Rural Business Uses in Loudoun County

Thank you for doing business in Loudoun County! Business owners play a vital role in the Loudoun community and we’re excited about your contribution to Loudoun’s economy.

This booklet is designed to give you an overview of important information for agricultural businesses and help you determine if your specific use is permitted on your property. To understand your zoning and all the regulations below please reference the Revised 1993 Loudoun County Zoning Ordinance, which is the ruling document for all uses.

Loudoun County supports a wide range of rural uses, including:

  • Agriculture (animal husbandry, specialty crops and commodity);
  • Banquet, event or meeting facilities;
  • Craft beverages;
  • Equestrian uses;
  • Farm markets and wayside stands;
  • Outdoor recreation;
  • Overnight accommodations;
  • Restaurants and coffeehouses.

Loudoun County has a number of resources to help businesses get started on the approval process. New businesses seeking assistance with their business plan or property selection should contact the Department of Economic Development at 1-800-LOUDOUN. Economic Development works with new and growing businesses to help them successfully meet local, state and federal regulations related to rural uses.

Existing businesses ready to expand can start with Economic Development or the Business Assistance Team, a cross-departmental group dedicated to guiding businesses and entrepreneurs through the process. To get started, contact the team lead at 703-777-0395.

Questions about agricultural production, soil health and water management? Contact the Virginia Cooperative Extension office in Loudoun for educational and technical information at 703-777-0373.

Detailed contact information for County and Commonwealth regulatory departments can be found at the bottom of this page.

What Are Your Plans?

Let us help you work through these and other questions important to the process, such as:

  • Are you disturbing land?
  • Are there any natural features to consider, like steep slopes or a floodplain?
  • Does every structure have a zoning permit?
  • Are you renovating an existing structure or building new?
  • Are you adding to an existing use or establishing a new use for your property?
  • Is your well and septic enough to support public use?
  • Do you plan to serve food on premises?

Before purchasing or leasing a property, contact the Department of Planning and Zoning to determine if your business plan matches the uses allowed on that parcel. Zoning ordinances are very specific about construction and usage, and your business needs a clear determination about what is allowed.

Rural businesses are located on parcels typically serviced by wells and septic systems. The Health Department will make a determination if your systems can support your business plan. The Health Department can also answer questions about food regulations.

Plan ahead on signs for your business, as sign permits are required from Building and Development prior to installation. Signs are important for identifying your business and attracting customers, but there are safety, property value, economic and general welfare considerations that go into the permitting process.

Almost all farm businesses will start with a building, either modified from an existing structure or custom-built for you. Both for the success of your business and the safety of your customers, this is one of the most important considerations.

Farm Building or Structure:

Loudoun is home to many iconic and historic barns and farm structures. Depending on when, how and why they were built, they may be exempt from certain coding regulations (Click here to apply for an exemption). Building and Development should make that determination before you get started.

Whether you’re interested in commercial poultry or just a backyard flock, the keeping of chickens is considered an agriculture use. While permitted in most of the county’s suburban and rural properties, it is important to check with Building and Development (before any land disturbance or development activity), Planning and Zoning (before building structures or starting a use), the Soil and Water Conservation District (for a Conservation Farm Plan) and the Health Department (to protect against water contamination). Additional permits may be required.

Safety Considerations

If your rural business will be bringing people to a structure, safety is an important consideration. Loudoun encourages all rural businesses, even structures exempt from building permits, to promote minimum fire and life safety standards that would assist in getting patrons out of the building or structure quickly, such as:

  • Do you have a local non-monitored fire alarm system?
  • Are there two remote exits, each equipped with emergency lighting, exit lights, and panic hardware on hinged exit doors that swing out?
  • Is there emergency lighting in your facility?
  • Do you have a portable fire extinguisher?

Even if your business is exempt from building permits, we encourage you to consider the minimum fire and life safety standards, and schedule an inspection with the Fire Marshal. Going through the permitting process with Building and Development ensures that details of your plan aren’t overlooked. This reduces surprises later and could help in getting your space insured.

Does Your Plan Match the Code?

