Zoning and the Land Development Process in Fairfax County

DevelopmentThe development process in Fairfax County involves comprehensive reviews by numerous county and non-county agencies and may involve many steps before a project can be approved.  Every project is unique and subject to its own set of requirements depending on the location and complexities of the project.

Before Developing Your Project

Before developing your project you need to know relevant zoning requirements, legal restrictions and physical characteristics of your site, such as:

  • Zoning informationDetermine the zoning district, setback requirements and proffers (if any) associated with your parcel (or call 703-222-1082, TTY 711 - Zoning Permit Review Branch (ZPRB).
  • Site-specific information - Any information relative to the proposed development of the property to include plats, legal description, easements and other property encumbrances, previous zoning actions, survey, utilities, transportation access, stormwater information, etc.
  • Physical site characteristics such as plats, topography, soils, Resource Protection Areas, utilities, transportation access, stormwater information, etc.

View a Flow Chart showing the Zoning Process

Ordinances and Regulations

Land use and development in Fairfax County is governed by the:

  • Comprehensive Plan is the guide to the long-range physical growth and development of the county and is used as the basis for land use decisions.  Applications for rezoning, special exceptions and special permits are reviewed for conformance with the Comprehensive Plan.             
  • Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 112 of the County Code) is the zoning law in Fairfax County. Before proceeding with any plans for development you should know the zoning district and regulations that govern what you can do with your land.
  • Subdivision Ordinance (Chapter 101 of the County Code) establishes the requirements for subdividing land.
  • Erosion and Sedimentation Control Law (Chapter 104 of the County Code) addresses erosion on construction sites.
  • Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (Chapter 118 of the County Code) protects local streams and the Bay from pollution due to land use and development.
  • Stormwater Management Ordinance (Chapter 124 of the County Code) provides further protection of the county's water resources from pollution.
  • Tidal wetlands, shorelines and other lands near the water's edge are subject to additional federal, state and county requirements.
  • Public Facilities Manual sets forth the regulations that govern the design of all new public facilities serving new development.
  • Virginia Department of Transportation Secondary Street Acceptance Requirements establish requirements that newly constructed streets will need to meet to be accepted into the secondary system of state highways.

Determine Feasibility

Is the use (e.g., residential, nonresidential, etc.) I propose allowed by the Zoning Ordinance regulations for the zoning district of my property?

  1. If YES, as a:
    • Permitted use (by-right use). You don't need to make further application in the planning and zoning phase of the development process. However, if you cannot meet all the regulations because of the conditions relating to the land itself, you can apply for a variance to request that certain zoning requirements be modified for your project because of conditions beyond your control (i.e., fence height, location of structures in relation to property lines, increase in building height, lot width).
    • Special exception use. You must obtain approval of a special exception from the Board of Supervisors.
    • Special permit use. You must obtain approval of a special permit from the Board of Zoning Appeals.

  2. If NO:

If Project Meets Zoning Regulations
If your project meets all the zoning regulations:

Site and Subdivision Plans Reviewif a site plan or subdivision plan is necessary for your project; or

Permits and Inspectionsto obtain the necessary building permits.  

Bond Release and Public Street Acceptance (if necessary)  

County Staff Assistance
County staff is available to assist you. For specific questions about your project, contact:

  • Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) - Zoning Evaluation Division, 703-324-1290, TTY 711
  • DPZ - Zoning Permit Review Branch, 703-222-1082, TTY 711
  • DPZ -  Zoning Administration Division/Ordinance Administration Branch, 703-324-1314, TTY 711
  • DPZ - Zoning Inspections Branch 703-324-4300, TTY 711
  • Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES): Site Development and Inspection Division 703-324-1720, TTY 711
  • DPWES - Site and Subdivision Plans: Engineer of the Day, 703-324-1575, TTY 711
  • DPWES - Customer Technical Support Center: Site and Addressing Center and Permit Application Center 703-222-0801, TTY 711


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Technical Questions: Web Administrator

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