Land Development Process: Overview

image showing four phases of the land development process in Fairfax County Phase 1 Zoning Phase 2 Site and Subdivision plan review Phase 3 Phase 4 The development process in Fairfax County involves comprehensive reviews by numerous county and non-county agencies and may involve many steps before a project can be approved.

Every project is unique and subject to its own set of requirements depending on the location and complexities of the project.

County staff is available to assist you. For specific questions about your project, contact:

  • Zoning: Planner of the Day, 703-324-1290, TTY 711
  • Site and Subdivision Plans: Engineer of the Day, 703-324-1575, TTY 711
  • Building Permits: Permit Application Center, 703-222-0801, TTY 711

Preparing Your Project

Ordinances and Regulations

The following must be consulted before proceeding with a development project.

Determine Feasibility

  1. Before developing your project you need to know relevant zoning requirements, legal restrictions and physical characteristics of your site, such as:
    • Zoning information – Determine the zoning district, setback requirements and proffers associated with your parcel. Find your zoning district online, or call 703-222-1082, TTY 711
    • Site-specific information - Any information relative to the proposed development of the property to include plats, legal description, easements and other property encumbrances, previous zoning actions, survey, utilities, transportation access, stormwater information, etc.
    • Physical site characteristics such as plats, topography, soils, Resource Protection Areas, utilities, transportation access, stormwater information, etc.

  2. Determine which phase of the development process to follow. There are four major phases: Planning and Zoning; Site and Subdivision Plan Review; Building Permits and Inspections; and Bond Release.

County Land Development Process

The following question will help you determine at which phase to start: Is the use (e.g., residential, nonresidential, day-care center, church, vehicles sales, etc.) I propose allowed by the Zoning Ordinance regulations for the zoning district of my property?

  • If YES, as a:
    • Permitted use. You don't need to make further application in the planning and zoning phase of the development process. However, if you cannot meet all the regulations because of the conditions relating to the land itself, you can apply for a variance to request that certain zoning requirements be modified for your project because of conditions beyond your control (i.e., fence height, location of structures in relation to property lines, increase in building height, lot width).
    • Special exception use. You must obtain approval of a special exception from the Board of Supervisors.
    • Special permit use. You must obtain approval of a special permit from the Board of Zoning Appeals.

  • If NO:

    • If the use is not allowed in the zoning district of your land, you can request that the land be zoned to a different zoning district that will allow your proposed use (enter Phase 1Planning and Zoning – of the development process).

  • If your project will meet all the zoning regulations:
    • Proceed to Phase 2 of the development process – Site and Subdivision Plans Review – if a site plan or subdivision plan is necessary for your project; or
    • Phase 3Permits and Inspections – to obtain the necessary building permits.


Phase 1 - Zoning

Phase 2 - Site and Subdivision Plans Review

Phase 3 - Building Permits and Inspections

Phase 4 - Bond Release and Public Street Acceptance



Contact Fairfax County: Phone, Email or Twitter | Main Address: 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035
Technical Questions: Web Administrator

ADA Accessibility | Website Accessibility
Awards | FOIA | Mobile | Using this Site | Web Disclaimer & Privacy Policy | Get Adobe Reader
Official site of the County of Fairfax, Virginia, © Copyright 2015

Website Feedback Website Feedback    Globe with various flags representing Web site language translations   Language Translations

Return to Graphic Version