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Monday, September 23, 2013

Fairfax Federation opposes studio units in neighborhoods zoned R-20 or less

The Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations has taken a formal position opposing residential studio units (RSUs) in residential areas that are zoned for a density less than R-20.

That action follows passage of a similar resolution by the Mason District Council of Community Associations (MDC) earlier this month. The MDC is urging local residents to sign an online petition urging the Board of Supervisors to reject the RSU zoning category unless these units are banned from most residential areas and certain other changes are made to protect stable neighborhoods.

RSUs are tiny efficiency apartments of up to 500 square feet. Each of these units would have a kitchen and bathroom but no bedroom. The Fairfax County Planning and Zoning Department is proposing a new zoning category to allow these units in an effort to provide more options for affordable housing.While that is a laudable goal, there is concern that allowing RSUs in stable, single-family communities could have a destabilizing impact.

Members of the Fairfax Federation approved a resolution Sept. 19 supporting a proposed amendment to the county’s zoning ordinance to permit RSUs, but only if certain conditions are met, including the following:

  • Studio’ units should only be permitted in planned, commercial, and multifamily residential zones.
  • The conversion of single-family detached homes or townhouses into studio units should be prohibited.
  • To ensure compatibility with existing housing, studio units should only be permitted by special exception in residential districts R-20 and greater, and the number of dwelling units should be limited to the maximum number of units permitted in that district. [R-20 zoning means up to 20 units per acre.]
  • Studio units must be subject to current requirements for open space and parking spaces.
  • The amended ordinance should remove the proposal county staff stating that “all residential studio developments and their accessory uses shall not be subject to or included in the calculation of the maximum density (dwelling units or persons per acre) or intensity (floor area ratio) provisions specified for the zoning district in which they are located, whether a stand-alone use or when collocated on a lot with any other use.”
  • Studio units should be permitted primarily in areas with adequate open space, convenient access to neighborhood retail services, and along major thoroughfares served by established transit routes, but not along connector roads that run through neighborhoods nor on the borders of neighborhoods.
  • Studio units should be located within one-quarter of a mile to an active transit stop (rail stop (Metrorail, heavy rail, light rail or Virginia Rail Express) or bus stop located on major arterial streets.
  • Studio units in other than residential districts should be limited to a maximum of 60 units per dwelling, as they are elsewhere in the commonwealth of Virginia.
  • Studio units shall be at least 90 percent single occupancy. No unit should have more than two occupants.
  • Buildings with a studio unit must be at least 1,000 feet from any other building with a studio unit.

“The federation recognizes that housing is needed for those who are elderly, handicapped, and newly entering the labor market,” the resolution states. However, the federation also “recognizes that people are justified in expecting the character of their neighborhoods to remain stable.”


  1. Hopefully the BOS will make this STUPID idea go away and represent appropriately the neighborhoods that voted them in to keep our communities viable and stable!

    1. AMEN. Wednedsay night at 8:15pm at Govt Center in FFAX is the first planning commission "work session" where they will take questions but it is unclear if they answer them. It says the answer on Oct. 2nd.... more confusing stuff!

  2. Thank you Federation, you are truly representing residents in Fairfax County. Why should we have to trust the Board of Supervisors to decide where, how many, and what the RSUs will look like? This is not the rule of law. The BOS certainly won't have to live in the area where they decide to put one and could care less what the results will be. If Mason District actually had real public transportation then of course RSUs should be placed close to transportation hubs, but there is nothing in this Amendment that states that, except that they will be close to transit. (What the heck does that mean?) If this goes through the BOS would be ruling by fiat, that is, deciding at their discretion. Doesn't the BOS realize that they will not be supervisors forever and when another board is elected perhaps they will decide to put one close to their single-family home. There is a way to help low income people but it must be done according to law.

  3. When the BOS retire they will be moving out of FXCO because they ruined it with RSUs. I hope everyone realizes that this proposal is very open ended so that the BOS can have much desecration. They can put these apartments anywhere they like. As we have already been told builders are knocking on BOS doors to put these in.

    1. It's the builders and contractors that keep voting these people back in -- not the residents. They could care less about the residents in Mason Distict. It's become a dumping ground, and now they want to put in planned ghettos.

  4. Hey everyone -- you have reelected Penny Gross how many times??? The Board has been able to do whatever they darn well please for years and years and NO ONE votes them out! I have been stating this fact for the last two elections and these people have been simply reelected -- as far as I'm concerned, you have NOTHING to complaint about! I'm moving. I'm sick of the complaining and no one has any guts to do anything about it.