Each type of rural business has different zoning requirements, and some may require an additional legislative process in order to meet approval. Click on each type to learn more detailed definitions and information:

Limited Brewery (Farm Brewery)

Loudoun County is home to more than 20 breweries, at least seven of which are located in the rural policy area.

Virginia Farm Winery

There are more wineries and wine grapes in Loudoun than any other county in Virginia, helping to support a vibrant tourism industry.

Commercial Winery

More than 40 wineries call Loudoun home, winning awards in regional, national and international competitions.

Cidery

A cidery is not a listed or defined use in the Zoning Ordinance. A cidery is an establishment where cider is made, and must comply with the Zoning
Ordinances definition of Commercial Winery or Virginia Farm Winery and Section 4.1-213 of the Code of Virginia.

Distillery

A distillery is not a listed or defined use in the Zoning Ordinance. A distillery is an establishment where liquor is manufactured. Distilleries are permitted as “craft beverage manufacturing” in the RC zoning district subject to standards in Zoning Ordinance Section 5-668. Section 5-668 standards may be modified by Minor Special Exception.

Meadery

A meadery is not a listed or defined use in the Zoning Ordinance. A meadery is an establishment where mead is made and sold. Current administrative practices permit a meadery as a brewery or winery, depending upon how the meadery is licensed by the state.

Restaurant

Loudoun is home to some of the region’s top-rated restaurants, attracting nationally-recognized chefs to the county. Restaurants are subject to regulations for health and safety, fire prevention and parking.

Farm-to-Table Restaurant

With more than 1,000 farms in Loudoun County, there is ample opportunity for farm-to-table eateries.

Coffeehouse or Teahouse

Because coffeehouses and teahouses are not restaurants, they have less emphasis on food and more emphasis on non-alcoholic beverage production and communal space for customers.

Mobile Food Unit (Food Truck)

A mobile food unit is not a listed or defined use in the Zoning Ordinance. Generally, a mobile food unit is an establishment mounted on wheels, moving from place to place at all times during operation and shall include, but not be limited to, pushcarts, trailers, trucks or vans.

Farm Market (On-Site Production)

Selling directly to consumers, farm markets feature a wide variety of grown and produced goods.

Farm Market (Off-Site Production)
Farm markets attract farmers, artisans and producers from around the region to sell their products directly to customers. While markets frequently feature food and beverage vendors, regulations could affect each vendor differently.

Wayside Stand
Wayside stands are generally smaller than markets, located alongside the road and featuring products directly from that farm.

Banquet/Event Facility
Loudoun’s rural event spaces are heavily utilized as wedding venues, with some locations booked years in advance. Banquet and event facilities are subject to regulations for health and safety, sanitation, fire prevention, frequency of use and parking.

Rural Corporate Retreat
More than just a gathering space, rural corporate retreats must have a mission of education or training, and blend into the fabric of the rural community.

Rural Resort
Overnight accommodations are the focus of rural resorts, with additional flexibility for food, recreation and meeting space.

Bed and Breakfast Homestay
Interested in hosting paying guests for overnight stays on your private property? This designation covers the most limited use.

Bed and Breakfast Inn
Unlike homestays, a bed and breakfast inn is primarily an overnight accommodations business, and does not require the owner to live on site.

Country Inn
This includes all of the usages of a bed and breakfast inn, but also allows for an on-site restaurant for guests, as well as meeting space as a primary use.

Stable, Private
Loudoun County has a rich equestrian history, and today is home to more horses than any other county in Virginia. Private stables limit the number of horses allowed on a property that do not belong to the lot owner or resident.

Stable, Livery
This is any facility that houses 10 or more horses that do not belong to the property owner or residents.

Equestrian Event Facility
Loudoun’s equestrian industry is worth more than $180 million, with 15,000 horses, 3,000 jobs and attracting more than 70,000 spectators each year.

Outdoor Rural Recreational Establishment
This covers any outdoor recreational use except motor vehicle racing. The sale of limited refreshments is allowed.

