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Glossary | Fairfax
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do we Plan?
The purpose of planning is to ensure that Fairfax County’s
excellent quality of life will continue. Through the planning
process, county residents, business owners and community
organizations help shape Fairfax County’s land use and open space
pattern. A well-planned community provides compatible land uses, as
well as transportation networks, public facilities and parks. In
addition, a well-planned community protects its environmental and
heritage resources. Planning helps to ensure that the Fairfax
County community continues to be attractive, safe, and
What is the Comprehensive Plan?
The Comprehensive Plan (the Plan) is required by state law to be
used as a guide to decision-making about the natural and built
environment by the county’s Board of Supervisors, and others such
as the Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals. It is
also a guide for county staff and the public to use in the planning
process. The Comprehensive Plan consists of the Policy Plan, four
Area Plan volumes, and a Plan Map. The Policy Plan volume includes
general countywide policy on land use, transportation, housing, the
environment, heritage resources, economic development, and public
facilities, including public parks, recreation and trails. The Area
Plans contain detailed long-range planning recommendations
organized by geographic areas of the county. The Plan recommends
how land should be used, but not when development will occur. The
Plan Map illustrates the recommended land use, but must be used
with the Plan books to fully understand what is planned.
What is the difference between the Comprehensive Plan and the
The plan generally guides land use and is an advisory document.
The Zoning Ordinance is part of the County Code and regulates the
type, scale and intensity of development which may occur in the
specific zoning districts. To fully understand how a parcel of land
can be used, you first need to know how the land is planned in the
Comprehensive Plan, and then determine how the land is zoned. Just
as changing the Plan for a parcel of land requires Plan amendment,
changing the zoning for that parcel requires a rezoning
Who can help me understand what is planned for a particular
property or area?
You may call or visit the Planning Division’s
Planner-of-the-Day at our office. No appointment
is needed. The Planner can also tell you if there have been any
recent Plan amendments that may affect the property or surrounding
Department of Planning and Zoning
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 730
Fairfax, VA 22035
Telephone: 703-324-1380, TTY 711 (Virginia Relay)
Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Where can I get the Comprehensive Plan?
You can use the Plan for reference purposes in the Virginia Room
of the City of Fairfax Regional Library, and at the office of each
member of the Board of Supervisors. The Plan (including copies of
any amendments) can be purchased from the Department of Planning
and Zoning, Herrity Building, 12055 Government Center Parkway,
Suite 730, Fairfax. Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
Telephone: 703-324-1380, TTY 711.
Can the Comprehensive Plan be changed?
The Code of Virginia mandates that the Comprehensive Plan be
reviewed at least once every five years. Because of the dynamic
growth experienced by the county over the past thirty years, the
Plan has been evaluated more frequently. Proposed amendments to the
Plan are submitted to a periodic public review process that
includes public hearings before the Planning Commission and the
Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors must vote to adopt
an amendment in order to change the Plan. Contact the Planning
Division Planner-of-the-Day at 703-324-1380, TTY 711 for
information about the Plan Amendment process.
Who can tell me how the vacant land near my property can be
Consult the Planner-of-the-Day to find out:
how the land is planned;
if it is public property, such as a school
site or parkland or;
if it is open space dedicated at time of
rezoning to a Homeowners Association for preservation.
How are environmental issues addressed in the Comprehensive
The environmental element of the Policy Plan provides guidance for
achieving a balance between protecting the environment and planning
for the orderly development of the county. Environmental policy
recommends identification and protection of Environmental Quality
Corridors and other ecologically valuable land and surface waters;
conservation and restoration of tree cover; reduction of
environmental pollution (air, water, noise and light); and
avoidance or minimization of environmental hazards such as unstable
soils, gas and petroleum pipelines, and flood hazards.
How can I find out about environmental conditions that might be
a constraint to development, such as floodplains and
If you have a concern about floodplains or Resource Protection
Areas (as defined by the county’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation
Ordinance), contact the Special Projects Branch of the Department
of Public Works and Environmental Services at 703-324-1700, TTY
711. If you have questions about other environmental constraints
(wetlands, Environmental Quality Corridors), or general questions
about whether or not there might be environmental constraints on a
property, contact the Environment and Development Review Branch of
the Department of Planning and Zoning, 703-324-1380, TTY 711.
Who can tell me what road improvements are planned near my
Contact the Planner-of-the-Day at Fairfax County’s Department of
Transportation, 703-877-5600, TTY 711. The Transportation Plan is a
part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
Where can I get information about the planning and funding
process for public facilities such as schools, parks, libraries,
police substations, fire stations, utilities and communications
The Comprehensive Plan includes guidance about planned public
facilities. The Policy Plan includes county objectives and policies
which guide the development of different types of public
facilities. The Area Plans give more specific information at the
Planning District level about both existing and planned facilities.
The Capital Improvements Program (CIP) is the means for addressing
the county’s capital facilities requirements over the next five
years. The CIP is available free of charge at the Maps and
Publications Sales Desk, at the Planning Division office, and at
county libraries. Public hearings before the Planning Commission
and the Board of Supervisors are held to determine the
compatibility of new and expanded public facilities in relation to
the recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan.For more information
about the public facilities planning process, contact the
Planner-of-the-Day at 703-324-1380, TTY 711.