Property Changes & Uses

The following questions are frequent property-related questions. For additional information on any of the following topics, contact the Planning department at (804) 365-6171 or review the requirements of the county's zoning ordinance.

What is zoning?

Zoning regulates the use of property. All property in the county is located within one of several zoning districts, which govern how property may be used. Zoning districts are generally classified for residential, business, or industrial use. The county’s mapping system can be used as a guide to determine the zoning classification of an individual property.

How do I determine the zoning I need?

Each zoning district permits certain land uses by right and others by special permit, which may be either a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) or Special Exception (SE).

Review the zoning ordinance to determine how a property may be used. This reference table can help in searching for business and industrial uses. 

Upon request, a letter from Planning can be issued that confirms whether or not a use is permitted. To obtain such a letter, please submit an application for a zoning compliance letter

If a property owner wishes to change the way in which a property may be used, a change of zoning classification or a special permit is generally required.

Can I subdivide my property?

Property is divided into smaller parcels through the subdivision process. The number and size of lots that a property owner can create depends on the zoning of the property. To subdivide a parcel, a citizen or developer must submit a subdivision application and a plat showing the new lots that will be created. Planning reviews the documentation to ensure the new lots meet applicable zoning and subdivision ordinance requirements.

Can I divide part of my property for a family member?

If a property owner wishes to divide a parcel of land among family members, the owner may be eligible to use the family division process. The family division process is shorter and less complex than a typical subdivision. The zoning classification of the property may need to be changed or rezoned.

Can I make my property larger or smaller?

The size of property may be adjusted by changing property lines with adjoining parcels. Even though this transaction does not create a new lot, a surveyor must prepare a property or boundary line adjustment plat that shows the new location of the new property line(s). The reconfigured lots must meet applicable zoning requirements. If the property line adjustment does not involve an existing subdivision, the surveyor’s plat does not need to be formally reviewed by the county. Property line adjustments that involve existing subdivision lots require a resubdivision plat review.

Do I need a building permit?  

Projects that involve building a new structure, altering an existing structure, demolishing, or changing the use of a structure may require a building permit.

Can I have a business in my home?

Home businesses are occupations, professions, or activities conducted by one or more members of a family within their home. Some home businesses require a special permit.

Can I add an in-law suite or family apartment to my property?

In many residential zoning districts, an apartment for a qualifying family member(s) is allowed with a SE. The apartment must be attached to the main house or attached to another building on the property, such as a garage. For more information, review the requirements for accessory family housing units in the zoning ordinance.

Can I keep animals on my property?

Property owners are generally permitted to have domestic animals, such as dogs and cats. However, there are various restrictions regarding the number and type of animals such as livestock, chickens, and other exotic animals. Structures that house certain animals must also be set back from the property line. For more information, see the zoning ordinance or contact a code compliance officer in Planning.

What types of vehicles can I store on my property?

Commercial Vehicles

The county restricts the storage of certain commercial vehicles in residential zoning districts, including the A-1, Agricultural District.

Inoperable or Junk Vehicles

The Hanover County Code defines inoperable motor vehicles as any motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer that:

  • Is not in operating condition
  • For a period of 60 days or longer has been partially or totally disassembled (indicators include the removal of tires and wheels, the engine, or other essential parts required for operation of the vehicle)
  • Does not have either a valid license plate or a valid inspection decal

For property with A-1, Agricultural District zoning, a property owner may store up to five inoperable vehicles. In other residential zoning districts, the county code restricts the open storage of inoperable vehicles. For more information, see Chapter 17, Article 1, Section 17-19

Recreational Vehicles (RVs) and Boats

The zoning ordinance restricts the location of recreational vehicles (RVs) and boats on residential property. For more information, see the zoning ordinance or contact a code compliance officer in Planning.