Department of Planning and Development

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our office is open 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday

703-324-1314
TTY 711

12055 Government Center Parkway
Fairfax, VA 22035

Leslie Johnson,
Zoning Administrator

Fairfax County Sign Ordinance

shopping center signsThe Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted changes to the sign regulations in the Zoning Ordinance on March 19, 2019, with an effective date of March 20, 2019. This amendment included new regulations of signs and their characteristics in response to the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Reed vs. Town of Gilbert.

What's Inside the New Sign Ordinance?

The new Sign Ordinance is organized into three separate parts.

Section 7100 – General Provisions, includes the purpose statement and all applicability and administrative provisions, including provisions for nonconforming signs. Most importantly, this Section includes the regulations related to minor signs, which were previously referred to as “temporary signs,” as well as a subsection identifying all prohibited signs. The highlights of Section 7100 include:

  • Subsection 7100.4 – Minor Signs. This subsection includes regulations for all signs that were previously regulated as “temporary signs.” It is important to know that most minor signs do not need a sign permit and that most do not have a time limit on display. Minor signs include:
    • minor signYard signs, which are signs that are allowed to be displayed on a residential lot. Each lot developed with a residential use is allowed to display up to 12 square feet of signs. However, no single sign can be more than four square feet in size, and the height of any sign is limited to four feet.
    • Minor signs allowed for display by nonresidential land uses in all zoning districts. These include the typical banners that businesses or non-profits use to advertise products or events. Depending on the road class that the property is located along, 24 to 32 square feet of signage is allowed per lot. However, only two freestanding signs are allowed at one time, with a maximum height of four feet.
    • Signs displayed in windows of nonresidential land uses
    • A-frame signs for nonresidential land uses

If you need help identifying the road class for your business or use, please see the 'Contact Us' section below.
  • Subsection 7100.6 – Prohibited Signs. This subsection includes all of the prohibited sign types, which are organized based on general prohibitions, prohibitions based on materials or design, and location. Most of these sign types were prohibited in the previous Sign Ordinance and were simply carried forward. Prohibited signs include:
    • Any sign that does not comply with the Sign Ordinance
    • Moving or windblown signs such as inflatable characters, balloons, or feather flags
    • Any sign that displays flashing or animated lights
    • Signs placed on the roof of a building
    • Off-premise commercial signs, except that commercial signs can be placed on a residential lot as a yard sign when displayed from noon Friday until noon Monday
    • Signs that impair traffic

Section 7101 – Sign Regulations by Use and District, includes all of the provisions that establish the amount of permanent building-mounted and freestanding sign area a land use can display. These provisions are organized by zoning district. In addition, this Section explains how to calculate area and any performance standards (such as setbacks and lighting requirements) for allowed signage. The highlights of Section 7101 include:

  • Electronic SignSubsections 7101.2 and 7101.3 – Signs in Residential Districts and Signs in Commercial and Industrial Districts. The Sign Ordinance identifies electronic display signs (digital signs), as a permitted sign type in Fairfax County. The sign type is allowed as part of a freestanding sign with the following standards:
    • No more than 50% of the allowable freestanding sign area can be a digital display. For example, if your freestanding sign is allowed to be 40 square feet in area, then the digital display component of the sign can only be 20 square feet
    • The message or copy of the sign cannot move or change more frequently than once every 8 seconds, and the change must be instantaneous – meaning it cannot scroll, flash, etc.
    • The background of the sign face of the electronic display cannot be white, off-white, gray, or yellow in color
    • The electronic display must include a photo cell to control brightness and must automatically dim at sunset.

Section 7102 – Administration of Sign Approvals, includes the options available to modify or waive select provisions of the Sign Ordinance. Certain modifications can be administrative and completed by County staff, while others require approval of a special permit by the Board of Zoning Appeals, approval of a comprehensive sign plan by the Planning Commission, or approval of a special exception by the Board of Supervisors. 

Section 9102 – General Terms, includes all definitions related to signs nested under the term “sign.” These definitions and graphics assist in determining what type of signs are allowed in the County. 

Non-conforming Signs

Given that some of the regulations concerning signs were changed, there are some existing signs that may not meet the current regulations. In certain cases, these signs are considered to be legal nonconforming uses and may remain. When the Board of Supervisors adopted the changes to the Sign Ordinance on March 19, 2019, the following signs were included in the nonconforming provisions:

  • Permanent building-mounted signs and freestanding signs, approved with a building permit and any required, corresponding sign permit
  • Permanent freestanding signs located on property owned by Fairfax County, the Fairfax County Park Authority, or Fairfax County Public Schools
  • Any signs approved by the Board of Supervisors in conjunction with an approved comprehensive sign plan or special exception
  • Any signs approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals in conjunction with an approved special permit
  • Electronic display signs approved with a building permit and any required, corresponding sign permit - except that such signs must comply with the new performance standards found in subsections 7101.1.A(2), (3), and (4)

Except as noted above, all other signs, to include all Minor Signs, must conform to the provisions of the Sign Ordinance.

Contact Us

For questions regarding the Sign Ordinance:

Please contact the Zoning Administration Division at 703-324-1314, TTY 711 or email us.

For concerns or complaints regarding signs:

Please contact the Dept. of Code Compliance at 703-324-1300, TTY 711 or email us.

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