From the Fairfax County website: "In 2017, Fairfax County launched a major initiative to modernize its Zoning Ordinance that was first established over 40 years ago. Dubbed 'zMOD,' the effort will help the County carry out its strategic plan to grow and diversify its economy. The modernization plan was presented on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Development Process Committee." While there are some positive portions of zMOD, there are a number of changes put forth in it that have the potential to impact Holmes Run Acres. To read in more detail the areas of zMOD that the HRACA Board has concerns with please read our letter that was sent to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, and Providence District Supervisor Palchik.
Decision - March 23, 2021 - Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
From Chairman, Jeffrey C. McKay
What happened? The Board approved zMOD, a wholesale change to our zoning ordinance for the first time in over 40 years! This process included over 100 meetings for Board members and the community. It was well past time that our ordinance was updated, modernized, and made more user-friendly.
Why? The goal of zMOD was to create a cleaner and more straightforward document that is more accessible to the general public in understanding the County's zoning ordinance.
Anything else? The Board of Supervisors made adjustments to, in my opinion, address many of the concerns. This was a major undertaking, but most community concern was over only three changes to the ordinance.
- Accessory Dwelling Units (ALUs): ALUs allow people to house additional residents in their existing home while still adhering to County regulations, so long as no exterior changes to the home are made and parking can be accommodated. With our previous ordinance, permitting for ALUs was financially unobtainable for most people (costing over $16,000 a permit) and only allowed with residents over the age of 55. zMod allows residents the flexibility to make changes within their own home, while protecting neighborhoods, simplifying the process, and lowering the cost. Homeowners take on tenants to offset their mortgage, or help them earn some extra income during hard times. To be approved, a homeowner must reside at the property with an ALU, they may not be distant landlords. ALUs will also be important to meeting our affordable housing goals because increased housing availability helps lower the cost of housing.
- Home Based Businesses (HBBs): We also worked to simplify the process and lower the permitting costs associated with establishing HBBs. HBBs are an important part of the County's economy and in the midst of the pandemic, I'm pleased we can find more avenues to empower residents to open a business, but still follow County regulations. For example, the Board did agree to restrict administrative approval to HBBs that generate no customers coming to the home, except for instructional activities. Other HBBs would still need to go through a public hearing process.
- Flags: I do not support regulating the American flag! After listening to the concerns of the community we have reevaluated the original staff recommendations. The primary changes voted on will allow all homes to have 25-foot flag poles and 60-foot flag poles for all other areas. Should residents wish to have taller flagpoles, they can apply for a special permit. The amendment also includes no minimum flag size, and the limit for flagpoles was kept at the current maximum of three flagpoles.
Finally, the Board instructed County staff to monitor and evaluate ALUs and HBBs in the County, with a report to be prepared for the Board in 18 months of the effective date to ensure compliance with County regulations.
Subsequent point of clarification, from Chairman McKay (March 24, 2021):
I’d like to provide a clarification to a portion of my statement in yesterday’s newsletter on the Accessory Living Units changes within zMOD: “With our previous ordinance, permitting for ALUs was financially unobtainable for most people (costing over $16,000 a permit) and only allowed with residents over the age of 55.”
While the cost of a special permit for a Home Based Business was $16,375 prior to zMOD’s adoption, the cost for an ALU permit was $435. However, I was referencing the cost of “the process” not the cost of the actual “permit” for an ALU. Obtaining a special permit takes an average of 116 days and can add many thousands of dollars more for a homeowner over the process. Those costs are variable but include fees for plats and for posting public notice, as well as hired professionals, including legal representation, before appearing for a Board of Zoning Appeals hearing (often costing many thousands of dollars). Those costs together were what I was referencing as being “financially unobtainable for most people”.
- HRACA Board letter to Fairfax County Staff
- Clarifying Answers to Questions from Casey Judge, Senior Planner, Zoning Administration Division, Fairfax County - Regarding Accessory Living Units - February 7 , 2021
- Fairfax County zMOD site
- Providence District Council - Letter outlining concerns regarding zMOD
- ACT4Fairfax - The ACT4Fairfax Network advocates for Accountable, Collaborative and Transparent county government that actively and effectively engages residents in its process.