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  • Writer's pictureDarla Odom

Northampton County, VA Study: Overcoming Land Use Ordinance Barriers to Housing Development

Northampton County, VA and the Towns of Belle Haven, Cape Charles, Cheriton, Eastville, Exmore and Nassawadox

Northampton County is a rural, ecologically-unique community located at the southernmost portion of the Delmarva Peninsula on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The area has become a popular vacation and second home destination, and as a result, housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable for existing residents. County staff seized an opportunity provided by a Virginia Housing grant to evaluate how existing land use regulations support or prevent housing development within the community. Using our extensive housing knowledge and planning and zoning expertise, the Berkley Group completed a comprehensive analysis of land use regulations impacting housing in Northampton County and its six towns.

The project started with a kick-off meeting and interviews with County staff. The Berkley Group paired the findings from these interviews with key housing indicators of U.S. Census Bureau data to develop a brief overview of local housing development and a snapshot of current housing conditions. Following this baseline analysis, the Berkley Group conducted a detailed evaluation of each locality’s zoning and subdivision ordinance with the goal of identifying gaps and constraints to quality, affordable housing. The assessment investigated specific aspects of each code and documented potential barriers to housing development, regulatory requirements that increase housing costs, and compliance gaps with state code. These ordinance assessments were organized based on specific factors, including housing diversity, permitted density, development standards, approval processes, and location of housing growth – among others. The study identifies specific land use regulation reforms that would eliminate regulatory barriers to providing much needed housing in the County and Towns. A key focus of the recommendations was identifying opportunities to create a more uniform and predictable regulatory environment, encouraging the use of consistent terms and definitions, and increasing permitted residential uses and densities in appropriate areas.

This study provides a pathway for Northampton County and its six towns to modernize land use regulations and streamline development procedures to help create more housing opportunities. It sets the stage for ongoing cooperation between the County and Towns to continually and cooperatively address housing barriers in their regulations and processes.

The project was completed within 8 months with the final study document presented in May 2022.


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