Zoning

The Fairfax County Planning Commission has been in the process of creating and implementing new zoning regulations since March of 2017 called ‘zMOD.’

ZMOD would make zoning ordinances easier to understand by removing gaps and inconsistencies. Ultimately, the goal is to create a more streamlined, user-friendly document that uses more graphics, tables, and hyperlinks and is usable on multiple platforms. It also strives to modernize the permitted uses and regulations.

According to the Fairfax County Planning Development Committee, “zMOD will work in tandem with the County’s existing process for amending its zoning laws by prioritizing proposed changes of county-wide significance.”

Director Barbara Byron elaborated “We want to be sure that our ordinance is forward thinking in terms of being able to accommodate uses that we don’t know about today that will be here in the future.”

At the January 28 Board of Supervisors Planning meeting, over forty citizens spoke against ZMOD, with fewer than five speaking in favor. Many of the concerns about zMOD center around the proposed changes to accessory living units and single family zoned houses.

One organization that has surfaced online, but is unattributed to any individuals, Act4Fairfax “believes these specific proposals promote new norms and amount to de facto ‘social engineering’.

On Thursday, February 4, Mount Vernon citizen Mathew Dunne spoke in favor of the new modifications with the view that it would help marginalized communities.

“With limited exceptions, all of the speakers tonight represented homeowner or civic associations. It is a sad fact that most homeowner or civic associations in Fairfax County represent majority-White communities. The commission should base its decisions on the interests of every county resident. In addition, the commission should consider the interests of potential county residents, such as working-class families who work here but do not live here because of the affordable housing crisis. But let’s be honest. ZMod is not about preserving the current quality of life in Fairfax County. Instead, ZMod is about whether that quality of life will be available and accessible to everyone. At a minimum, it will help to increase equity and remedy the affordable housing.”

Dunne, who previously held positions on the Federation of Fairfax County and Mount Vernon Civic Association , promptly resigned from the organizations in response to calls to do so from various members of the organization.

“Matt was technically speaking out of turn,” said Federation President William Barfield. “He was identified as speaking for the Federation when he was not, and as a result, offered to resign. I respect what he said and thought he said it well, but it is not the official position of the Federation.”

The public hearing with the Board of Supervisors will be held on March 9, 2021 at 9:30 a.m. and can be viewed online at fairfaxcounty.gov.

(1) comment

Adrienne Whyte

This article is inaccurate and incomplete. There was a hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission. The author did not cite any of the arguments made by civic associations, all of which testified against ZMOD for many reasons. It goes far beyond a modernization of the Zoning Ordinance by abolishing notice and public hearings for residents wishing to establish accessory living units on their property, making all kinds of commercial uses in homes by right, with customers coming and going all day until 9:00 pm, allowing signs for those businesses in the front yard, and allowing tenants in the ALUs who are not over age 55 or disabled if the Board of Supervisors agrees. ZMOD will essentially eliminate the stable and predictable single-family zoning most of us enjoy. That’s why we live here. I’m a member of ACT4Fairfax, a county-wide organization of civic activists. We are not a secret online group. The gentleman who resigned from the Federation spoke for himself, misunderstood ALUs as affordable housing, and by signing up as a Federation speaker, got 10 minutes to speak, rather than five. No wonder he had to resign! The viewpoints represented by authorized civic association and HOA speakers, who spoke for many thousands of County residents, were not explained. You should have done a better job.

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