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Mustang Sally Brewing Company in Chantilly (via Google Maps)

Mustang Sally Brewing Company is hoping to serve up something new out of its brewery in Chantilly.

The business, which currently operates as a production brewery with a tasting room, hopes to expand its food service at 14140 Parke Long Court in an effort to become more competitive in the brewing industry.

Doing so would require Fairfax County’s approval of a special exception that would remove limits on the operating hours and equipment allowed for food service at the brewery.

Submitted to the county on March 1, the application contends that the county’s existing zoning ordinance “lags behind the competitive landscape of brewery tasting rooms” in terms of the food services that a brewery can conduct by right.

“Regardless of the business model or setting, customers have expectations about what tasting rooms offer and high among those expectations is food service. For a brewery to have a competitive tasting room now, it must have appealing food service,” the application says.

The business argues that the county’s zoning ordinance puts larger breweries at a “substantial disadvantage,” because they’re required to be located in industrial areas where there are limits on the food services they can provide in their tasting rooms.

According to the application, Mustang Sally is currently confined to offering pre-packaged food items that require limited preparation or reheating. In August 2021, the brewery began working with Eugene’s Sausages and Fries, which serves hotdogs and sausages made with traditional sandwich ingredients.

“Since introducing food service within the tasting room in August 2021, Mustang Sally’s tasting
room performance has improved considerably,” the application says.

But the county’s zoning administration determined that food could only be served Thursday through Sunday. The inability to offer food service outside of those days creates “significant challenges” for the brewery, according to the application.

Mustang Sally also wants to expand its current hours by opening earlier and offering food service during those hours as well — something that Eugene’s is reluctant to do, since it would increase their operating expenses and be challenging to staff, the application says.

“It is a daily occurence that people walk into Mustang Sally’s tasting room, realize they cannot get food and immediately walk back out,” the application states.

Started by a former corporate lawyer, Mustang Sally opened in May 2016 with a 4,000-square-foot tasting room. Its beers are also sold in draft and can form throughout Northern Virginia, and it regularly hosts events, such as trivia nights and dog adoption days.

Image via Google Maps

State Sen. Saddam Salim testifies before the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns on his bill to require accessory living units (via Virginia General Assembly)

Final consideration of state Sen. Saddam Salim’s (D-37) proposal to expand the availability of accessory housing units in Virginia will wait until next year.

A Virginia House of Delegates committee voted on Feb. 23 to table Senate Bill 304, until 2025, suggesting that the delay would give Salim and other legislators more time to refine the bill and collect data on existing local policies allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which are known in Fairfax County as accessory living units (ALUs).

In his first term representing the 37th Senate District, which includes Tysons, Vienna, Oakton, Merrifield and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, Salim proposed requiring localities to allow ALUs in residential districts “by right,” meaning the property owner wouldn’t need a special permit that often comes with added fees and public hearings.

Though the bill passed the Senate 22-18 on Feb. 9, it was still being revised up until the House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee’s meeting on Feb. 23. The committee didn’t hear public testimony, but its chair, Del. Candi Mundon King (D-23), noted that seven people had signed up to oppose the bill and three to support it, on top of “extensive” feedback at a subcommittee meeting on Feb. 22.

“There is no concern about accessory dwelling units in concept. I think you saw unanimous support,” Del. Briana Sewell (D-25), who chaired the subcommittee, said. “The issue is fine-tuning the language, and the fact that you even brought forth an amendment today showcases that the work has not been complete.”

Also sometimes known as “granny flats,” ADUs or ALUs are independent, secondary residential units located on the same lot as a single-family house. They can either be attached to the primary dwelling or standalone structures, but as defined by Salim’s bill, they have their own living, bathroom and kitchen space.

Though he doesn’t seem them as a solution to local affordable housing needs, Salim says accessory units are still a useful option for residents who might otherwise be priced out of their neighborhood, including seniors and college students.

“Numerous constituents, including teachers, firefighters, nurses, and other essential workers, have expressed concerns about being priced out of our community,” he said in a statement to FFXnow. “Among the primary impediments to ADUs are local requirements for Special-Use Permits, which substantially inflate costs and delay construction timelines, rendering them financially unfeasible in many cases.”

When talking before the House committee, he recalled how he and his family had to live in other people’s basements after they immigrated to the U.S. from Bangladesh in the early 2000s.