Agritainment
This gives business owners another tool to attract customers to the farm, to interact with animals and agriculture.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the county’s role? Our main role is to protect the safety of your customers and neighbors, care for the natural environment and make sure that your business complies with laws and regulations. Many county departments are involved in the review and approval of uses. We also assist businesses so they may thrive.

What is my right to farm? If you’re following the rules, you have legal protection. Qualifying farmers are protected from agricultural nuisance lawsuits (for noise, odor, visual clutter and dangerous structures), as long as at the time of the complaint they are in compliance with best agriculture practices, as well as relevant laws and regulations.

Does the county offer additional information regarding property features? Yes. The platform is called Weblogis and can be found here: loudoun.gov/weblogis.

What if I want to serve alcohol? Virginia ABC provides licenses in three categories: banquet/event, retail and industry licenses for alcohol manufacturers. Once you have a retail or industry license, you can add permits that regulate quantity, delivery, use and type.

If I have more than one activity in a facility, do I need to have additional permits from the County or State? Because each usage comes with its own set of rules for public access, parking, structures and more, you should discuss potential future uses up front, even if they’re not in your current business plan.

What is my zoning? Check your zoning by calling Planning and Zoning at 703-777-0246.

What if I have more business resource questions? For detailed info on planning, launching and growing your business, visit biz.loudoun.gov/smallbiz/startup.

Who from the County can help me through the process? Loudoun has a Business Assistance Team to help you get started. The BAT has representatives from County Administration, Economic Development, Planning and Zoning, Building and Development, Small Business Development Center, Mapping and Geographic Information, Health Department, Fire Marshal, Clerk of the Circuit Court, and the Commissioner of the Revenue. Contact the team at bizassistance@loudoun.gov or visit loudoun.gov/bat.

How a Business Gets Approval:

Once you know what usages match your business plan, you’re ready to start the permitting process. There are many factors to consider and each requires approval, to ensure the viability of your business and the safety of your customers and staff. Here is what the permitting process might look like and where your paperwork may go.

Contact Us

There is a lot to consider as you imagine or expand your rural business. Loudoun County has resources to assist in planning, permitting and growing your rural business.

LOUDOUN COUNTY GOVERNMENT

DepartmentContactPhoneWebsite
Department of Economic DevelopmentJohn Magistro 703-771-5187http://biz.loudoun.gov
Department of Planning and ZoningMark Depo571-258-3197http://loudoun.gov/dpz
Business Assistance TeamEvan Harlow703-777-0395http://loudoun.gov/BAT
Health Department - Wells and Septic SystemsJoe Lock703-771-5800http://loudoun.gov/eh
Health Department - Food ServiceVictor Avitto703-771-5806http://loudoun.gov/eh
Department of Building and Development - EngineeringHector Martinez571-252-0857http://loudoun.gov/commercialconstruction
Department of Building and Development - Environmental Impact Districts (Division C)Bill Cain703-737-8303http://loudoun.gov/commercialconstruction
Department of Building and Development - Grading PermitsJoseph Ohler703-737-8952http://loudoun.gov/commercialconstruction
Department of Building and Development - Building PermitsChris Thompson703-771-5527http://loudoun.gov/commercialconstruction
Department of Building and Development - Zoning PermitsTheresa Stein703-777-0648http://loudoun.gov/commercialconstruction
Department of Building and Development - Sign PermitsLee Ann Baty703- 737-8205http://loudoun.gov/commercialconstruction
Fire MarshalLinda Hale703-737-8600http://loudoun.gov/firemarshal

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

DepartmentContactPhoneWebsite
Virginia Cooperative ExtensionJim Hilleary703-777-0373http://loudoun.ext.vt.edu
Alcoholic Beverage ControlKatie Kelly703-313-4432http://abc.virginia.gov
Office of Drinking WaterDavid Travers540-829-7340http://vdh.virginia.gov
Agriculture and Consumer ServicesJoseph Buchanan804-786-3520http://vdacs.virginia.gov
Department of Soil and WaterChris Van Vlack571-918-4530, ext. 107http://lswcd.org
Department of TransportationStaff800-367-7623http://vdot.virginia.gov