Wednesday, Mar 01, 2023

Fairfax County Prepares for Zoning Updates

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will consider several amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance this year. Three updates in particular, currently under consideration, are likely to affect development proposals in Fairfax County.

Affordable Housing Preservation Amendment

Affordable Housing is a critical goal of Fairfax County, and the County now looks to formally add new guidance to the Comprehensive Plan that underscores the importance of this goal. Draft text for the amendment, available here, seeks one-for-one replacement of existing affordable units on qualifying sites, with an overarching goal of “no net loss” in affordable housing rental units.

The amendment defines two forms of affordable units: Committed Affordable Units and Market Affordable Units. Committed Affordable Units are bound by agreements or other means to remain accessible to households with an income at 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for a minimum of 30 years. Market Affordable Units are not bound to serve any particular income level, but are accessible to households with an income at 60% of the AMI due to market forces. The County’s goal of “no net loss” includes both Committed Affordable Units and Market Affordable Units.

As written, the amendment calls for sites with four or more affordable units to be evaluated for the feasibility of one-for-one replacement at the time of redevelopment. Additional density may be considered for proposals that commit to long-term affordability, and additional height may be considered if it is necessary to meet the one-for-one replacement goal. Proposed redevelopment should also include a Relocation Assistance Plan, prepared by the developer. Additional guidance will be provided in the forthcoming Affordable Housing Preservation Administrative Policy Guidelines.

During the public hearing with the Planning Commission, staff acknowledged that one-for-one replacement may not be appropriate or feasible for all sites. All redevelopment remains subject to Zoning Ordinance requirements, and must be compatible with the surrounding area.

The Affordable Housing Preservation Amendment is scheduled to go before the Board of Supervisors on March 21, 2023.

Parking Reimagined

Over the past year, Fairfax County staff reviewed the requirements found in Article 6 of the Zoning Ordinance, which regulates off-street parking and loading. This review, termed the Parking Reimagined study, has resulted in a proposed comprehensive rewrite of Article 6.

Parking Reimagined provides a series of amendments to update the Zoning Ordinance. The recommended amendments resulting from Parking Reimagined are far-reaching and will affect nearly every proposal with required parking. These amendments include a revised chart of parking requirements for many uses, increased discretion for the Director of Planning and Development to reduce parking requirements, and revised bicycle parking requirements.

The amendments include a provision that zoning applications accepted for staff review prior to the effective date of any adopted amendments will proceed under the current provisions of the Zoning Ordinance, although applicants may opt into the new regulations.

In November 2022, County staff presented a draft proposal of these amendments to the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use Policy Committee. Staff continues to refine the proposed recommendations, and an updated white paper, available here, was published in early February 2023.

Parking Reimagined is tentatively scheduled to proceed to public hearings in the spring and summer of 2023.

Landscaping & Screening Zoning Ordinance Amendment

Landscaping and screening are a point of discussion with any development or redevelopment project. Fairfax County is currently conducting public outreach regarding possible amendments to the landscaping and screening provisions of the Zoning Ordinance.

Some possible changes include an increase in the percentage of parking lot landscaping, revising the barrier requirement, and modifying the width and planting requirements of transitional screening. Draft text is not yet available for potential changes to the existing regulations.

The Landscaping and Screening Zoning Ordinance Amendment is tentatively scheduled to proceed to public hearings in the summer of 2023.

We will continue to monitor the progress of the coming changes to Fairfax County’s zoning regulations. If you have questions as to how Fairfax County’s zoning updates may impact your development project, please contact Lynne Strobel at