Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ COVID-19-Related Planning and Zoning Matters

April 16, 2020

On April 14, 2020, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS) in Virginia held its first virtual meeting, adopted a number of important ordinances and held a full slate of public hearings on land use cases.

Of particular importance, the BOS extended the validity period for certain expiring development approvals. It also approved an ordinance setting up procedures for virtual meetings of the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals.

Extension of Development Approvals Validity

The BOS approved an ordinance extending the validity period for certain categories of expiring approvals. Specifically, it automatically extends the validity of Land Development Services director-approved plans, permits or modifications that would have expired during the public emergency. The ordinance defines a director-approved plan, plat, permit or modification as “any plan, plat, grading permit, parking reduction, Public Facilities Manual modification, or Public Facilities Manual waiver approved by the Director.”

The extension does not, however, include building plans or building permits approved by the Fairfax County Building Official or preliminary subdivision plats.

This blanket extension will eliminate the need for case-by-case extensions and will function as a good stopgap measure for approvals with near term expirations.

Electronic Meetings of Boards and Commissions

The BOS also authorized various Fairfax County boards and commissions and independent boards (including the Board of Zoning Appeals) to meet electronically during the COVID-19 emergency. These include, among others, the Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, Board of Building and Fire Prevention Code Appeals, Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance Exception Review Committee and the Geotechnical Review Board.

The ordinance gives fairly wide discretion to each board and commission regarding whether to meet and the scope of items it will review. For example, it is up to the chair of each board and commission to determine whether the body will continue to meet. Additionally, for those choosing to meet, the body itself must identify its essential functions and services and the scope of matters necessary to meet those essential functions and services.