Department of Planning and Development

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Regular hours for calls and emails are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday.

703-324-1380
TTY 711

12055 Government Center Pkwy, Suite 730
Fairfax, VA 22035

Denice Dressel,
ARB Administrator

Historic Overlay District Design Guidelines

Fairfax County’s Historic Overlay District (HOD) program was established in 1969 to preserve general districts and individual structures that have historic, cultural, architectural or archaeological significance.

Currently, there are thirteen historic overlay districts in Fairfax County all of which were established between 1970 and 1986. Each district was created for the purpose of protecting the unique heritage resources of that district. To assist the Architectural Review Board (ARB) in achieving that goal, the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance stipulates that the ARB adopt historic district design guidelines to facilitate its review of applications. Each historic overlay district has its own individual set of guidelines. The guidelines for each district were approved by the ARB in 1992.

Design Guidelines Basis

The Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance stipulates that the ARB adopt design guidelines in order to review applications for rehabilitation, new construction and exterior alterations. Section 3100 of the Zoning Ordinance explicitly states that the guidelines will be based upon standards designed to preserve the historic integrity of the district. These standards include:

  • Retaining historic identity of buildings, both in materials and physical features;
    • Strive to use a building or other structure for its original purpose or one that requires minimal changes;
    • Avoid removing historic features that give character to a building or site;
    • Preserve changes that have occurred to a building during different periods of time;
    • Protect distinctive examples of craftsmanship, finishes, and materials;
    • Repair rather than replace missing features
  • Designing new compatible structures that don't create a false sense of history by attempting to look older than they are
  • Using non-chemical and non-abrasive treatments in restoration;
  • Designing new construction to be compatible and complimentary to the existing character of the historic district
  • Protecting and preserving archaeological resources;
  • Constructing additions that if removed, do not destroy the integrity of the historic property; and
  • Planning site and landscape improvements to complement, not harm, historic structures or sites.

How to Use the Guidelines

Each applicant who is proposing a project in a historic overlay district is required to cite the applicable historic district design guidelines in the application to the ARB. It is important that these guidelines are consulted early in the project planning stages.

The design guidelines for each historic overlay district are available below.

Bull Run Stone Bridge Design Guidelines

Centreville Design Guidelines

Colvin Run Design Guidelines

Dranesville Design Guidelines

Huntley Design Guidelines

Lake Anne Village Center Design Guidelines

Langley Fork Design Guidelines

Mount Air Design Guidelines

Pohick Church Design Guidelines

Robey's Mill Design Guidelines

St. Mary's Church Design Guidelines

Sully Design Guidelines

Woodlawn Plantation and Pope-Leighey House Design Guidelines

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