“ADUs would’ve been something that would’ve helped us temporarily, whether it’s a room in someone’s house or a configuration of a bathroom, a kitchen and a bedroom that comes together,” he said. “…Living in those basements allowed us to apply for affordable housing. That took about three and a half years.” Read More

Silver Diner in Fair Lakes has a temporary outdoor dining area in its parking lot (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Restaurants in Fairfax County are officially free to set up temporary outdoor dining areas as they wish — provided they adhere to a handful of new regulations.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a zoning ordinance amendment on Tuesday (Feb. 6) to create a permanent outdoor dining program, codifying many of the more relaxed measures that the county adopted to help local eateries stay open during the pandemic.

“Integrating outdoor dining into the county’s regulations has the potential to enhance the pedestrian experience, activate street-level environments and contribute to the vibrancy of commercial areas,” the county said in a news release announcing the approval.

As of 12:01 a.m. yesterday (Wednesday), when the amendment took effect, restaurants and other food service establishments can provide temporary furniture for outdoor dining on patios and sidewalks by right, meaning they don’t need the county’s permission specifically for that use.

They can also have outdoor dining areas in parking lots with an administrative permit, which can be approved without public hearings and comes with a lower application fee of $205 than the minor site plan approval previously required.

In all cases, the outdoor dining area can be at most half the size of the restaurant’s indoor dining area, a slight change from the emergency rules that have been in place since July 2020 to limit the spread of Covid. County staff recommended setting a maximum size based on floor area, instead of 50% of the occupancy limit, because it would be easier to gauge compliance.

The outdoor dining area’s operating hours should match those of the main restaurant to ward off noise issues, Lily Yegazu with the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning told the board.

Outdoor dining areas must also maintain access for pedestrians and people with disabilities and obtain a fire marshal’s permit for tents bigger than 900 square feet. Businesses aren’t required to provide additional parking, but they still need to meet the minimum number of spaces required for the site.

“It makes good sense to me,” Dranesville District Supervisor Jimmy Bierman said of the proposed regulations.

The board’s vote preceded a March 1, 2024 expiration date for the uncodified ordinance that eased regulations for outdoor dining, among other allowances, during the pandemic. The ordinance could stay in place for up to a year after the county’s state of emergency ended.

When initially presenting a proposal for permanent outdoor dining in October 2022, county staff reported that 91 businesses had implemented outdoor dining during the pandemic, but by Sept. 1 of that year, only five sites were confirmed to still be using parking spaces for that purpose.

Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) Vice President of Government Affairs Che Ruddell-Tabisola testified that having permanent guidelines will encourage more businesses to invest in outdoor dining, which expanded across the D.C. region and the country during the pandemic.

“Expanded outdoor dining has been wildly successful in its efficiency and efficacy of maximizing the use of outdoor space,” he said. “Additionally, outdoor dining is popular among Fairfax residents, and we have not yet maximized either the demand or capacity for outdoor dining.”

Ruddell-Tabisola praised Fairfax County’s “commonsense approach” to the permitting process for outdoor dining, adding that RAMW has cited the program “as the model for other jurisdictions to follow.”

Area localities that have approved permanent outdoor dining regulations in recent years include Arlington County, the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church, and the towns of Vienna, Herndon and Leesburg. Fairfax City has a seasonal pilot program that offers permits for outdoor dining areas that can operate between March 1 through Nov. 30.

The embrace of outdoor dining is “one of the good things to come out of the pandemic,” Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity said.

“There weren’t many good things, but this is [one],” Herrity said before the board voted. “I want to thank staff for jumping on this right away early in the pandemic with the temporary rules and great job here.”

Though the new rules are already in effect, the county is giving restaurants with existing outdoor dining areas until April 30 to get them in compliance.


A rehabilitation center in Burke wants to expand, and it’s asking Fairfax County to approve its plan.

In an effort to “improve its ability to serve the Northern Virginia area,” the Burke Health and Rehabilitation Center submitted an application to the county on Jan. 16 requesting a rezoning and an amendment that would allow an addition, a statement of justification reads.

The 120-bed facility at 9640 Burke Lake Road offers short and long-term post-surgery care, cardiac and stroke care, and other nursing services. The proposal calls for a roughly 25,000-square-foot addition to the existing facility to accommodate 68 more beds.

“To accomplish this, a rezoning to the R-3 District is requested as the proposed floor area ratio (FAR) is slightly over 0.2,” the statement reads, referring to the size of the new building compared to the size of the lot. “Additionally, the existing special exception approval from 2008 will have to be amended to accommodate the proposed site changes.”

