Special Permits and Special Exceptions


 Special Permits and Special Exceptions

This guide provides a brief, informal summary of a segment of the development process. The guide is divided into two sections.

Section 1 (Overview) addresses issues related to each of the four major phases of the development process:

  • Site selection/Preapplication
  • Planning (including approval of a rezoning, special exception, special permit or variance)
  • Site Plan Review
  • Building Plan Review, Permit Application and Inspection

Section 2 (Steps in the Development Process) does the following:

  • Summarizes the basic steps and requirements in the development process.
  • Informs applicants as to where they may obtain information.
  • Informs applicants as to approximately how long the development processes will take.

Points to Remember

Resolution of issues related to project design and acquisition of easements may extend the time frame for completion of a project. For example:

  • Projects may increase or conflict with existing traffic in the area of the development and may generate a need for road improvements, such as road widening or a right turn lane, to be provided by the applicant.
  • Additional parking may be required and existing parking and entrance facilities may need to be brought up to current Public Facilities Manual standards.
  • Service drive requirements on primary roadways, screening requirements and stormwater management requirements must be resolved prior to obtaining site plan approval.

Additionally, the type of building construction and the use of the building are significant factors in the development process. For example:

  • Structures containing day care facilities for six or more children two and one half years of age and under are not permitted in certain types of construction.
  • Increasing the number of children in a child care program, or changing the age of children accepted into the program is considered a change of use and requires a building permit and may require a special permit or special exception.

Further, the location of the project and the type of construction may be factors in the development process. For example, certain parts of the county have been designated as Commercial Revitalization Districts and Areas. Alternative processes may be available for projects located in these Districts and Areas.

Certain steps in the process such as the preparation of site plans can be met only by a professional engineer, architect, landscape architect or land surveyor. In addition, hiring a professional familiar with the Fairfax County development process to perform a feasibility study and to oversee the entire project may expedite the process for the applicant. The professional should be familiar with the current requirements and regulations in Fairfax County.

 

 

Section 1 - Overview

Site Selection/Preapplication Process Overview

Feasibility Study. Each project is unique and subject to its own set of requirements depending on the location and the particulars of the proposal. Determining the Zoning District and allowable uses for the site, reviewing the recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan for the site and determining the requirements with which the project must comply enable the applicant to determine the project's feasibility. Addressing potential difficulties in meeting requirements at the outset may preclude delays later in the review process. Approval by the Board of Supervisors (Board) of a rezoning or special exception or approval by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) of a special permit may also be required for some uses.

Special Permit and Special Exception Process Overview

Certain uses, by their nature, need to be reviewed on a case by case basis to assess the impact upon other uses of land. These special uses may be allowed within given designated zoning districts under the controls, limitations, and regulations of a special permit or special exception.

Application, Review and Public Hearing Process. Projects requiring a special permit must be approved by the BZA. The application for a special permit is:

  • Scheduled for a Public Hearing before the BZA within 90 days from the date the complete application is accepted.
  • Reviewed for harmony with the Comprehensive Plan.
  • Reviewed for conformance with the Zoning Ordinance.

Projects requiring a special exception must be approved by the Board. The application for a special exception is:

  • Scheduled for a Public Hearing before the Planning Commission and Board once the complete application is accepted.
  • Reviewed for harmony with the Comprehensive Plan.
  • Reviewed for conformance with the Zoning Ordinance.

(Note that all uses planned for the property must appear on the special permit or special exception application.)

Commencement of Construction. Following special permit approval by the BZA or special exception approval by the Board, the construction/operation authorized by the special permit or special exception must begin within 30 months unless otherwise specified by the BZA or Board (as applicable) or additional time to commence construction must be approved later by the BZA or Board. (The application should not be submitted if the applicant is not prepared to commence construction within this time frame). It should be noted that under certain circumstances the BZA or Board may establish a time limit shorter than the standard 30 month period. Generally, commencement of construction means obtaining approval of a site plan and a building permit and installing the footings for the building. Construction must be pursued diligently. If this cannot be accomplished within 30 months, the applicant may request additional time to commence construction by sending to the Zoning Administrator a written request which must be filed prior to the 30 month expiration date and must contain an explanation of why the use has not been established or construction started within this time frame. (Note that the applicant must request the additional time prior to the expiration date or the special permit or special exception expires). It is noted that the special permit or special exception is not deemed to be established until a Non-Residential Use Permit (Non-RUP) or Residential Use Permit (RUP), as applicable, has been issued.

