Fairfax County’s Response to COVID-19

Part one in a series, we will examine the effect of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on the Fairfax County, Va., commercial real estate development community. 

The below provides insight into the status of critical Fairfax agencies as of March 25, 2020.

  1. Fairfax Government Generally

In an effort to keep the community and staff safe and limit the spread of the coronavirus, the county has altered procedures and processes related to the operating status of its departments.  Fairfax County will close all government buildings and facilities to the public starting Friday, March 27, at 5:00 pm, until further notice.[1] Some public services may continue in-person hours as deemed necessary by county agencies. Regardless, the county government remains open for business online and by phone and mail. Below is the information available for each agency.

Fairfax County Public Schools are closed for the 2019-2020 academic year. School divisions will determine how learning will continue. However, the Virginia Department of Education will be providing school districts additional guidance this week regarding distance continuity of learning that has an equity focus.

As of March 24, 2020, the Fairfax County Park Authority closed all parks and amenities, with the exception of trails[2], until further notice.

2.         Land Development Services (LDS)[3]

As of March 18, 2020, LDS switched to interim counter operations and continues to adapt processes electronically.

All permit applications must be applied for in FIDO. Residential and commercial plans and supplemental documents must be submitted via the Plan Submission Web Portal or ePlans system ProjectDox, depending on the project type. Plans do not need to be submitted if the permit is associated with replacement equipment or a parent building permit.

Permits can be obtained and printed from FIDO only after all plan review and other conditions have been approved, such as submitting the online payment. Applicants can email LDSbuildingpermits@fairfaxcounty.gov or call 703-222-0801 for assistance.

Building plan reviews are expected to continue as normal. Applicants should monitor FIDO for the status of plan reviews. Plan reviewers are available for questions and consultation by telephone. For more information, email bprmail@fairfaxcounty.gov or call 703-324-3035.

Due to public building closures, counter operations have been changed to drop-off operations located on the first floor of the Herrity Building (12055 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035) and paper plan submissions can no longer be accommodated. Applicants should follow the instructions below for the services normally offered at the plan review counter.

To retrieve paper plans in order to make corrections due to failed plan reviews:

  1. Email bprmail@fairfaxcounty.gov to request a pickup.
  2. Once confirmed, plans will be found in the “Building Plan Review Pick Up” bin located in the Herrity Building’s main entrance.
  3. Plans that do not have a complete review cycle by all applicable disciplines and have not yet been released by plan reviewers are not eligible for pickup.
  4. DO NOT proceed to the Herrity Building unless the staff has confirmed pickup.
  5. Pickups will be available on Fridays only; requests made by close of business on Wednesday will be available the subsequent Friday.

To submit a paper plan correction or revision:

  1. A file for each plan sheet is not required; a single file for the entire submittal is permitted.
  2. To upload files in PDF format, go to LDS’s plan submission Web Portal. Make sure to indicate if  the plan is larger than 25 MB.
  3. The transfer of files greater than 25 MB will be handled by Citrix ShareFile. Staff will invite users to upload plan files.
  4. Reviews for plans that were formerly paper will be conducted similarly to the previous paper review process and will not be part of the ProjectDox system.
  5. Continue to monitor FIDO to obtain review status and associated comments.
  6. When all plan reviews are complete, follow the steps above for Permit Issuance.
  7. Plans and documents for new permit applications are required to be submitted using ProjectDox; see instructions above for Permit Application.

Site plans, minor site plans, and infill lot grading plans can be submitted as ePlans via ProjectDox. All other site-related plan and document types can be submitted using ProjectDox or Citrix ShareFile. The county is not able to accept electronic payments for submissions through ShareFile. Because of this, LDS will accept otherwise complete submissions. However, approved plans and permits will not be issued until all payments have been received and processed. Payment should be sent via check. LDS anticipates offering additional payment options in the future.

Site-related plan and permits will be issued electronically. LDSnet provides updates on outstanding conditions and fees. Site technicians, who can work with applicants to have conditions met, can be obtained by emailing LDSSAC@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Signature submissions will be done via ShareFile. LDS continues to provide inspection services for projects as well.

The Zoning Administration Division will continue to accept zoning permit applications and submissions. Forms are available for download online. The completed application and check, made payable to Fairfax County, should be mailed to the address on the application.

Requests for zoning information or for submission of Height Certifications, Final House Location Surveys, Setback Certifications, and Contact with Local Zoning Administrator Forms for Childcare should be made by contacting DPZMailforZPRB@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Sign permit applications, along with additional information and materials are available online.

3.         Department of Planning and Development (DPD)

DPD seeks to provide a safe environment for staff as it serves the public, and will limit face-to-face contact with customers. All interaction, including planner-of-the-day inquiries, will be conducted via phone, teleconference, email, or drop off. Applications, permits, and other materials will be collected at the Herrity Building, first floor. Staff will confirm receipt of  materials and next steps within one business day. Contact information for work groups is below and is also available on the DPD’s website. Required in-person meetings are by appointment only.

  1. Zoning Permits  703-222-1082  DPZMailforZPRB@fairfaxcounty.gov
  2. Zoning Administration  703-324-1314  ordadmin@fairfaxcounty.gov     
  3. Zoning Evaluation  703-324-1290  dpzzed@fairfaxcounty.gov
  4. Planning Division  703-324-1380  dpzpd@fairfaxcounty.gov

The Zoning Evaluation Division is following the Herrity Building operating procedures and continues to process applications as they adjust to working remotely.

The Board of Supervisors and other county boards, commissions, and authorities will conduct business as required by state law and will continue to be accessible to employees whose job functions cannot be completed remotely.

On March 24, 2020, the Board of Supervisors conducted an abbreviated meeting for an Action Item on an Electronic Meeting Policy for the Board in order to allow some members to participate remotely. Following that action, the Board postponed all presentations, appointments, information items, and Board matters. The following is information on currently scheduled dates.

  • Board of Supervisors: All public hearings will be deferred by motion to future hearing dates. The next full Board of Supervisors meeting will be conducted on April 14, 2020.
  • Planning Commission: Cancelled until April 22, 2020, for the purpose of the Capital Improvement Program only; other public hearings, including land use applications, will be rescheduled and re-advertised. Decisions only can be made at the next Commission meeting.
  • Board of Zoning Appeals: Cancelled through April 29, 2020; public hearings will be rescheduled at least 30 days out. 

For ongoing updates of the county’s response to COVID-19, visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/covid19/.

[2] https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/coronavirus

[3] https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/plan2build/interim-counters

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Real Estate, Zoning & Land Use

Cozen O’Connor has represented residential, commercial, retail, and industrial builders in the development and redevelopment of building lots and millions of square feet of real estate. Our team handles every aspect of the zoning, land use, and development approvals process, from obtaining building permits and variances to negotiating stormwater management and traffic plans.

Head of the DC Zoning Group & Blog Editor