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.

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.

Fairfax County has jumped into the craft beverage game by creating new zoning rules that make it more attractive for craft beverage production establishments, including breweries, wineries, and distilleries, to operate in the county. The new zoning ordinance provisions were adopted by the Board of Supervisors on February 28 and are now in effect.  Under the new ordinance, smaller scale producers are expressly permitted in certain commercial zoning districts and most industrial and planned development zoning districts.  McGuireWoods is proud to have been the only firm that advocated during the public hearing process for additional flexibility in production limits and operations of these types of establishments. Those changes were incorporated into the final approved zoning ordinance amendment.

The maximum permitted annual production varies by zoning district, with a range of between 5,000-20,000 barrels of beer or 5,000-36,000 gallons of distilled spirits, wine, cider, or mead per year. While craft beverage production establishments are permitted by right in many districts, they may still require additional zoning actions in most cases. If a property has existing zoning approvals limiting potential uses, then an amendment to that approval will still be required before a craft beverage production establishment can be opened.

If you have questions regarding how the zoning ordinance impacts your property or if you are looking at potential brewery, distillery, or winery sites in Fairfax County, contact sadams@mcguirewoods for additional information.


The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently adopted a Policy Plan Amendment that will potentially open industrial planned areas County-wide by providing additional FAR for Data Center and Self-Storage uses.  This much needed amendment, which was adopted and developed largely in response to concerns raised by McGuireWoods for a key client, creates a new policy that allows the Board to increase the potential FAR to a 1.0 for these uses based largely on the lower-impact these uses generate in terms of traffic and County services.  The amendment requires a development site be located in an industrially planned and zoned district and meet certain criteria involving transportation, noise mitigation, building design, lot size or parcel consolidation, and site design in order to achieve the greater intensity. The text of the new amendment can be found here: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/comprehensiveplan/adoptedtext/2013_p-08.pdf


Please contact any member of the McGuireWoods team if you have questions about how this amendment may apply to a site.

On June 21 the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved amendments to the Planned Residential Multi-Family (PRM) and Planned Development Commercial (PDC) zoning districts, along with changes to Community Revitalization District (CRD) and Community Business Center (CBC) requirements. The amendments will help implement existing Comprehensive Plan recommendations for increased FARs in limited locations and provide flexibility similar implementation of future Comprehensive Plan recommendations.  The approved amendment increases potential FARs in Transit Station Areas (TSAs) to 5.0 and permits up to a 4.0 FAR in CRDs and CBCs, with the exception of the McLean CBC.  The amendment also provides for additional uses in the PRM and PDC zoning districts and clarifies requirements for parking reductions.  Additionally, the amendment includes changes related to fast food restaurants in the PDC and PRM districts.

The zoning ordinance amendments are now in effect.

If you have any questions regarding the impact of the adopted ordinance amendments, do not hesitate to contact Scott Adams at sadams@mcguirewoods.com.

A new Virginia State statute governing what proffers local governments may and may not require of residential developers is set to become effective July 01, 2016. The bill injects a significant amount of legal uncertainty into the proffer process and is highly likely to make the proffer negotiation process even more difficult to navigate as parties attempt to discern the legal significance of the new statute. Fortunately, the statute includes a grandfather clause, meaning it will not apply to any rezoning applications filed prior to July 01, 2016. McGuireWoods has confirmed with Fairfax County staff that they will not be applying the statute’s rules to such applications. For this reason, we strongly recommend property owners considering redevelopment in the medium to near term call us immediately to avoid the ramifications of this new statute.

american-963190_960_720On November 17, The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to enact a “pay day loan” amendment to the County’s zoning ordinance. Pay day loan and car title stores, collectively known as alternative lending institutions or “ALIs” have become somewhat notorious across the country for their business model of providing short term loans at extremely high interest rates – the typical annual percentage rate on a two-week pay day loan is just short of 400%. Since the beginning of 2012, ALIs have nearly doubled in Fairfax County from 16 to 31 stores. Prior to the amendment’s passage, ALIs had been considered the same as any other financial institution, meaning they were allowed in nearly all commercial and industrial districts.