Site Plan Review Process Overview

Site Plan Submission and Review Process. A site plan must be submitted and approved prior to the commencement of construction. The site plan must conform to the approved special permit or special exception plat as may be further modified by the development conditions imposed by the BZA or Board. All special permit or special exception conditions must be included on the site plan, and the site plan must comply with the requirements of Article 17 of the Zoning Ordinance regardless of special permit or special exception conditions. Depending on the particulars of the project, the site plan may require review by any one or several of the following agencies:

COUNTY AGENCIES
OTHER AGENCIES
  • Department of Public Works and Environmental Services
  • Fairfax Water
  • Fire Marshal
  • Health Department
  • Department of Planning and Zoning
  • Department of Transportation
  • Park Authority
  • Board of Supervisors
  • Planning Commission
  • School Board
  • Architectural Review Board
  • Environmental Quality Advisory Council
  • Geotechnical Review Board
  • History Commission
  • Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Virginia Department of Transportation

Bonds and Agreements. Cost estimates for the completion of public improvements (if required) must be submitted by the applicant's engineer with final site plan submission. Subsequent to verification of the estimates by county staff, the applicant obtains a surety bond, letter of credit or other type of security and returns the executed forms to the county. The bond or other acceptable security must be posted with the county to guarantee completion of the improvements. Acquiring easements, providing escrows for future construction, or other conditions must be satisfied prior to final approval of the site plan.

Building Permit Process Overview

Building Permits. Building permits are required for constructing, enlarging, altering, repairing or demolishing a building or structure. Building permits are also required when changing the use of a building. Note that in order to change the use of an existing building, the building must meet the requirements of the current code for the new use.

Plan Submission, Permit Issuance and Inspections. The building permit application and building plans may be submitted concurrently with site plan submissions, but the building permit will not be issued prior to site plan approval in accordance with Article 18 of the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance. Inspections are performed to ensure that all building and site related work is completed according to the approved plans and to ensure that all public improvements are completed.

Non-Residential Use Permit. Prior to occupancy or use of the structure, a Non-Residential Use Permit (Non-RUP) must be obtained from the Zoning Permit Review Branch, Zoning Administration Division, Department of Planning and Zoning which certifies that the final inspections of the building or addition have been completed and that the special permit, special exception or proffer conditions have been met. All public improvements (if required), such as construction of a turn lane, must be completed and approved prior to release of the bonds which were posted with the county to guarantee completion of these improvements.

 

 

Section 2 - Steps in the Process 

 

Process

Contact

Site Selection/Preapplication Process (approximate time frame: by applicant)

Feasibility Study.*

  • Meet with county staff to discuss development and building code regulations pertaining to the site. (Preapplication Meeting.)
  • Prepare an engineering feasibility study for the project. (Consider hiring a certified professional engineer, landscape architect or architect familiar with the Fairfax County process and registered in the Commonwealth of Virginia.)
  • Include the review of the following items in this study:
    • Nature and extent of proposed use
    • Planned road improvements (road widening and access)
    • Zoning regulations
    • Comprehensive Plan recommendations
    • Topography and other natural constraints
    • Floodplain information
    • Adequacy of utilities (water, sewer, electric, and telephone).
    • Screening and landscaping
    • Stormwater management
    • Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas (Resource Management Areas and Resource Protection Areas)
  • Prepare preliminary soils report for the selected site.

*NOTE: The Feasibility Study process is not requirement, but is recommended.

Zoning Evaluation Division
Department of Planning and Zoning
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 801
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5509
703-324-1290, TTY 711

or

Land Development Services
Department of Public Works and Environmental Services
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 444
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5503
703-324-1780, TTY 711

 Special Permit Process (approximate time frame: 3 months from acceptance of applicaton)
1. Special Permit Application.
  • Meet with county staff to discuss development regulations pertaining to the site. (Preapplication Meeting.)
  • Hire a certified professional engineer, landscape architect, land surveyor or architect who is familiar with the Fairfax County process and registered in the Commonwealth of Virginia to prepare, certify and seal the plat. (Required by the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance.)
  • Submit special permit application, filing fee and other documents as required by Section 8-011 of the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance (for example, 22 copies of the plat [showing layout of proposed buildings, access, vehicular circulation, parking, open space, etc.], and affidavit [showing all parties having a financial interest in the subject property]).

