Zoning Rules for Commercial Vehicles Updated to Simplify Enforcement Efforts


April 5, 2017

News Highlights

  • Zoning laws were updated to better define commercial vehicles and make enforcement easier.
  • As before, the updated law only applies to commercial vehicles parked on residential properties, not public roads.
  • For the first time, the law prohibits trailers, like the ones used to transport equipment, and it prohibits vehicles based on their dimensions.

What counts as a commercial vehicle was made clearer under Fairfax County’s zoning rules, as the Board of Supervisors approved changes on Tuesday.

The changes were needed to make them simpler and easier to enforce. The county’s code enforcement inspectors have faced challenges under the previous rules with a number of cases going to the Board of Zoning Appeals. As an example, the appeals board ruled that a six ton dump truck was not a commercial vehicle.

As before, the rules only apply to commercial vehicles parked on residential properties, not on public roads. Other laws regulate commercial vehicles parking on streets, and these codes are enforced by the police.

Five key changes were made to the zoning ordinance:

  • Deleting the carrying capacity: The previous zoning rule defined a commercial vehicle in part as having a carrying capacity of 1,500 pounds or more. This specification was deleted because many SUVs and trucks that many people drive for personal use exceed this criteria. A Ford F-150 pickup truck can carry 12,200 pounds, for example.
  • Removing the reference to advertising: Under the previous rules, a commercial vehicle also was defined as displaying “advertising lettering.” This description was removed to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Now, the rules display “indicators that the vehicle is designed or used for commercial purposes.”
  • Adding vehicle size: The rules now specifically prohibit commercial vehicles based on their size: vehicles that are longer than 21 feet—including ladders or other equipment attached to it—eight feet in height or 8.5 feet in width. Non-commercial vehicles are not subject to any size limitations.
  • Prohibiting all tow trucks and trailers: Under the old rules, wreckers that exceeded 12,000 pounds were banned from parking on residential properties. Now, the rules prohibit all towing and recovery vehicles regardless of weight. For the first time, trailers, like those used to transport lawnmowers or other equipment, were added to this list of prohibited vehicles.

Unchanged is provision that one commercial vehicle may be parked at a residence if it is owned or operated by the homeowner and provided it is not a specifically prohibited commercial vehicle.

The following vehicles are prohibited from parking on residential lots:

  • Food trucks
  • Garbage trucks
  • Tractor-trailers
  • Semi-trailers
  • Cement-mixers
  • Dump trucks
  • Construction equipment
  • Towing and recovery vehicles
  • Trailers used for transporting equipment whether attached or unattached to another vehicle
  • Vehicles, including any appurtenances attached to it, that are greater than 21 feet in length, eight feet in height or 8.5 feet in width
  • Vehicles carrying commercial freight in plain view
  • Vehicles with more than three axles

There rules also define vehicles that are not considered commercial, including:

  • Vehicles actively providing delivery, repair or moving services
  • Government vehicles, like police or fire trucks
  • Boats, horse trailers and other recreational equipment
  • Vehicles used for ride sharing services like Uber or Lyft

For more information or questions about these rules, contact the Zoning Administration Division of the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning at 703-324-1314, TTY 711.

To make a complaint about commercial vehicle parked on a residential property, call the Department of Code Compliance at 703-1300, TTY 711. Call the Fairfax County Police non-emergency number at 703-691-2131, TTY 711, for complaints about commercial vehicles parked on public roads.

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