Notwithstanding their previous flexibility under the ordinance, nearly 19 of the 31 ALIs in Fairfax County are located within a Commercial Revitalization District. This is a concern for the County because ALIs act as a financial drain from the market and are impeding the County’s economic development efforts in these already distressed communities. Their extremely high interest rates, conjoined with their tendency to trap low income individuals in a cycle of debt, eliminate the consumption power of their customers and funnel that money out of the community. A lack of consumption power depresses the economic prospect for local businesses, which has a particularly harmful effect on smaller “mom and pop” stores, and signals to outside actors that the community is not a profitable one in which to bring their business.

In response to this concern, the amendment limits ALIs to C-7 and C-8 districts and bans them from Commercial Revitalization Districts and Areas. In addition, for reasons of traffic and conforming use concerns, the amendment limits ALIs to shopping centers rather than stand-alone buildings; limits their hours of operation to between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM; proscribes their operation anywhere adjacent to places of worship, child care centers, educational facilities, or public athletic fields; and prohibits them from storing or selling automobiles on site.

The amendment was passed by a vote of 9-0, with Supervisor Smyth being absent from the room. It took effect at 12:01 a.m. on November 18, 2015.




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When you begin the process of strategizing a potential investment property you may consider many factors including the zoning classification.  Is it zoned commercial, residential or industrial?  What are the height and density constraints?  What uses are permitted by-right versus by special permit?  You may have a vision for the parcel that is dependent on the property’s zoning classification.  However, generally speaking, you don’t have a right to the land’s current zoning classification.  A locality can amend the zoning ordinance at any time and you may be stuck with the new classification unless you have vested rights in the land use.  Which begs the question: how do your rights become vested? Continue Reading Your Property, Your (Vested) Rights?

Fairfax County has rolled out a long awaited draft Zoning Ordinance Amendment related to the PDC and PRM Districts and the Commercial Revitalization District (CRD), Commercial Revitalization Area (CRA), Community Business Center (CBC) and Transit Station Area (TSA) regulations.  The proposed amendments help implement the recent Comprehensive Plan Amendments in the Dulles Corridor and other revitalization districts and make substantive changes that will assist in redeveloping the County’s revitalization districts.  Overall, the proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendment should be a net positive for development in Fairfax County.

Highlights of the Zoning Ordinance Amendment include:

  • Density: Allow the Board to increase the maximum floor area ratio (FAR) in the PDC and PRM Districts from 2.5 and 3.0, respectively, to not more than 5.0 FAR when the development is in a CRD (Baileys Crossroads, Seven Corners, Annandale, Route 1, McLean, and Springfield), CRA (Lake Anne and Merrifield), CBC or TSA. Delete the provisions in PDC that require certain features like increased open space, unique design features, below grade parking, etc. in order to increase FAR above the base level. The actual maximum FAR for a specific parcel would be subject to any further limitation set forth in the comprehensive plan recommendation for such parcel(s).
  • Minimum Yard Requirements: Clarify that the Board can reduce minimum yard requirements in CRDs, CRAs, CBCs and TSAs to implement design criteria within the Plan or other endorsed design guidelines.
  • New Permitted Uses: Expand the permitted uses in the PDC and PRM Districts. Add commercial recreation restaurants (Dave & Busters, ESPN Zone, etc.) to the list of permitted secondary uses in the PDC and PRM Districts to better accommodate businesses such as ESPN Zone and Dave and Busters and remove the use limitation that limits patrons to 18 and over unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. Add fast food restaurants to the list of permitted secondary uses in the PDC District when located in a residential building and specify that such request can occur by way of approval of the final development plan, rather than the current process of special exception.
  • Parking Reductions: Add a new provision that highlights a variety of parking reductions are allowed in the PDC and PRM Districts when a parking reduction furthers a goal of the comprehensive plan. Clarify that the Board can reduce parking in areas served by a mass transit station, transportation facility, or sufficient high-frequency bus service. Allow the Board to reduce parking by up to 20% for non-residential and mixed-use projects in a CRD.
  • Cellar Space: Add a new provision to the PDC and PRM Districts to count cellar space as gross floor area for purposes of calculating FAR.

For questions about the current status of the Zoning Ordinance Amendment or the impact on specific properties, please contact Scott Adams, sadams@mcguirewoods.com.