Code District.
    Corresponding Staff Report. 

  4. Ord. No. 2016-70: Authorizing and regulating construction/demolition/debris landfills and transfer stations.
    Corresponding Staff Report.

  5. Ord. No. 2017-38: Amending Sections 202, 203, and 802 of the Uptown D2 Form-Base Code District.
    Corresponding Staff Report.

  6. Ord. No. 2017-96: Parking regulations and establishing a special exception process.
    Corresponding Staff Report.

  7. Ord. No. 2018-01: Amending self-service storage regulations.
    Corresponding Staff Report. 

  8. Ord. No. 2018-02: Amending signage regulations.
    Corresponding Staff Report. 

  9. Ord. No. 2018-39: Amending lot size and lot width requirements for new subdivisions or resubdivisions.
    Corresponding Staff Report. 

  10. Ord. No. 2018-59: Operation of food trucks in conjunction with a microbrewery or microdistillery.
    Corresponding Staff Report.

  11. Ord. No. 2018-112: Including real estate offices within the definition of professional services offices.
    Corresponding Staff Report.

  12. Ord. No. 2018-115: Exempting existing single family residences from certain lot consolidation requirements.
    Corresponding Staff Report.