According to the application filed by 9640 Burke Lake Road LLC, the property is governed by a special exception initially approved in 1985 and amended in 1987 and 2008. Currently, the 46,143-square-foot building is zoned for the county’s R-1 district and occupies 7.65 acres with two-story and one-story sections.

The proposed building would be tucked into the “L” formed by the existing building, the statement reads. The rehab center is also seeking 10 additional parking spaces south of the addition.

The center would keep an existing recreational area west of the building, which has a gazebo, a picnic table, benches and trails. Additionally, areas that are in a floodplain, resource protection areas and Environmental Quality Corridors will not be disturbed, according to the application.

The statement of justification also describes the center’s relationship with the adjacent Heatherwood Retirement Community as symbiotic.

“In addition to providing much needed medical and rehab services to the retirement community residents, as needed, the center is also accessed through the retirement community property,” the statement reads.

Next steps include referring the special exception application to the Health Care Advisory Board for a recommendation and report, which will then be given to the Fairfax County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

An accessory dwelling unit detached from the primary residence (via City of Alexandria)

(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) A state-level push to ease restrictions on accessory residential units could put Fairfax County at odds with one of its own senators.

The proposed Senate Bill 304 from state Sen. Saddam Salim (D-37) would require localities to permit accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in residential districts and prohibit them from setting certain conditions, including the provision of dedicated parking for the unit.

Fresh off a primary upset of longtime senator Chap Petersen and a comfortable general election victory over Republican Ken Reid, Salim says he’s “proud” to sponsor the bill in his first term representing the 37th Senate District, which includes Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, Oakton and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.

The legislation was crafted “to help Virginians with the skyrocketing cost of housing,” he told FFXnow in a statement. Filed on Jan. 9, the bill was referred to the Senate’s committee on local government, which met this morning (Monday) but didn’t list this on its docket.

“I have heard from so many Virginians who are being priced out of our communities due to a shortage of diverse and creative housing options,” Salim said. “This bill promotes housing affordability and addresses the growing housing crisis by taking action to increase our housing stock. ADUs provide additional living spaces, accommodating diverse housing needs without the need for extensive new construction.”

Defining an ADU as an independent, secondary unit on a single-family lot with its own living, bathroom and kitchen space, the bill would bar localities from requiring a special permit for the units, which must instead be permitted in residential districts as an accessory use. In Fairfax County, that means they would be generally permitted with only an administrative review.

Localities could impose a permit fee of up to $100 and require a one-ADU-per-lot limit, a rental period of at least 30 days, replacement of the main dwelling’s parking if it’s eliminated by the accessory unit, a maximum square footage of 75% of the main dwelling, and compliance with building codes, stormwater standards and other zoning rules.

However, localities wouldn’t be allowed to require dedicated parking for the ADU, lot sizes or setbacks that exceed the ones for the primary residence, a relationship or “affinity” between the primary and accessory dwelling occupants, owner occupancy of either unit, or “redundant water, sewer, or septic capacity for the ADU.”

The prohibitions on special permits and parking and ownership occupancy requirements clash with the regulations that Fairfax County adopted first in 2021 and, again, in May 2023 as part of its Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project, or zMOD.

With its first comprehensive zoning code update since 1978, the county allowed accessory living units (ALUs) — a renaming of ADUs to avoid confusion with affordable dwelling units — via administrative permit if they’re located in a basement or otherwise fully contained by the main dwelling without any exterior changes.

To be eligible for an administrative permit, rather than a special permit, which comes with its own standards, ALUs must meet size limits, have at most two occupants and two bedrooms, and have at least one parking space in addition to what’s required for the main residence. The county also requires that the property owner live in the primary or accessory dwelling.

Even with those restrictions, the addition of an administrative option expanded the viability of ALUs in the county, which previously limited them to residents 55 and older and people with disabilities. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Jeff McKay has compared the changes to the end of single-family-only zoning in Arlington and Alexandria in their potential to address the region’s constrained housing supply. Read More

Single-family detached houses in McLean (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

In their quest to boost the region’s limited housing supply, Northern Virginia leaders have explored a variety of potential solutions.

Arlington and Alexandria in particular garnered plenty of headlines — and legal scrutiny, in the county’s case — when officials voted separately last year to allow more dense housing in areas previously reserved for single-family detached homes, among other zoning reforms.

Fairfax County, however, has no plans at the moment to follow in its neighbors’ footsteps by eliminating single-family-only zoning, according to Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay.

