New Zoning Rules Call For Geometric Regularity for Housing Lots

September 21, 2016

News Highlights

  • Shape factor rules now apply to properties in the Residential-Conservation zoning district, encouraging more uniform lot shapes.
  • The new zoning rules will affect almost 51,000 acres, mainly along the county's western border.

Ten years after first passing a law to tame the tangle of strangely, shaped home lots, Fairfax County extended the rules to cover larger, more rural properties.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors updated zoning rules to limit oddly shaped lots in the Residential-Conservation zoning district. The change will affect almost 51,000 acres, mainly land located along the county’s western boundaries.

The law applies a formula, known as a shape factor, to lot dimensions to produce more uniform geometric shapes.

County officials cited the recent growth of these convoluted lot shapes as the reason for the change. They feature elongated fingers of land, sharp angles and extreme widths or depths that can cause confusion for homeowner over property lines.

Economics and the amount of buildable land are driving the creation of these contorted lots, officials say. As the county becomes more developed, smaller, infill lots have become both less available and more expensive. As result, developers have been turning to properties with Residential Conservation zoning that are a minimum of five acres in size.

The irregular lots shapes create problems, including:

  • Easily figuring out property lines, including what identifying what is front or back yard in some instances
  • Make it difficult to perform yard and septic maintenance
  • Making it challenging to determine setbacks and locations for fences and sheds

Recent developments with uneven lots shapes include Stonebridge at Bull Run Winery, Sudley Farm, Bull Run Woods, and Stuart’s Crossing. For example, Stonebridge’s lots contain long slivers of land that extend more than 4,500 feet from the main portion of the properties.

Stonebridte at Bull Run Winery Lots

When the board adopted the shape factor rules in 2006, Residential-Conservation-zoned properties were deliberately excluded. In part, officials wanted to give builders greater flexibility to site wells and septic fields which are used by most of these properties.

For more information about the specific for the new ordinance, contact the Fairfax County Zoning Administration Division at 703-324-1314, TTY 711.


Land Zoned Residential Conservation

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