Zoning Administration Division

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our office hours are 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Permit counter hours are 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Mon-Thu and 9:15 a.m. - 4 p.m. Fri.

703-324-1314
TTY 711

12055 Government Center Pkwy.
Fairfax, VA 22035

Leslie Johnson,
Zoning Administrator

Outdoor Lighting Standards

Outdoor Lighting

To reduce unwanted glare, Article 14 of the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance contains standards for outdoor lighting. The Zoning Ordinance outdoor lighting standards are summarized below. These include new standards that became effective on February 12, 2020.  

The new standards for color temperature, exemptions for single family dwellings, and exemptions for motion-activated lights apply to new or replacement light fixtures. Routine fixture maintenance such as changing the light bulb does not require compliance with these new standards, except that it cannot result in a higher lumen level or in a color temperature that exceeds the new standard. This means that bulbs don’t need to be replaced to comply with the new standards right away, but when bulbs are replaced, they must conform to the new color temperature standard, and for exempt fixtures, the lumens either need to comply or not be increased. 

Current Zoning Regulations

Residential Uses

What’s Required?

  • Fixtures must be full cut-off and mounted horizontal to the ground. Full cut-off means that light is not emitted above the bottom of the fixture. See Figure A below.
  • Light bulbs must have a color temperature of 3,000K or less, except with an approved sports illumination plan. Check the package for this information.
  • Spotlighting of flags, landscaping, or other similar objects must be aimed and shielded to confine the light to the object.
  • On lots adjacent to residential, all lights must have a setback based on their height or have additional shielding. See Figure B below.
  • Light poles 7 ft. high or less are allowed in any location; higher poles are subject to height and location standards.
  • On all lots (including single family), sports fields/courts, including pools, over 10,000 square ft. or with light poles that are 20 ft. high, are required to have an approved sports illumination plan.

What’s Exempt?

  • On lots with single family dwellings (including townhouses), lights do not need to be full cut-off or meet the setback/shielding requirement if:
    • The light fixture has 1,500 lumens or less; or
    • The light is motion-activated with 4,000 lumens or less, turns off within 5 minutes of motion ceasing, and the light is directed within the property.
    • Check the package for this information.
  • Holiday lighting.
  • Depending on when the light was installed, it may be allowed to remain as is (grandfathered).

 

Figure A - Full Cutoff

Light Cutoff

 

Figure B - Adjacent Residential Lot Setback Requirement

Setback requirement

 

Non-Residential Uses

What’s Required?

  • Fixtures must be full cut-off and mounted horizontal to the ground. Full cut-off means that light is not emitted above the bottom of the fixture. See Figure A below.
  • Lights must have a color temperature of 3,000K or less, except with an approved sports illumination plan. Check the package for this information.
  • Spotlighting of flags, landscaping, or other similar objects must be aimed and shielded to confine the light to the object.
  • On lots adjacent to residential, all lights must have a setback based on their height or have additional shielding. See Figure B below.
  • Parking lots with 4 or more light poles must dim the lights by 50% within 30 minutes after closing.
  • Maximum height: 40 ft. (20 ft. on the top of parking decks). Light poles 7 ft. high or less are allowed in any location; higher poles must meet setbacks, except in parking lots.
  • Roofs and canopies cannot use lights with clear or translucent white, off-white or yellow casing.
  • Sports fields/courts, including pools, over 10,000 square feet or with light poles that are 20 ft. high, are required to have an approved sports illumination plan.
  • Service stations and vehicle sales uses must have an approved photometric plan.
  • Additional requirements apply to signs.

What’s Exempt?

  • Lights do not need to be full cut-off or meet the setback/shielding requirement if they are motion-activated and the light is directed within the property.
  • Holiday lighting.
  • Depending on when the light was installed, it may be allowed to remain as is (grandfathered).

 

Figure A - Full Cutoff

Light Cutoff

 

Figure B - Adjacent Residential Lot Setback Requirement

Setback requirement

 

Contact Us

Complaints

To report a possible violation, please contact the Department of Code Compliance at 703.324.1300 (TTY 711) or send an email to DCCCodeComplianceEmail@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Questions

If you have any questions about these outdoor lighting regulations, please contact the Zoning Administration Division at 703-324-1314 (TTY 711) or send an email to ORDADMIN@fairfaxcounty.gov.

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