Instead, the county hopes to increase and diversify its housing stock with more targeted policies, such as looser rules for accessory living units (ALUs) and workforce housing requirements, that can accommodate the different character and needs of different neighborhoods.

“Every county and city is different, and so, I’m not in a position to critique what Arlington and Alexandria have done,” McKay told FFXnow. “But we’ve been careful in Fairfax County to make sure that we can grow our affordable housing base and, at the same time, protect the integrity of our single-family neighborhoods…They’re in a different place [in their development schedule], and so, they have reached the point where they believe the only way they can address the ‘Missing Middle’ is to eliminate single-family [only] development. We are nowhere close to that point in Fairfax County.”

Size matters

The D.C. metropolitan area ranks 10th in the U.S. for “pent-up housing demand” due to a lack of supply and elevated mortgage rates, according to the National Association of Realtors. The tight supply fuels high prices that are expected to keep rising in 2024, peaking in June at a median of $935,930 for a single-family house, per a Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and George Mason University forecast.

Faced with limited space for new development, proponents of Arlington’s “Missing Middle” zoning changes and Alexandria’s “Zoning for Housing” initiative argued that opening up single-family-exclusive lots to different types of housing, such as duplexes and townhouses, will allow more units to be built, easing market pressures that have sent median single-family sales prices soaring over $1 million in both localities.

Though those measures didn’t exactly pass with ease, eliminating single-family-only zones in a place of Fairfax County’s size would be “a little bit more challenging,” says Jill Norcross, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Northern Virginia Affordable ​Housing Alliance (NVAHA).

“There’s just a lot more people, a lot more housing units and communities,” she said.

Of the 426,412 housing units in the county as of 2022, 46.1% are single-family detached houses, while 29.6% are multi-family residences and 24.2% are single-family detached homes, per the county’s most recent demographic report. In comparison, Arlington and Alexandria, respectively, are about 70 to 75% multi-family housing.

Parts of Fairfax County are dominated by single-family houses, which range from the mansions of McLean and Great Falls — the kind that Arlington leaders have said they’re trying to avoid — to older, smaller ranch-style or split-level homes like those found in Annandale or Groveton. Then, there are areas like Reston, where more than 80% of homes are townhouses, apartments or condominiums, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

That variety means “a one-size-fits-all answer here is no good,” McKay says. Read More

Reston Association (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

In an effort to amplify its voice on land use issues, Reston Association’s Board of Directors voted earlier this month to create a land use committee that will advise it on planning and zoning issues.

The board formalized the creation of the committee on Jan. 4 after tweaking its scope and overall purpose. The committee will create draft positions on relevant issues and provide recommendations to the board.

A majority of the board touted the proposal as a way to elevate the voice of RA and its membership on development and land use decisions, which have become a top focus of the community following Fairfax County’s adoption of an updated Reston Comprehensive Plan last year and anxiety about the possibility of a casino.

Board president John Farrell noted that members would be able to provide their recommendations directly to the land use committee.

Board director Jennifer Jushchuk said the committee addresses a concern about the effectiveness of RA’s advocacy on land use issues that she often hears in the community. Board member Jalal Mapar agreed that the committee allows RA to project its power.

“The number one thing that stands out for me is that RA needs to be forward-leaning and RA needs to be involved 1,000 percent,” he said. “The game has changed. It’s 2024. We’ve learned our lessons from the developments that were done where RA did not really have a strong voice.”

In the past, Larry Butler, RA’s longtime chief operating officer who retired last year, attended many land use committee meetings and was the point-man on relevant issues.

“Larry’s gone and so, things have changed,” Laurie Dodd, the board’s North Point district representative, said. “It’s time for [us to] formalize the voice of RA, and this is a way to do with a group that is responsive to the board and to the association.”

But the move was met by some consternation from three board members who voted against the proposal.

Board member Robert Petrine, RA’s treasurer, said he was concerned about the amount of time and resources that would go into maintaining the committee.

At-large board director Trevor Grywatch said he was unsure if an advisory committee constituted “the voice of our membership.”

Margaret Perry, the board’s apartment owners representative, also noted that RA needed more time to hash out the specifics of the committee.

“I don’t think we are there,” she said.

The committee will be composed of up to seven voting members with three-year terms. They’ll be supported by a land use planner and subject matter expert — a position funded in RA’s recently adopted budget.

RA CEO Mac Cummins, who supported the overall effort, said the board should ensure the committee’s work is not simply rehashed when issues are discussed by the board.

“If you’re gonna have a committee do all this work and you’re gonna re-litigate it all again till 2 a.m., you haven’t necessarily gained,” Cummins said.

