Fairfax Forward Establishes a New Process to Update County’s Land Use Plan

July 9, 2013

News Highlights

  • Fairfax Forward expands public participation and allows for a more comprehensive review of larger georgraphic areas.
  • This new way to regularly review the county's land use plan will begin with a two-year pilot work program.
  • During these first two years, Fairfax Forward will review 16 ongoing land use studies and start 22 new ones.


After extensive public input, Fairfax County adopted a new way to regularly review and update its land use plan. Called Fairfax Forward, the new process

  • Expands public participation
  • Allows for a more systematic, geographically logical review of the land use plan, known as the Comprehensive Plan
  • Provides a more focused approach to future planning studies
  • Emphasizes plan monitoring and maintenance

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved this new process during their July 9, 2013, meeting. Fairfax Forward will be implemented as a pilot program during the next two years. Afterwards, the board and Planning Commission will evaluate the program’s effectiveness and efficiency.

State law requires that the Comprehensive Plan be reviewed at least once every five years. Not only does Fairfax Forward meet this legal requirement, but also it establishes an ongoing review process.

The county decided a new approach was needed after evaluating the Area Plans Review (APR) process, the previous method to review the Comprehensive Plan. The study included nine community meetings and a public survey.

In comparison to APR, Fairfax Forward offers a number of benefits, including:

  • Greater public participation earlier in the process—County staff will work with individual Board of Supervisors members to engage the public at every stage of individual land use reviews—from design to implementation to recommendations. The APR process relied heavily on public task forces to review proposed changes after they had been submitted, according to public feedback.
  • More comprehensive review of larger geographic areas—Fairfax Forward will allow officials and communities to look countywide, as well as at specific planning areas. The APR process often focused narrowly on specific parcels, acting more like a rezoning process than a comprehensive look at larger geographic areas. 
  • More balanced review of high-density, urban-like areas like Tysons, and lower-density suburban neighborhoods

During its first two-year pilot, Fairfax Forward will continue working on 16 land use studies and 22 new ones. The full list may be found in the work program .

New studies include:

  • Fairfax Center Area
  • Dulles Suburban Center
  • Flint Hill Suburban Area
  • Lincolnia Planning District

Fairfax Forward was created based on extensive public input, including 17 community meetings, two public hearings, an online survey, community focus group, and public comments.

The Comprehensive Plan is required by state law to be used as a guide in decision-making about the built and natural environment by the county's Board of Supervisors and other agencies, such as the Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

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