The use of land in Fairfax County is governed by the Zoning Ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan. Last year, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a new Zoning Ordinance. This year, the Board of Supervisors is turning its attention to the Comprehensive Plan.
The “Comp Plan” includes both (1) broad planning policies, such as those concerning the management of the environment, historic resources, and public facilities; and (2) more narrowly, guidance about the development of particular properties.
Currently, every four years, Fairfax County property owners may apply to amend the Comp Plan concerning their particular properties, known as “Site‑Specific Plan Amendments.” Fairfax County may soon implement a new site‑specific (comprehensive) plan amendment process (“SSPA Process”). (See generally, https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/planning-development/plan-amendments/sspa.)
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to take action as soon as June 28, 2022. With some exceptions, owners of any properties located in Fairfax County would be eligible to file site‑specific plan amendments, without regard to the former separate processes and timing for the North County SSPA and the South County SSPA. The county‑wide cycle would occur every two—not four—years. As the pending proposal is written, those seeking an SSPA amendment for the upcoming cycle would be required to comply with new filing requirements. Interested parties would have only a few months (June, July, August, and September) to prepare their applications and file them in October 2022, the first opportunity to file. (Recently, the Fairfax County Planning Commission recommended shifting the nomination period start from September to October to provide more time for advertising the changes. The County’s graphic shown below is expected to be updated to read “October 2022 New Countywide Nomination Period Opens.”)
The County’s objective is to reduce its timing for the SSPA process by cutting the nomination and screening phases from nine months to five months and streamlining its reviews by evaluating the selected projects differently according to their particular circumstances, instead of the current one-size-fits-all, two-year, timeframes and processes for every property. The County hopes that the more streamlined SSPA process, or “Work Program” will free up more time for other County endeavors. The County notes that it is seeking a “better balance between long range planning [such as countywide planning policy studies and area studies] and the site‑specific planning [for a particular property(ies) conducted through the SSPA process/Work Program].”
Because the different selected properties will be processed based on different timelines and evaluations, it seems possible that the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors would consider an individual SSPA application as soon as it is ready rather than waiting to approve all applications at one time.
Different submission criteria for filing SSPA applications would include enhanced eligibility criteria, a concept plan, and a statement of justification. In addition, unlike today’s SSPA process, the consent of the owner of each property included in the application would be required. The application and supporting materials would be uploaded into the County’s electronic filing system, known as “PLUS.”
The Bean, Kinney & Korman, P.C., Land Use Team is available to answer any questions and to help prepare and navigate SSPA applications through the process. Please call us at 703.525.4000 to discuss your project.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not contain or convey legal advice. Any views or opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily the views of the firm or any client of the firm.
Images below from the Fairfax County SSPA Process, Retrospective, Preliminary Recommendations, Modifications to the SSPA Process April 26, 2022