Starting a Business Step 2: Location

zMOD - Zoning Modernization

Fairfax County is currently working on the zMOD project to modernize the zoning ordinance. These provisions may change in 2020. Read "More about zMOD" for timeline and information on the proposed revisions.

This permit and process guidance is specific to Fairfax County.

If you are seeking guidance regarding a potential location in the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church, or the towns of Clifton, Herndon and Vienna, please contact those jurisdictions directly. Not sure if your location falls within Fairfax County? Check it on our Zoning District Analyzer.

Choosing your business location:

  • Will your business be run from your home?
  • Will you lease or purchase commercial space?
  • Will you use a co-working space?

There are two paths to making this decision – identifying your location first, which will determine what permits and processes you will need to get into that space, or, determining where you can open your business most easily (meaning: where the use is permissible without discretionary zoning approvals).

Most business locations will need a permit: 
either a Home Occupation Permit or a Non-Residential Use/Occupancy Permit.

Home-based Businesses

If you are proposing a home-based business, please know that there are two types of approvals for a home-based business:

  1. Home Occupation Permit, which is administratively issued by the Department of Planning & Zoning
  2. Home Professional Office, which requires a public hearing and decision by the Board of Zoning Appeals.

If your proposed business does not qualify for a Home Occupation Permit, contact BizEx or the Department of Planning & Development at 703-324-1290 to determine if a Home Professional Office is appropriate for your business.

Commercial Locations

Before you sign a lease, please be sure that your proposed use is allowable under the Zoning Ordinance. Some uses are permitted by-right, while others will require approval of a Special Exception or a Special Permit. See the Zoning and Land Development Process in Fairfax County webpage.

Every commercial tenant needs a Non-Residential Use/Occupancy Permit before you can occupy your space. If you intend to make physical changes to your space - or if you are changing a tenant space from one type of use to another - building plans and permits may be required.

If you are looking for commercial or industrial space, the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (EDA) may be able to help.

Alternative Workspaces

If your business is registered to and operates from alternative workspace, such as a business incubator, executive office suite, or co-working location:

  1. You do not need to secure your own Non-Residential Use/Occupancy Permit if the alternative workspace has a valid Non-Residential Use/Occupancy Permit for the entire space and that use matches your proposed use (for example, the entire space is approved for office and you are proposing to use it as office space). 
  2. If, however, you are proposing to change or add a use (for example, a private school to an existing shared office space) you will need to secure a Non-Residential Use/Occupancy Permit to add your proposed use for the shared space. Permits, plans and inspections may be required.

There are a wide variety of workspace choices available to small business owners, entrepreneurs, and independent workers, such as co-working office spaces, incubators, accelerators, and virtual office spaces. See the EDA’s “Alternative Office Space” page to see a list of alternative office spaces in Fairfax County.

If your business operates from one of these alternative spaces, you may need a Non-Residential Use/Occupancy Permit. See the information above, or contact the Zoning Permit Review Branch at 703-222-1082.
 

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