Planning Department

Core Services

The Planning Department consists of these core service areas: 

  • Current Planning (including review of site plans, subdivisions, rezonings, use permits and certificates of appropriateness)
  • Zoning Administration (including administration and implementation of the City’s Zoning Ordinance, reviewing applications for business licenses, reviewing permit applications)
  • Environmental Planning (including Chesapeake Bay preservation and flood plain management)
  • Transportation Planning and Implementation
  • Historic Preservation
  • Community Planning and Development (CDBG and HOME programs)
  • Long Range, Comprehensive Planning and Implementation

Staff Support

The department also provides staff support to:

  •  Planning Commission
  •  Historic Preservation Commission (HPC)
  •  Downtown Design Committee (DDC)
  •  Wetlands Board
  •  Board of Zoning Appeals

Electronic/digital submission of applications and other materials is encouraged whenever feasible. Consult the Staff Directory or the specific subject page for staff contact information.

Mailed items can be sent to:


Credit card payments can now be accepted over the phone. Please call the Planning Department at 757-393-8836 for more information. Please note that a signed credit card authorization form is required to be submitted before a credit card payment can be processed.

Planning Assistance Program

If you aren't quite ready to submit an application for your project or would like to discuss options for your development of your property or would like additional information and assistance with the process, check out the Planning Assistance Program page for more information.

D2 Rezoning and Innovation Overlay District

At the request of City Council, the City of Portsmouth has replaced the 541 parcels of the D2 FBC district with traditional zoning districts based on recommendations from community engagement, public review, and the D2 Uptown Land Use Study. The Proposed New Zoning Map for the D2 area ensures the new zoning regulations reflect the reality of existing and potential land uses, current and future development forms, appropriate densities, and other development standards.

In addition, the new Innovation Overlay District has been superimposed on the new zoning districts for the D2 Uptown area, which clarifies requirements for development and serves to facilitate new growth and development.

Click here to access more information and maps for the rezoning and Innovation Overlay District.

Zoning Ordinance Update

At the request of City Council, the City’s Zoning Ordinance was updated and subsequently adopted on December 8, 2020. The comprehensively rewritten Zoning Ordinance was designed to improve clarity and ease of use, streamline development regulations, ease nonconforming situations, protect existing neighborhood character, ensure compatibility with the Code of Virginia, and increase consistency with the City’s Build One Portsmouth Comprehensive Plan.

Linked below is the newly adopted Portsmouth Zoning Ordinance.

Portsmouth Zoning Ordinance - Updated Oct 12, 2021

The Zoning Ordinance Update Briefing and the Zoning Ordinance Update Presentation linked highlight the major changes to the Zoning Ordinance.

Zoning Ordinance Update Briefing

Zoning Ordinance Update Presentation

Zoning Ordinance new cover

View presentations about the Zoning Ordinance update on the City's YouTube Channel.

Introduction to Planning and Zoning Training Presentation

Click the link below to download a basic training presentation on the basis of Planning and Zoning.

Planning and Zoning Training Presentation

Comprehensive Plan Update - Build One Portsmouth

After numerous civic engagement events and opportunities for the public the provide input, the Comprehensive PlanBuild One Portsmouth, was adopted by City Council on November 27, 2018.

Please check out to download the plan. You can also contact Brian Swets at [email protected] or 393-8836 ext 4237 for more information.
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Review the Plan


The Planning Department provides the following services:

  • Processing applications for Use Permits and Rezonings
  •  Processing applications for the subdivision of land
  •  Processing applications for Code Amendments
  •  Processing applications for construction projects in Historic Preservation areas
  •  Processing applications for construction projects in the Downtown Districts
  •  Site Plan and Landscape review
  •  Administering the VDOT required 527 TIS Program
  •  Administering the CDBG and HOME programs
  •  Enforcement of Chesapeake Bay Protection Area regulations
  •  Enforcement of Flood Regulations
  •  Enforcement of Virginia Wetlands regulations
  •  Enforcement of Historic Preservation District regulations
  •  Enforcement of the Downtown Design District regulations
  •  Maintaining and updating the City of Portsmouth Comprehensive Plan.