 

Zoning Evaluation Division
Department of Planning and Zoning
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 801
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5509
703-324-1290, TTY 711

2. Special Permit Application Review Process.

  • Meet with staff to discuss project.
  • Resolve issues identified in review which may pertain to access, landscaping, screening, minimum required yards for buildings, tree preservation or the provision of stormwater management.
  • Submit revised plats (22 copies), if necessary.

Zoning Evaluation Division
Department of Planning and Zoning
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 801
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5509
703-324-1290, TTY 711

3. Public Hearings.

  • Receive notification package sent to the applicant (or agent) by the Clerk to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).
  • Notify the property owners in the vicinity of the project by certified mail, return receipt requested, in accordance with instructions.
  • Submit proof of notification to the Clerk (or the public hearing cannot be held).
  • Present application at BZA Public Hearing. (The special permit application is approved, approved with conditions, or denied.)

Clerk to the Zoning Appeals
Department of Planning and Zoning
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 801
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5509
703-324-1290, TTY 711

Special Exception Process (approximate time frame: 5-7 months from acceptance of application)

1. Special Exception Application.

  • Meet with county staff to discuss development regulations pertaining to the site. (Preapplication Meeting.)
  • Hire a certified professional engineer, landscape architect, land surveyor or architect who is familiar with the Fairfax County process and registered in the Commonwealth of Virginia to prepare, certify and seal the plat. (Required by the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance.)
  • Submit special exception application, filing fee and other documents as required by Section 8-011 of the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance (for example, 22 copies of the plat [showing layout of proposed buildings, access, vehicular circulation, parking, open space, etc.], and affidavit [showing all parties having a financial interest in the subject property]).

 

Zoning Evaluation Division
Department of Planning and Zoning
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 801
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5509
703-324-1290, TTY 711

2. Special Exception Application Review Process.

  • Meet with staff to discuss project.
  • Resolve issues identified in review which may pertain to access, landscaping, screening, minimum required yards for buildings, tree preservation or the provision of stormwater management.
  • Submit revised plats (22 copies), if necessary.

Zoning Evaluation Division
Department of Planning and Zoning
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 801
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5509
703-324-1290, TTY 711

3. Planning Commission Public Hearing.

  • Receive notification package sent to the applicant (or agent) by the Department of Planning and Zoning.
  • Notify the property owners in the vicinity of the project by certified mail, return receipt requested, in accordance with instructions.
  • Submit proof of notification to the Planning Commission (or the public hearing cannot be held).
  • Present application at the Planning Commission Public Hearing.

Zoning Evaluation Division
Department of Planning and Zoning
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 801
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5509
703-324-1290, TTY 711

4. Board of Supervisors Public Hearing

  • Receive notification package sent to the applicant (or agent) by the Department of Planning and Zoning.
  • Notify the property owners in the vicinity of the project by certified mail, return receipt requested, in accordance with instructions.
  • Submit proof of notification to the Planning Commission (or the public hearing cannot be held).
  • Present application at the Board of Supervisors Public Hearing. (The special exception application is approved, approved with conditions, or denied.)

Zoning Evaluation Division
Department of Planning and Zoning
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 801
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5509
703-324-1290, TTY 711

Site Plan Review Process (approximate time frame: 6 - 9 MONTHS)

1. Site Plan Submission.

  • Hire a certified professional engineer, architect, landscape architect , landscape architect or land surveyor who is familiar with the Fairfax County process and registered in the Commonwealth of Virginia to prepare, certify and seal the plans. (Required by the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance.)
  • Incorporate approved special permit or special exception conditions and plats into site plan.
  • Submit site plan and cover sheet, including, as needed, grading plan, drainage study, parking study and other required documents.
  • Pay site plan review fees.
  • Notify appropriate property owners of site plan filing by certified mail, return receipt requested.
  • Submit proof of notification to Site and Addressing Center, Land Development Services, Department of Public Works and Environmental Services.
  • Meet with staff to discuss the project following plan review (post-submission conference).
  • Address and resolve all issues raised by reviewing agencies.
  • Resubmit site plan.

