Fairfax County is close to finishing its comprehensive plan amendment for the Richmond Highway Corridor in northern Virginia. The amendment will create a substantial amount of new density — much of it residential — along the route of the proposed bus rapid transit system.

Four areas along Richmond Highway appear to be the big winners of this planning effort — Penn Daw, Beacon/Groveton, Hybla Valley and Woodlawn. Each area will be a community business center where density is allocated according to a form-based code rather than traditional floor area ratio. With maximum permitted heights reaching 22 stories, the plan will allow a substantial amount of new density.

Property owners should begin formulating a strategy now. The county anticipates releasing a staff report on the plan amendment this month, and public hearings on the amendment are scheduled for January and March 2018.

Fairfax County recently announced it will accept site-specific Comprehensive Plan Amendments for the northern portion of the County. The deadline for such nominations is Dec. 5, 2017.

This opportunity applies to property within the Dranesville, Hunter Mill, Providence and Sully Magisterial Districts. Significantly, this process does provide an opportunity to re-evaluate planned uses and density in strategic submarkets such as Tysons, Merrifield and portions of the Route 50 corridor.

There are a number of procedural requirements and limitations. The timeframe for decision-making is also somewhat protracted. Notwithstanding these realities, opportunities for owners or potential contract purchasers to propose changes to the plan historically have been limited. For that reason alone, this tool is worth exploring to address properties and circumstances that are clearly out of step with current or anticipated market realities. In addition, the procedural requirements for making a nomination are generally manageable.

Filing a nomination and potentially changing the Comprehensive Plan does not change existing zoning or affect the lawfulness of existing uses, but can be a critical first step in positioning property for future land use changes and creating long-term value

If you have questions or would like to discuss the nomination procedural process and possible strategies for specific properties, please contact one of the authors listed below or another lawyer on McGuireWoods’ real estate and land use team.

The Urban Land Institute has released the results of an in depth analysis of the future of the Westfields Corporate Office Park in western Fairfax County.  This analysis was the product of a ULI Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) that began its work in 2016.  A link to the report can be found here http://washington.uli.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/56/2017/04/Westfield-TAP-Report_FINAL.pdf.  The report responds directly to well documented challenges facing suburban single use office parks and offers an exciting vision for Westfields that is respectful of Westfield’s history as a premier office park, but also encourages reasonable evolution that can include complimentary mixed use options and the potential for exciting new services and amenities. McGuireWoods has a three decade history in the planning, zoning and management of Westfields.

The Embark Richmond Highway Advisory Group met for its 16th meeting on April 24th. The Advisory Group reviewed a 2040 transportation land use analysis prepared by FCDOT. FCDOT estimates ridership of the proposed bus rapid transit system will reach 18,000 daily trips under the land use plan the Advisory Group is considering. The Advisory Group also heard presentations on heritage resources, parks and recreation, and stormwater management from various Fairfax County staff members. Sightlines from historic structures and open space were discussed as issues in need of further consideration as the planning process moves forward. Staff still anticipates releasing a draft plan in September and public hearings in January/February 2018.


On the eve of its 40th birthday, Fairfax County has kicked off a Zoning Ordinance Modernization effort to analyze and update its current ordinance, which was originally adopted in 1978. The modernization efforts are part of the County’s Fairfax First initiative for economic success.  The effort is being led by Barbara Byron, the Director of the Office of Community Revitalization.

With the help of outside consultants, County staff is kicking off efforts to streamline and update the ordinance. A major goal of the effort is to reformat and restructure the ordinance to make it more user friendly.  This includes creating more table, charts, and graphics to increase the ordinance’s functionality and usability.  The modernization effort will also focus on processing prioritized amendments of County-wide impact.  The initial list of prioritized amendments include:

  • Minor Modification Provisions
  • PDH Districts
  • Use Categories and Definitions
  • Signs
  • Special Exceptions for Building Repurposing

The final area of focus is on improvements to ordinance amendments and other zoning process. Those efforts will focus on how amendments are authorized by the Board of Supervisors and how effective outreach and communication to stakeholders is achieved.

A new initiative to provide better proffer compliance tracking has launched in Fairfax County. The initiative requires applicants to submit a standalone proffer compliance matrix beginning at the first site plan submission.  That matrix is required to be updated as a development project moves through building plan review, occupancy, and bond release.  The overall goal of the new process is to create clarity for developers and Fairfax County regarding the status of a project’s proffer compliance.

The new proffer compliance requirements go into effect on June 27, 2017. If you have any questions about the new process contact Scott Adams at sadams@mcguirewoods.com.

Fairfax County Technical Bulletin


The Embark Richmond Highway Advisory Group held its 15th meeting March 20th. The Advisory Group heard presentations on projected public facility and affordable housing needs within the plan area as a result of proposed increases in density. Staff disclosed the 2040 Land Use Transportation Analysis is being finalized and revealed they have met with VDOT to discuss the planned Chapter 870 Analysis. So far the planning process has stayed on schedule, staff anticipates the final draft plan will be released in early September, the final staff report will be released in November, and public hearings will occur in December or January.


On March 14, 2017, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved an update to the Comprehensive Plan for Tysons. Consistent with comments from industry representatives and the Tysons Partnership (www.tysonspartnership.org), the updated language in the Plan reasonably responds to evolving development trends and steers clear of arbitrary limits on the growth of the County’s economic engine.  McGuireWoods was proud to participate in this effort and is a founding member of the Tysons Partnership.

On March 14, 2017, the Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to the Tysons PTC Zoning District that eliminated the FAR maximum of 2.5 for certain uses located within a Transit Oriented Development that is up to one fourth a mile from a Metro Rail Station.  All non-office uses are now generally not subject to an FAR limitation and the appropriate density is determined based on site specific guidelines otherwise contained in the Plan.  This amendment provides needed flexibility to help implement evolving mixed use concepts and eliminates what was proving to be a somewhat arbitrary restriction in favor a more appropriate performance based approach with respect to traffic and other impacts.




March 28, 2017 – 10:00am – Government Center Conference Room 11


  1. Zoning Ordinance Modernization (45 minutes)
    • Diagnostic review of the Zoning Ordinance to determine its ability to meet modern needs
    • Barbara Byron, Director, Office of Community Revitalization
  2. Fairfax First Initiative: Parking Requirements and Reductions (30 minutes)
    • Continuation of the discussion on an update to the Zoning Ordinance to streamline the process for Parking Reductions
    • John Friedman, Engineer IV, Land Development Services
  3. LDS/DPWES Budget (30 minutes)
    • Development Process FY2018 Budget Considerations
    • Bill Hicks, Director, Land Development Services
  4. Adjournment

The next Development Process Committee meeting is scheduled for May 9, 2017, at 3:00 p.m.