Virginia Beach works to remove obsolete one-kitchen law

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There once was a law against having two kitchens in a home in Virginia Beach.

Still is, actually, even if it hasn’t been enforced for a couple of years.

The restriction, which dates to a 1973 definition in city code, was intended to prevent single-family homes from being re-purposed into illegal duplexes.

Times changed. People in larger homes wanted a second cooking area. Others wanted outdoor kitchens. Some residents ran home businesses that required multiple ovens. Religious practices even butted up against the law; some faiths require certain foods to be prepared separately, leading to requests for more than one cooking space.

So in January 2014, the city amended its zoning ordinance to remove the single-kitchen rule. Staff neglected to update their entire cookbook of building rules, however. Language in the city’s site plan code about the single kitchen remained.

“In the Site Plan Ordinance, we all missed it, the attorneys — and me — that there was a definition in the Site Plan Ordinance, and it definitely should match zoning,” said Karen Lasley, current planning coordinator.

An amendment to address the oversight is on the Planning Commission’s agenda for Wednesday. If approved, it will go to the City Council.

Even though the single-kitchen restriction remained on the books, multiple kitchens have been allowed in single-family homes since the 2014 zoning update. The limit was removed after city staff realized it was hindering harmless, in-home preferences and even religious practices, Lasley said.

Also, the restriction wasn’t really keeping people from creating illegal duplexes anyway, according to Lasley. People don’t cook like they used to, and many are satisfied with a refrigerator and microwave,  she said.

Lasley also had a hunch that some people simply removed their second stove for inspections and reinstalled them later.

The restriction hindered only a handful of people for religious reasons, and the city worked out special arrangements for them, Lasley said. The more common issues involved residents with larger homes who found one kitchen inconvenient, and those who wanted outdoor kitchens. The restriction also heavily affected home businesses involving food, Lasley said.

Some occupations even require a specialized oven “for creating various forms of art,” according to a staff report.

“Only allowing one kitchen was not preventing illegal duplexes,” Lasley said, “and it was preventing a lot of good things.”

Remaining language in city code, including the part that says a dwelling unit is for “a family,” reinforces the restriction against dividing a home into a duplex without the necessary permits, according to a staff report.

Have a story idea or news tip? Contact Business reporter Hillary Smith  at or 757-490-2750.

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