Phase 1 - Zoning

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 authorizations you must receive in this phase ensure compatibility with the surrounding environment, both existing and planned, as contained in the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Ordinance.

Following is a summary of the courses of action in the Planning and Zoning phase that will guide you.

Comprehensive Plan Review and Amendment

The Comprehensive Plan is the county's guide to long-range physical growth and development and is the basis for land use decisions made by the county. The plan consists of land use maps showing the desired development of the county by type of use – residential, commercial, industrial, public use, open space, recreational, public facilities, governmental and institutional. Proposed and existing transportation and public facilities are also shown.

Applications for rezoning, special exceptions and special permits are reviewed for conformance with the Comprehensive Plan.


Any owner or contract purchaser of land in Fairfax County may apply for a rezoning. The process begins by filing an application with the Zoning Evaluation Division of the Department of Planning and Zoning. An application must meet the submission requirements of the Zoning Ordinance, including submission of a development plan which depicts the general design and layout of the proposed development, a statement of justification describing the request and an affidavit describing the ownership and other interests in the property.

Special Exceptions & Special Permits

There are certain uses which by their nature or design can have an undue impact upon or be incompatible with other uses of land. In addition, there are times when standards and regulations specified for certain uses allowed within a given district should be allowed to be modified, within limitations, in the interest of sound development. These uses or modifications may be allowed within given designated zoning districts. A Special Exception is subject to public hearings by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors with approval by the Board of Supervisors; a Special Permit requires a public hearing and approval by the Board of Zoning Appeals.


A variance is a request of the Board of Zoning Appeals to vary certain requirements of the Zoning Ordinance where, due to special conditions of the property, strict enforcement of the Ordinance would effectively prohibit or unreasonably restrict all reasonable use of the property. A variance may only be granted by the Board of Zoning Appeals through the public hearing process. Examples of variances include, but are not limited to:

  • Requests to permit construction of a structure closer to a lot line (variance to minimum yard requirement).
  • Requests to permit subdivision of a lot which would result in new lots that do not meet minimum lot width requirements (variance to minimum lot width requirement).
  • Requests to increase the height of a fence (variance to fence height).

Variance Process 

You can proceed to Phase 2 - Site and Subdivision Plans Review once it has been determined that your proposed project will conform to all applicable zoning regulations.

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