Site and Addressing Center
Land Development Services
Department of Public Works and Environmental Services
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 230
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5503
703-222-0801, TTY 711

2. Bonds and Agreements Process.

  • Submit estimate of costs for completion of public improvements.
  • Post bond to guarantee completion of improvements and pay remaining fees.
  • Pay site plan inspection fees.

Bonds and Agreements
Land Development Services
Department of Public Works and Environmental Services
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 230
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5503
703-222-0801, TTY 711

3. Construction (Land Disturbance) Permit Process.

  • Submit construction permit application and pay permit fee.
  • Obtain construction permit upon site plan approval.

Site and Addressing Center
Land Development Services
Department of Public Works and Environmental Services
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 230
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5504
703-222-0801, TTY 711

Building Permit Process (approximate time frame: 4 months)
  • Hire a licensed professional architect or engineer familiar with the Fairfax County process and registered in the commonwealth of Virginia to prepare, certify and seal the plans. (Required by the Virginia Construction Code in most cases.)
  • Incorporate any applicable special permit or special exception conditions into the building plans.
  • Schedule a preliminary meeting with Building Plan Review staff to discuss building plans.
  • Retain licensed contractors or other persons qualified by the commonwealth of Virginia to perform the work and obtain permits.
  • Determine whether the project is subject to "Special Inspections" within the Critical Structures Program. If the project is subject to "Special Inspections," hire a licensed professional engineer to oversee construction and inspection of the project.
  • Submit building permit application, 3 copies of architectural and structural building plans and 1 copy of site plan. (If Health Department review is required, submit 4 copies of building plans.)
  • Pay filing fee for application processing and plan review (35% of building permit fee).
  • Pay estimated Fire Marshal fee.
  • Resolve issues identified in initial plan review. (Schedule a meeting with Building Plan Review staff if issues are unclear.)
  • Resubmit subsequent building plan corrections.
  • Identify types of inspections to be performed.
  • Obtain required approvals on building permit application.
  • Pay plumbing fixture unit and sewer hook-up fees to Wasterwater Management.
  • Pick up approved plans.

Permit Application Center
Land Development Services
Department of Public Works and Environmental Services
12055 Government Center Parkway
Second Floor
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5504
703-222-0801, TTY 703-324-1877

1. Permit Application and Building Plan Review Process.

  • Discuss the project with Critical Structures staff if the building is subject to "Special Inspections." (A preliminary meeting with staff of the Critical Structures Section is required prior to issuance of a building permit.)
  • Pay remaining building permit fees and obtain building permit.
  • Have licensed trade contractors submit trade permit (electrical, mechanical, plumbing) applications and pay cashier for each permit.

Critical Structures Section
Land DevelopmentServices
Department of Public Works and Environmental Services
12055 Government Center Parkway, Third Floor
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5504
703-324-1050, TTY 711

2. Inspection Request Process.

  • Request inspection after each element of construction requiring an inspection is completed and before work is concealed.
  • Request final inspection(s).

Inspection Requests and Records Center
Land Development Services
Department of Public Works and Environmental Services
12055 Government Center Parkway
Third Floor
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5504
703-222-0455, TTY 711 during business hours or by FIDO online or automated telephone system at 703-222-2474

3. Obtain Non-Residential Use Permit prior to occupancy

Zoning Permit Review Branch
Department of Planning and Zoning
12055 Government Center Parkway, Second Floor
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5505
703-222-1082, TTY 711

4. Post-occupancy requirements

  • Submit as-built plans.
  • Obtain bond release.

Land Development Services
Department of Public Works and Environmental Services
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 444
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5503
703-324-1771, TTY 711

 

Additional Information

The information contained in this Guide is provided as a brief informal summary of a segment of the development process and is not intended to give specific details on the process or the requirements. For specific requirements, consult the following documents: The Code of the County of Fairfax, Virginia (particularly Chapters 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 71, 101, 104 and 117), The Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance (particularly Articles 8, 9, 13, 17 and 18), the Fairfax County Public Facilities Manual and the Virginia Construction Code. These documents are available for purchase at the Publications Counter, Government Center, Suite 156, 12000 Government Center Parkway or may be viewed at Fairfax County Libraries.

For more information on programs available for projects located in Commercial Revitalization Districts, please visit the Revitalization page.


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