The board of directors is now seeking candidates for the new land use committee, asking anyone who’s interested to contact Board Liaison Brittney Copeland at


Construction on the next phase of The Boro in Tysons has prevented pedestrians from safely walking on the streets around the site, a Fairfax County inspector says.

Matthew Stenger, an investigator with the county’s Department of Code Compliance, issued violation notices last month against The Meridian Group, The Boro’s master developer, and Silverstone Silver Living, which is constructing The Trillium Tysons, a senior living building expected to open this year.

A Nov. 15 inspection of the construction site bounded by Westpark Drive to the south and Greensboro Drive to the east “revealed that there is no safe and efficient pedestrian pathway provided along the properties street frontages,” Stenger said in the Dec. 15 notices.

The code compliance investigator also alleged that the companies failed to submit a construction management plan required as a condition of the expansion project’s approval in 2021.

Both developers have now separately filed appeals challenging the citations, stating that they have in fact provided the promised plan, which shows that a sidewalk on the southbound side of Westpark Drive would be closed throughout construction.

“Sidewalk closures are specifically identified as an appropriate method to ensure pedestrian safety,” Silverstone’s zoning appeal says. “…After consultation with County staff, due to existing sensitive fiber optics and live power infrastructure…along the Block J frontage, it was agreed that no safe interim pedestrian pathway was possible and a closure of the southbound side sidewalks during construction was necessary.”

Block J — The Trillium — is one of four blocks planned for The Boro’s expansion to the west side of Westpark Drive. Under construction since spring 2022, the apartment building for seniors will eventually be joined by two multi-family residential buildings with retail and either a health club or townhouses.

During the county’s review of plans for the development, nearby residents raised concerns about its accessibility and potential construction impacts, which led Meridian and Silverstone to agree to provide a construction management plan.

In addition to raising the possibility of fines, the code compliance department directed the developers to submit the required plan and build temporary pedestrian facilities along Greensboro and Westpark.

“Within two weeks after the date of this notice, you must complete the installation of an asphalt path along the Greensboro frontage,” Stenger wrote. “Within three weeks of the date of this Notice, you must complete the installation of that asphalt trail down Westpark Drive as close to the frontage of Block J as possible.”

However, Silverstone says in its appeal that construction on the Westpark trail — which will represent the first segment of the planned Tysons Community Circuit — can’t begin until Dominion Energy relocates its electrical utilities, a process expected to be complete this January.

Even after the utilities are moved, a temporary sidewalk can’t be safely built “due to the required installation and coordination of tree pits, bio filters, and additional underground infrastructure along the street,” Walsh Colucci land use attorney Lynne Strobel wrote in a statement on the developer’s behalf.

In a separate appeal application, The Meridian Group noted that the proposed temporary sidewalk on Westpark Drive would lead “pedestrians to a dead end at an active construction site,” which could result in people crossing the road without a crosswalk or traffic signal.

“The appropriate solution is to direct pedestrians to cross Westpark Drive at its intersection with Greensboro drive to access the existing sidewalk on the northbound side of Westpark,” Strobel wrote. “…The suggested sidewalk should only be constructed when the pedestrian signal at Boro Place is operational.”

According to the application, construction is underway on sidewalks along Clover and Broad streets, and the developer has agreed to build a temporary asphalt sidewalk on Greensboro. All of the facilities are on track to be completed and open for use “within the next several weeks,” as of mid-December.

A public relations firm representing The Meridian Group said the developer has no comment on its appeal.

Meridian and Silverstone have asked the county to dismiss the notices of violations, saying they’re “based on incorrect and inaccurate facts.”

Burger 7’s outdoor dining area at Avenir Place in Dunn Loring (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Almost a year after ending its state of emergency for COVID-19, Fairfax County is expected to codify new rules for outdoor dining that were introduced in response to the pandemic.

A proposed zoning ordinance amendment will automatically let restaurants, bars and other food service establishments set up temporary seating areas where patrons can eat and drink outside, unless the area is in a parking lot, in which case an administrative permit will be needed.

Outdoor dining areas that use permanent furniture will still need to get the county’s approval during a site plan or building permit review.

“Outdoor dining can significantly improve the pedestrian experience throughout the County,” a Dec. 15 staff report says. “By activating the street-level pedestrian environment, it can increase vibrancy and make commercial areas more social and active.”

Currently, the county doesn’t have any official standards for outdoor dining, though outdoor seating is permitted as an accessory use by right — meaning a separate approval isn’t required — in all zoning districts that allow restaurants.

