Outdoor kitchens, fire pits, large decks and patios. As these outdoor features become more popular, many homeowners have unknowingly violated zoning rules that limit their size and scope.
In response, the Board of Supervisors adopted zoning changes on June 5 that allow these amenities to take up more space in backyards.
The action will especially help homeowners in planned district communities, like Kingstowne and Burke Centre, who typically have smaller yards. Before, it was difficult for owners of these smaller properties to install decks and patios because of the zoning limitations.
The changes apply to the so called “minimum required rear yard” provisions. The new rules now allow accessory structures, like decks, patios, sheds and children’s playsets to cover a greater percentage of this area.
Zoning regulations require that homes be set back a minimum distance from the property line, and they set a maximum percentage of this rear yard that can be covered with accessory structures. The limitation is to prevent visual clutter from affecting neighbors, and it helps to reduce stormwater runoff from hardscapes.
Previously, accessory structures could only take up 30 percent of the minimum rear yard without the need for county approval. The new rules now allow these features to cover 50 percent of the minimum rear yard by right in planned zoning districts. For properties in these districts that are 5,000 square feet or less — about the size of a professional basketball court — these structures can cover 75 percent by right.
However, the 30 percent coverage rule was not changed for houses in conventional residential zoning districts. But county officials adopted an easier process to seek approval for a greater coverage percentage. Now, homeowners can apply by special permit for up to 60 percent coverage instead of a more stringent variance. Special permits still require a public hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals.
For more information about rear-yard coverage rules, contact the Fairfax County Zoning Administration Division at 703-324-1314, TTY 711.