Changing the Use of a Building

When changing the use of a building, many important factors must be considered. These factors fall into two categories; land use or "Zoning" considerations and "Building Code" considerations. To avoid misunderstandings as your project matures, please be frank about your intentions.


The zoning ordinance deals primarily with land use,  how a property is used, and its impact on surrounding properties and traffic flow. The city is divided into different zoning classifications.  The zoning ordinance is used to determine what a piece of property is zoned and allowable uses. This is how the city promotes orderly and healthy growth.

When considering a change in the use of a building, from a zoning perspective, one must consider the following steps:

  • Check the zoning map and city records to determine the zoning of a property or building.
  • Does the planned new use meet the requirements of the zoning ordinance?  Some major areas to consider are parking, building distance from property lines, lot width, lot area, and architectural design. Are changes needed to meet today's zoning standards?
  • Make an appointment to talk to the Planning staff about your plans. Bring accurate plans and property dimensions.
  • What is the current or most recent use of this building or property? Was this use a "legal" use of the property?
  • What is the planned use of this building or property?

Building Code

The Building Code deals with the structure and its use.  It looks at aspects of fire safety, exits, and accessibility, among other things. To fully evaluate a planned use, the city staff will need to understand the proposed use of the building.  In this way, you can receive the most accurate code review and plan your project. The following information will be needed for a typical project, the more complete the information, the more we can help:

  • Are your building and its facilities accessible for persons with physical disabilities?
  • What do you want to do in the building? How many people will be involved? Will anyone else be using the building or part of it for something else? Will anyone be sleeping in the building?
  • What is the building built out of? What are the walls made of? What are the floor and roof structures made of?
  • What is the building's last use?  Was this a "legal" use of the building? When was the building built?

The answers to all of these questions will affect on whether a particular property can have its use changed. There are three options to consider when changing a use group or changing the occupancy within a use group.

  1. USBC, Virginia Construction Code, 2003 edition Section 103.3, Change of Occupancy and IBC Section 3406, Change of Occupancy
  2. USBC, Virginia Construction Code 2003 edition Section 103.10 and IBC Section 3410 Compliance Alternative with USBC amendments
  3. USBC, Virginia Construction Code 2003 edition Section 103.6, USBC Virginia Rehabilitation Code 2003 edition, 2003 International Existing Building Code (Chapter 8 or Chapter 12) with USBC amendments.

Contact Us

The zoning ordinance requires sites to be partially brought up to current standards when  the use or use groups are changed. When this information is assimilated into a plan, the Zoning and Codes Compliance staff will be happy to assist n bringing your project to fruition. Please call us if you have any questions.

  • Codes Compliance
    Phone: 757-220-6136
  • Zoning - Heather Markle
    Phone: 757-220-6131