Fairfax County, Virginia, Adopts New Zoning Ordinance zMOD

March 25, 2021

Several years of work culminated in the March 23, 2021, adoption of a new zoning ordinance (zMOD) by the Fairfax County, Virginia, Board of Supervisors. This is the first comprehensive zoning update since 1978.

The new ordinance was designed mainly to modernize existing regulations and create a more user-friendly experience. However, it also created several new zoning categories, updated use definitions and requirements, and modified the list of permitted uses in certain zoning districts. Watch for future McGuireWoods updates on new use categories for distribution facilities, data centers and impacts on residential development.

Highlights from the adopted ordinance include the following:

  • Planned District (P District) Standards
    • zMOD removed the requirements that P districts generally conform to provisions in the most similar conventional district. That update provides more design flexibility within P districts.
    • Updates Planned Development Housing (PDH) district secondary use limitations. Under zMOD, the secondary uses must be designed as an integrated component of the development. The existing ordinance requires that they primarily serve the residents in the PDH district.
  • New Uses and Revised Use Categories
    • Stacked Townhouse Dwellings – zMOD creates a new use category for what are commonly referred to as two-over-two units. This use previously was classified as multifamily and the new use requirements generally mirror the multifamily requirements. However, zMOD increased the parking requirements for this use and aligns it with single-family attached and detached units for affordable housing calculations and building setbacks.
    • Live-Work Development – This new use category applies to reuse of existing buildings in which individual units are designed to accommodate residential dwellings and a flexible workspace for office uses.
    • Office – Seven current uses are consolidated into the office use category. Additionally, the requirements permit increased office uses in certain commercial retail zoning districts.
    • Data Centers – Creates a new use category for data centers, which previously were categorized as “telecommunications facilities.” The new use category expands where data centers are permitted, but also adds new design requirements and size limitations that will require special exceptions for most modern data centers.
    • Goods Distribution Hub – Creates a new use category for last-mile delivery distribution, including both small-scale and large-scale operations.
  • Commercial Revitalization Districts (CRDs) – zMOD reorganizes and consolidates requirements in CRDs. It also adds flexibility for building heights and provides clarifications on setback requirements. The new regulations also increase requirements for interior parking lot landscaping and parking reductions.

The new ordinance goes into effect July 1, 2021. Applications submitted and accepted before that date will have until July 1, 2022, to obtain approval under the old zoning ordinance.

Anyone seeking development approvals after July 1, 2021, should review the new ordinance draft and determine the impact of zMOD on their project. McGuireWoods attorneys and planners have been involved with zMOD since 2017 and are available to discuss impacts on specific projects.

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