Last week, we discussed a law in Virginia that prohibits municipalities from creating green building codes or mandates. In short, Dillon’s Rule only grants to municipalities those powers that are explicitly granted by the state. The Virginia Code has specifically granted the power to create a building code to the state; municipalities, on the other hand, can create zoning ordinances.
Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down to speak with Joan Kelsch, Environmental Planner for Arlington County, about the Arlington County green building programs. Arlington County has taken advantage of the opportunity to create zoning ordinances by promulgating two programs that stimulate the development of green building projects: (1) a Site Plan Program; and (2) a Bonus Density Program.
Lets start with the Site Plan Program. According to Kelsch, in Arlington County "green building policies are technically voluntary but site plan projects do allow Arlington County to ask for specific proffers from developers."
What is a site plan project? A site plan is a large project that requires a special exception to the zoning ordinance in order to be built. Because site plans require an exception to the zoning ordinance, Arlington County is able to require specific green building requirements, including:
(a) LEED™ Accredited Professional
(b) LEED™ Scorecard.
(c) LEED™ Tracking.
(d) Construction Waste Management.
(e) Energy Star Appliances.
In addition, Arlington County is also incentivizing green building development through its Bonus Density Program. Under the Bonus Density Program, projects larger than zoning would normally permit are allowed if the developer promises to achieve a specific LEED certification level.
We will be looking at Arlington County’s Bonus Density Program in more detail, in part, because the enforcement mechanism involves a four-letter word that has created problems in Washington, D.C. (hint: bond).
- Virginia Green Building Regulations: Avoid the Building Code (GLBU)
- Green Building Regulations in Virginia: Zoning In (GBLU)
- Environmental Services (Arlington)
- Green Building Incentive Program (Arlington)