During the unusual year that 2020 has been, Fairfax County has been busy implementing important changes regarding land use and development. In July, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to revise the County’s Workforce Dwelling Unit (WDU) Policies (Countywide and Tysons) in accordance with the WDU Policy Task Force’s recommendations. On September 15, 2020, the Board adopted an Economic Incentive Program, and in November, the Board will consider residential development within the Airport Noise Impact Area of Dulles Airport.
The Board has prioritized the provision of affordable housing at various income tiers in Fairfax County. The Board adopted Guidelines for WDU Policy in 2007, followed by Guidelines for WDU Policy in Tysons in 2010. The Board and the residential development community acknowledged a need for updates to respond to the increasing demand for affordable housing in Fairfax County. The Board established a WDU Policy Task Force that began meeting on March 27, 2019. Based on the recommendations of the Task Force, the Board directed staff in July to integrate the Task Force’s recommendations into the current WDU Guidelines. The Board anticipates taking action on revised WDU Policies in February of 2021. The WDU Policy Task Force recommended the following:
In both the Countywide and Tysons Policies, the total percentage of WDUs has decreased, but the WDUs will be offered in lower income tiers. The WDU Policy Task Force also recommended that the new provisions be evaluated five years following the Board’s adoption of the Comprehensive Plan Amendment to revise the WDU Policies. The representatives of the residential development community serving on the WDU Policy Task Force proposed an alternative policy, and did not support the recommendation of the Task Force. Several multi-family residential developers and their representatives continue to work with Board members to resolve this issue.
The Economic Incentive Program provides financial and regulatory incentives to eligible developments during specified ten-year time periods within six Economic Incentive Areas. Economic Incentive Areas are located in Annandale, Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners, Lincolnia, McLean, Richmond Highway, and Springfield. Commercial, industrial, and multi-family residential developments within these areas must be comprised of at least two contiguous parcels totaling at least two acres to take advantage of the program. The financial incentives offered include a partial abatement of real estate taxes on the difference between the property’s base value and post development value. Additionally, the program offers expedited scheduling of zoning applications, concurrent processing of Comprehensive Plan amendments and zoning applications, a 10% reduction of site plan fees, and concurrent processing of a site plan and zoning applications. The 10-year tax abatement period varies by area.
Airport noise is the subject of continued discussion in Fairfax County. Washington Dulles Airport (IAD) and National Airport (DCA) have been operating in the Northern Virginia area for over 50 years and provide a valuable service to Fairfax County residents and other surrounding jurisdictions. As the population in Northern Virginia has increased, the issue of airplane noise has become increasingly important to the residents of Fairfax County and to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA). In March of 2019, MWAA presented an Aircraft Noise Contour update to the Board. This update was mainly associated with the noise contours surrounding IAD, specifically the development density within the Dulles Suburban Center. The discussion regarding whether residential development is appropriate in this area remains ongoing.
These policies and programs will have important consequences for future development in Fairfax County. Additionally, they give insight into the decisions and priorities of the new 2020 Board. There will certainly be more to watch in the upcoming months.