Planning Department

Out of an abundance of caution due to novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), all City of Portsmouth Planning Department offices are currently physically closed to the public. However, our staff is still working and is here to assist you virtually. The public is encouraged to use the city’s online options for services.

Virtual Planning Department - click here to get information about Planning Department services during the COVID-19 public closure.

Zoning Ordinance Update

At the request of City Council, the Planning Department is updating the Zoning Ordinance. The ordinance is updated on a regular basis to keep it current and effective for our citizens and businesses.

Linked below is a presentation with an overview of the process of re-writing the City’s Zoning Ordinance and outlining the major changes that were made in the update.

Zoning Ordinance Update - Presentation

Special Projects

Find out about and follow along with the Zoning Ordinance Update, the D-2 District update, the Crawford Corridor Revitalization, and other special projects on the Special Projects Page.

Portsmouth Poverty Study

The Planning Department concluded research on the causes and effects of poverty on Portsmouth citizens. The research included extensive public outreach and interviews, reviews of recent case studies, and analysis of sociological and demographic data. The findings will be used to inform the goals and strategies of a future Poverty Task Force.

You can download the poverty study by clicking this link. Portsmouth Poverty Study

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 or 393-8836 ext 4237 for more information.
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Review the Plan

Core Services

In support of achieving this mission, the Department consists of six core service areas:
  • Current Planning (including review of site plans, subdivisions, rezonings, use permits and certificates of appropriateness)
  • 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
  • Urban Design Committee
  • Cradock Advisory Group
  • Truxton Advisory Group


By local, State and Federal law, 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,
  • Enforcement of Chesapeake Bay Protection Area regulations,
  • Enforcement of Virginia Wetlands regulations,
  • Enforcement of Historic Preservation District regulations,
  • Enforcement of the Downtown Design District regulations, and
  • Maintaining and updating the City of Portsmouth Comprehensive Plan.