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Fairfax Approves Modernized Zoning Ordinance (zMOD) relaxing restrictions on Accessory Dwellings and Home Businesses


Fairfax County updated its 42-year-old Zoning Ordinance to bring it into the 21st century on a 7-3 vote at the Tuesday, March 23 Board of Supervisors meeting. The sweeping changes to the ordinance are the culmination of a four-year process intended to make the codes easier to navigate and understand, but several significant policy changes were also included. 

Two of the most debated changes passed by the Board include updates to the regulations for Accessory Living Units (ALUs) and for Home-Based Businesses. 

The new law removes the existing age and disability requirements, that only those 55 and older or disabled people can live in them, for ALUs (previously known as accessory dwelling units).  It also simplifies the process for building an ALU within a residential property by removing the requirement for a special permit, instead allowing these interior units to be approved administratively by staff.  Other provisions were adjusted including allowing an entire finished basement to be used as an ALU, limiting occupancy to two people, and requiring a parking space be provided for occupants.  The Board kept other restrictions in place such as the existing requirement that limits detached ALUs to only those properties that are a minimum of 2 acres. 

Many types of home-based businesses will also be allowed to operate with the approval of an administrative permit, though businesses wishing to allow customers must still seek a special permit. Instructional activities – lessons, education, health, fitness – are an exception.  These businesses may allow up to four students to attend at a time, with no more than eight in a single day, without seeking a special permit.  Other acceptable businesses include retail — as long as sales and delivery occur online or offsite — as well as repair services for small household items, hair salons, and clothing tailors. People may also operate an office or as a music, photography, or art studio out of their home. 

The new zoning ordinance, which is half the size of the current law, goes into effect July 1, 2021.  

Please visit to stay up to date on further implementation of the zoning ordinance. 

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