Cozen O’Connor: Varga, Stephen

Stephen Varga

Planning Services Director

Washington, D.C.

(202) 747-0770

(202) 861-1905

Stephen has extensive experience in zoning and land use, sustainability best practice, comprehensive planning. He evaluates development proposals for zoning conformance and entitlement potential, drafts justification documents and submits Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA), Zoning Commission applications on behalf of clients, and monitors and researches local government land use policies. Stephen also regularly provides qualified expert witness land use and planning testimony before the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA), Zoning Commission, and Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation.  

Prior to joining Cozen O’Connor, Stephen served as director of planning services at a Washington, D.C.-based boutique real estate firm, and served for nearly 10 years as an urban planner within the District of Columbia government.

Earlier in his career, Stephen worked at the District of Columbia Office of Planning. As a development review specialist at the District Columbia Office of Planning, Stephen was responsible for reviewing zoning applications and presented agency recommendations at public meetings. While in this role, Stephen served as core team member of Zoning Regulations Review project, a multi-year effort to comprehensively revise and modernize the zoning regulations of the District. He produced zoning recommendation reports and zoning regulation text, particularly for mixed-use, transit-oriented development, and sustainability subject areas. This work was later adopted as “ZR16,” the new zoning regulations of the District, in effect since September 6, 2016.

Stephen also served as a zoning specialist and senior zoning specialist at the District of Columbia Office of Zoning (DCOZ) in support of their oversight and adjudication of zoning matters in the District of Columbia. While at the DCOZ, Stephen was responsible for communicating complex technical and regulatory information to a wide range of stakeholders, including applicants, BZA, Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, and the public. In addition to carrying out his explanatory duties, he analyzed and managed hundreds of zoning applications per year, ensuring each complied with applicable procedures and requirements. He improved the BZA application processes for applicants, and clarified rights and responsibilities for stakeholders, resulting in more-timely and efficient hearings. In this role, he also adapted BZA zoning processes in the Interactive Zoning Information System to conform with ZR16.

Stephen is a member of the American Planning Association, the American Institute of Certified Planners, and the U.S. Green Building Council.

Stephen earned both his Bachelor of Arts and master’s in city and regional planning from the Ohio State University.


Cozen O’Connor Continues Rapid Expansion in Washington, D.C., with Addition of Zoning, Land Use & Development Group

June 27, 2017

The group is led by Meridith Moldenhauer, who joins as a member, and includes Samantha Mazo, who joins as of counsel, Alyssa Bigley and Eric DeBear, who both join as attorneys, and Stephen Varga, who joins as planning services director.


The District’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment Process Is Starting Up Again: First Vote on July 9, 2019 [Get The Dirt Blog]

June 24, 2019

The Comprehensive Plan amendment process is lurching back to life and the DC Council’s first vote is scheduled for July 9, 2019.  As we noted last month, the District of Columbia’s Office of Planning (“OP”) launched its DC2ME survey to solicit input on the ‘values’ that District residents want to be...

Comprehensive Plan Amendment Process Now Seeks to Evaluate the “Values” of DC Residents [Get The Dirt Blog]

June 06, 2019

It’s ALIVE!  The Comprehensive Plan amendment process comes back: Almost three years on, the District of Columbia’s Office of Planning (“OP”) wants District residents to identify key values to direct the Comprehensive Plan amendment process. As many of our readers know, the Comprehensive Plan is...

DC Mayor Challenges Residents and Agencies to Remove Barriers Preventing More Housing [Get The Dirt Blog]

January 14, 2019

It all started in 1894, when the famous architect Thomas Franklin Schneider designed and constructed the Cairo.  At 164 feet tall, the Cairo was the first residential skyscraper in the District of Columbia (the “District”), causing an uproar among the District’s residents.  The concern was the...

Office of Zoning, Office of Planning on the Hot Seat [Get The Dirt Blog]

March 29, 2018

On February 28th, 2018, the DC Council conducted oversight hearings for the DC Office of Zoning ("OZ") and the DC Office of Planning ("OP").  Oversight hearings provide the DC Council and members of the public an opportunity to ask OZ and OP officials questions about their performance over the past...

EventsDC Seeking Development Partner For RFK Market Hall [Get The Dirt Blog]

March 27, 2018

EventsDC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, recently released a Request For Expressions of Interest ("RFEI") for the development of a 65,000 square foot Market Hall on the RFK site.  EventsDC seeks a development partner for this initial phase of the...

deCOding CO-LIVING in DC [Get The Dirt Blog]

February 21, 2018

Community housing, boarding houses, and communal living arrangements have been around since the 1840s, as indicated by a brochure by the Academy of American Poets when it identified the boarding houses where Walt Whitman and Edgar Allen Poe rested their heads.  Even though such concepts long have...


  • Ohio State University, M.C.R.P., 2005
  • Ohio State University, B.A., 2000

LEED Green Certification

American Institute of Certified Planners Certification

American Planning Association