Interpretations of Approved Zoning Applications

Guidelines for Submitting Requests for Interpretations Related to Approved Zoning Applications (Rezonings, Special Exceptions, Special Permits and Variances)

Interpretations of Approved Zoning ApplicationsSubsequent to the approval of a zoning application, all site plans, subdivision plans, building permits and occupancy permits are required by the Zoning Ordinance to be in substantial conformance with the application as approved by the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission or the Board of Zoning Appeals, respectively.

"Substantial conformance" is defined in the Zoning Ordinance as follows:

Substantial conformance shall be as determined by the Zoning Administrator upon consideration of the record and shall mean that conformance which leaves a reasonable margin for minor modification provided that:

  • such modification is consistent with and does not materially alter the character of the approved development including the uses, layout and relationship to adjacent properties depicted on the approved special permit plat, special exception plat, conceptual development plan, final development plan, development plan, or proffered generalized development plan;
  • such modification is consistent with any proffered or imposed conditions that govern development of the site; and,
  • such modification is in accordance with the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance.

The Zoning Ordinance provides that minor modifications to an approved zoning may be permitted when it is determined by the Zoning Administrator that such are in substantial conformance with the approved zoning and that such are in response to issues of topography, drainage, underground utilities, structural safety, layout, design vehicular circulation, or requirements of the Virginia Department of Transportation or Fairfax County; or are accessory uses; or are accessory structures or minor building additions.

Please refer to the specific Zoning Ordinance sections below related to minor modifications for:

Special Permits: Article 8, Section 8-004
Special Exceptions: Article 9, Section 9-004
PRC (Planned Residential Community) District: Article 16, Section 16-203
P (Planned) Districts: Article 16, Section 16-403
Proffered Conditions: Article 18, Section 18-204

The Zoning Ordinance does not contain specific minor modification provisions related to variances, although substantial conformance determinations may still be requested.

If a proposed change to an approved zoning is not in substantial conformance with an approved zoning, the filing of an application to amend the previously approved zoning application would be required to effectuate the change.

The determination of whether a proposed modification is in substantial conformance with an approved zoning is made through the interpretation process. In order to submit a request for an interpretation related to an approved rezoning, special exception, special permit or variance, please submit a letter to Barbara C. Berlin, Director of the Zoning Evaluation Division, who serves as the duly authorized agent of the Zoning Administrator for this process, at the Department of Planning and Zoning, 12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 801, Fairfax, Virginia 22035. The letter should include the following information.

  • Clear identification of who your name and how you may be contacted (address, phone number, etc.).
  • A reference to the specific property and zoning application which is the subject of the interpretation. Identify the property by tax map number and complete zoning application number, if known.
  • Provide a complete description of the interpretation question, with an explanation of the basis for the question or the proposed change and how it meets the minor modification provisions of the Zoning Ordinance.
  • If the interpretation relates to a specific proffer or development condition, identify the proffer or development condition and provide a copy.
  • " If the interpretation proposes a physical change to an approved plat or development plan, provide a graphic illustrating the proposed changes ideally at the same scale as the approved plan. At least three copies of the plat or development plan should be provided. Each document should be highlighted in red, clearly circling or otherwise identifying any proposed changes.
  • If the proposed modification would change tabulations from those on an approved plan, such as open space, tree cover, floor area, a comparison of the proposed versus existing tabulations should be provided.
  • For building additions or new accessory structures, an architectural elevation and/or a description of proposed building materials may be helpful.
  • For administrative approval of a minor building addition notification to affected adjacent property owners is required.  An affidavit attesting to the fact that notice was sent or delivered must be submitted with the letter requesting the interpretation. Instructions, sample letter, and affidavit.

By reviewing these guidelines and submitting materials that fully support and document your request, time will be saved in obtaining the answer to an interpretation question. When requests for interpretation lack one or more of the applicable elements listed above, unnecessary time is spent between staff and a requester to obtain additional information. The average turnaround time for interpretation requests is 30 days.

It should be recognized that these are general guidelines and you may be asked for additional information by staff assigned to review a particular request.

Effective July 1, 2011, a fee of $520 is required for the processing of interpretation requests. A check for the fee amount must be included with your request made payable to the County of Fairfax.

If you have any questions, please contact the Public Information Planner in the Zoning Evaluation Division, Department of Planning and Zoning at 703-324-1290, TTY 711.

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