Planning & Zoning

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Zoning is the process of classifying land in a locality into districts and establishing in each district regulations concerning building and structure location and design and the uses to which land, buildings and structures may be put. Virginia Code § 15.2-2201.

In order to improve the public health, safety, convenience, and welfare of our citizens and to plan for the future development of our community the city adopted a zoning ordinance as provided by § 15.2-2204 of the Code of Virginia, as amended. The Zoning Administration Division's primary purpose of the department is to provide proposals, advice, and assistance on land use, development review, and zoning issues by enforcement and administration of the provisions of the City of Salem Zoning Ordinance.

A zoning ordinance divides a locality into different districts or "zones." For each district or "zone," the ordinance designates allowable uses as either "by right" or as "special exceptions." The zoning ordinance consists of 1) a text, which contains definitions, procedural rules, and regulations pertaining to the uses allowed and placement thereof within each zoning district; and, 2) a map, which shows the boundaries of each district. Unlike the general boundaries of a comprehensive plan, the boundaries in a zoning ordinance must be specific enough to be located by a land surveyor.

The Planning and Zoning Division is responsible for all planning efforts within the City of Salem, such as the Downtown Plan and the Comprehensive Plan. The division is also responsible for ensuring public input and participation in the planning process.

The division also manages the activities of the Planning Commission and handles applications for rezoning, Special Exception Permits (SEP), and other matters requiring the review of the Commission. 

The review of all plans for development within the City of Salem is coordinated through the office, in partnership with other city departments. 

The Implementation of the Downtown Plan is coordinated through the Planning and Zoning Division, which is the point of contact for Salem's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program and funding for the improvement of the streetscape downtown.


  • Investigation of alleged violations
  • Analysis and drafting of amendments to the Ordinance
  • Providing interpretations of the Ordinance
  • Site Plan Review (PDF)
  • Permit application reviews such as building permits and home occupation permits

Short-Term Rental Complaints

Submit a complaint online 24/7 or call 540-302-6677

Zoning Ordinance in the City of Salem Code