Fairfax County has been engaged since 2017 in an ongoing process of revising and modernizing its zoning ordinance through a process known as zMod. Through this review, Fairfax County will modernize its 40-year-old Zoning Ordinances. According to Fairfax County, zMod will help the County carry out its strategic plan to grow and diversify the local economy.
GFCA has been actively engaged in the evaluation of land use policies since its organization, more than 50 years ago. One of GFCA’s missions is to serve as a “watchdog” on matters of proposed changes in the County’s Land Use and Zoning policies to evaluate their effects on the area’s semi-rural and historic character. Based on input from its membership, GFCA offers constructive feedback to County planners and elected officials to ensure that proposed changes to the land use regulations remain administratively fair and reflect broad citizen participation. Because Great Falls is a community that is mainly residential in nature, the developing zMod proposals that directly impact residential uses are of concern to GFCA.
The latest zMod topics include proposals to change regulations on accessory dwelling units, home-based businesses, freestanding accessory structures, decks and patios, electric vehicle charging, and solar collection systems. Some of these changes could have significant effects on our community:
· The zMOD draft proposes a more streamlined process that would allow administrative approval of an Accessory Dwelling Unit when located within the principal dwelling. This proposal would also change the occupancy restrictions.
· For the proposals to revise Home-based Businesses: The home-based business change could allow customers of home-based businesses to visit the location, essentially turning a residential neighborhood into a commercial zone, generating possible traffic and parking issues on residential streets.
· Freestanding Structure changes will propose to modify side and rear yard setback requirements, as well as the height of the structures.
· Deck and Patio changes are proposed that will modify encroachment of decks and patios into setbacks, as well as address the height of screening and pergolas.
· New rules are being proposed for Electric Vehicle charging stations that relate to minimum parking requirements, dispenser and cabinet equipment height limitations, canopy requirements, and screening standards.
· Solar collection system standards are proposed to be revised to address the height of rooftop systems, and setback requirements for freestanding structures.
Planning officials are also contemplating local rules that would address State-mandated “Agritourism” in the County. This would entail the potential for the establishment of farm-related businesses, wineries, breweries, and other farm-based retail activities. Because Great Falls still has many potential sites that could be affected by this legislation, GFCA will be monitoring these proposals to ensure that residents are informed as the planning advances at the County level.
To learn more about these proposals, GFCA’s Land Use and Zoning Committee will host a Town Hall Meeting on March 11th, at 7:00 PM at the Great Falls Library Meeting Room. County staff will deliver the latest presentation on these developments in land use regulation. Please plan to attend.