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, and reviewing permit applications)
  • Environmental Planning (including Chesapeake Bay preservation and floodplain 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

Mission Statement

The mission of the Planning Department is to engage the City of Portsmouth community, with effective outreach and excellent customer service, to envision, prioritize, plan, and build a desirable, resilient, and thriving city. Further, the Planning Department’s mission is to develop and implement clearly articulated regulations and plans, ultimately resulting in the wise, efficient, and equitable use of City land and resources.

Application Submissions

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.

Credit Card Authorization Form (PDF)

SmartStart Business Guide

Portsmouth's Economic Development Department created the SmartStart Business Guide to distill the key information you need when starting a business and provide you with a roadmap to the different city services involved. Use this tool to help you stay organized and launch your business with a smart start. Call Economic Development at (757) 393-8804 for additional assistance on starting a business in the City of Portsmouth. 

Click the link below to access Portsmouth's Smart Start Business Guide.  

Smart Start Business Guide

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.

Approved Tree Species List 

Trees to be planted to comply with Zoning Ordinance Sec. 40.2-304 Landscaping and Screening shall be selected from the City of Portsmouth Approved Tree Species List

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.

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
  •  Implementation of the City’s Zoning Ordinance
  •  Reviewing applications for business licenses 
  •  Reviewing permit applications
  •  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.