To support businesses while still trying to limit Covid’s spread by reducing crowds, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted an emergency ordinance on July 14, 2020 that allowed existing establishments to designate outdoor areas for dining and fitness activities without any additional approvals, though they still had to meet some site and operational requirements.

Many requirements under that temporary ordinance, which is set to expire on March 1, have been carried over to the new proposal, including a stipulation that all outdoor dining must be on impervious surface, such as a patio, sidewalk or parking lot.

The area must also be clearly marked and separated from vehicle parking spots and pedestrian access points. Tents larger than 900 square feet must be approved by the fire marshal’s office, which is also responsible for permitting any heaters or open flames under tents.

In a change from the emergency rules, outdoor dining areas will be limited to 50% of the size of indoor dining rooms as determined by a restaurant’s floor area, rather than its occupancy limit.

“In staff’s opinion, limiting the outdoor dining area based on the indoor seating area is a more accurate way to determine the allowable outdoor dining area,” the staff report said. “…This is also helpful in investigating potential violations, as DCC Investigators would be able to easily measure the outdoor dining and indoor dining area during their investigation to determine compliance.”

Acknowledging that using floor area could put smaller restaurants at a disadvantage, staff proposed alternatives that would either forgo a size limit or set a range. For patio and sidewalk dining areas, the suggested range is up to 250 square feet or 25 to 75% of the indoor dining area, whichever is greater, while areas in parking lots could be 500 square feet to 1,000 square feet per establishment.

Under the proposed amendment, establishments will no longer be required to provide separate parking for outdoor seating areas, a change implemented by the Parking Reimagined initiative that took effect on Monday, Jan. 1.

County staff also recommend tying the use of outdoor dining areas to a business’ regular operating hours. Since some establishments can be open as late as 2 a.m., prohibitions before 7 a.m. or after 10 p.m. for outdoor dining areas directly adjacent to or abutting single-family developments could be considered.

The proposal will get a public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Jan. 10, followed by a Board of Supervisors vote on Feb. 6.

If the amendment is approved, the county will follow in the footsteps of Vienna, Herndon, Alexandria and Arlington, which have all approved outdoor dining regulations within the past couple of years.

A parking lot in McLean (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County is moving forward with updates to its landscaping and screening requirements along streets and parking lots.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission recommended the approval of changes to the ordinance at a meeting on Dec. 6. If fully approved, it would be the first major change to the ordinance in 40 years and could make parking lots greener.

Planning staff proposed the update to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a land use policy committee meeting back in May.

At the planning commission public hearing, Sara Morgan with the Department of Planning and Zoning, said the introduction of “street frontage landscaping” would require developers to provide a planting strip on private property parallel to a public or private street. Single-family dwellings would be exempted.

“It is on private property. It’s 10-foot wide with one tree for every 30 feet,” Morgan said.

The current ordinance requires trees to be installed at any surface parking lot with 20 or more spaces. The update would expand that requirement to surface lots with 10 or more parking spaces. It would also increase the required tree coverage from 5% to 10% “to address some of the urban heat-island effects and other environmental impacts,” Morgan said.

For parking garages, the new ordinance would establish shade structure requirements. New garages would need to have 10% of their top decks covered with shade.

“The parking structure could be a canopy, a canopy with vegetative roofs, solar collections systems or trees,” Morgan said.

To incentivize the use of solar power, developers that add a solar system on top of a garage would only need to cover 5% of the structure instead of 10%, Morgan added.

The Great Falls Citizens Association raised an objection to the substitution of shade structures as an alternative to natural landscaping.

Morgan said this was included because often, trees planted on top of parking structures do not grow to the extent where they provide adequate shade.

“So, we are looking at ways where we can achieve that shade through the means of possible trees, but also through the canopies or the solar collection systems,” she said.

Other changes in the ordinance include a preference for native tree species as well as environmentally tolerant species. During outreach, the county heard from individuals who wanted more species that have the ability to withstand high heat and high-drought flooding, according to Morgan.

Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina proposed amending the ordinance to specify that preference be given to environmentally tolerant species “where appropriate for site conditions.” The commission unanimously approved the amendment.

Cortina praised the timing of the proposed changes, calling it a good decision to follow up the county’s approval this fall of new off-street parking standards

“And I think this decision alone is really going to change how these parking lots look,” she said.

The ordinance will now go to the Board of Supervisors for approval on Jan. 23.


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