Site Planning

Site Planning includes not only the lot upon which a building sits, but the position of the building in relation to neighboring buildings (setbacks, facade width, and spacing between buildings). Other site elements to be considered are fences and walls and off-street parking. 

Site Planning - Continuity of Street Edge (Setback) 

The street edge provides a strong neighborhood pattern and is established and maintained by consistent spacing (setback) between the building and the property line adjacent to the street. The zoning ordinance defines the required setback, but in historic neighborhoods a setback was established long before zoning was enacted. Earlier homes on lower Caroline Street, for example, have a greater setback than later homes built on lower Princess Anne Street. Commercial structures along Caroline and William Streets, on the other hand, have a uniform setback that produces a corridor type of streetscape. In these and similar instances, the zoning ordinance allows new construction to be sited in accordance with the yard pattern already established by the existing buildings. 

Construction Guidelines  

1. New buildings should be sited to reinforce the traditional street edge. 

2. Corner buildings in the downtown commercial district should avoid deep setbacks or open corners that disrupt street edge continuity. 

3. Government buildings often have formal landscaping that emphasizes their civic function. Consideration should be given to such landscaping as well as to reinforcing the traditional street edge if construction occurs within important commercial corridors. 

4. For sites that serve as a transition between two different areas of setback, the setback of a new building should also serve a transitional function. 

Site Planning - Spacing between Buildings 

Consistent spacing between buildings (side yard setbacks) establishes a rhythm along a street. This spacing often depends on lot and building sizes. The zoning ordinance defines required setbacks, but in historic neighborhoods the setbacks were established long before zoning. Downtown Fredericksburg, for instance, consists of closely-spaced buildings that provide a denser rhythm than the more open rhythm found in residential areas. In both of these instances, the zoning ordinance allows new construction to be sited in accordance with the yard pattern already established by the existing buildings. 

Construction Guidelines  

1. While side yard spacing varies enormously throughout the Historic District, new houses should reflect the average spacing of neighboring dwellings. 

2. Spacing between new buildings in the downtown commercial district should reinforce the existing street wall. 

Site Planning - Fences and Walls 

Fences and walls occur in many parts of the City while other areas are characterized by their absence. There are a great variety of fences, and each constitutes a strong site element. They describe not only the technology of their period of construction, but may also show how property lines have changed within a community. 

Maintenance and Repair 

1. Paint and repair iron fences on a regular basis. Where fence sections or pieces are missing, design replacement sections or pieces to match or blend with the old in material and detail, if possible. If matching the exact detail is prohibitively expensive, consideration should be given to replacement components that are a simplified design of similar material. 

2. Repoint brick and stone walls as needed, being careful to match mortar and mortar joints to the existing. A mortar mix that is too hard, for example (like Portland Cement), can eventually damage softer bricks or stones, as they expand and contract during freeze/thaw cycles. Replace missing stones or bricks with stones or bricks that match as closely as possible. 

3. Keep wood fences well painted and match the existing design when replacing component parts. Consideration should be given to painting pressure-treated wood when it has weathered sufficiently. 

4. Keep vegetated fence lines trimmed and free from weeds and trees that may uproot or damage the hedge. 

Construction Guidelines  

1. Fence and wall materials and design should relate to those found in the neighborhood. Chain-link fences are generally not recommended. 

2. Old fencing should be removed before a new fence is installed. 

3. Fences between adjoining commercial and residential areas should be of a design that relates to the residential area. 

Site Planning - Parking 

Off-street parking can be controversial because of its physical and visual impact on a historic site. Parking should be provided in such a way that it reinforces the existing rhythm and visual aspects of a neighborhood rather than being an obtrusive and incompatible break in the streetscape. 

Construction Guidelines  

1. New buildings in the downtown commercial district should have their parking in the rear of the building, allowing the building to become part of the existing streetscape and to reinforce the street edge. 

2. Parking in transitional areas should be accommodated to the sides and rear, as much as possible, to allow the front setback to be landscaped. 

3. Parking in residential areas should continue to be limited to driveways with parking areas to the side and rear of buildings. Parking areas in the front yard are not recommended. 

4. Existing parking lots should be landscaped, as feasible, to screen parking and to strengthen the street edge.

Infill building that reinforces the traditional street edge.

Maintain street edge continuity with new construction.

A formal setback to emphasize the dignity of function.


Consistent spacing between buildings reinforces the integrity of the streetscape.

Iron fencing.


Masonry wall.

Wood fence.

Incompatible type of fence.


Commerical parking placed in the rear of a property.

Residential parking to side and rear.


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