By Marrett Ceo
The Falls Church City Council last week brought up the issue related to a property owner wanting to build an ‘accessory structure’ on his property. This action is allowed under current zoning regulations within the city of Falls Church. The issue for council was, if the city would remove a restrictive covenant that had been placed on the property back in the 1980s. The property owner was seeking the vacating of an easement in order for the accessory structure to be built on that part of the property. The issue received full support from the city council.
According to Fairfax and Arlington County’s websites, an accessory dwelling unit can be defined specifically as a complete independent dwelling unit, complete with a kitchen and a bath, on a lot that has a main dwelling. The Accessory Dwelling unit must fall under the same ownership as this main dwelling. ADs are designed, arranged, used, or intended for occupancy but not to have more than three people living in them. For the most part, accessory dwelling units promote a greater diversity of housing and household types in single-family neighborhoods. They do this, while maintaining neighborhood character and underlying zoning.
Certain types of housing cannot have accessory living units, such as condos or townhouses, only single family detached dwellings may have an accessory living unit. Arlington County Board adopted new standards that among other things increases flexibility for owners who have an accessory building existing into a detached accessory dwelling.
In Fairfax County, the individual owning the home with accessory living unit must live either in the main principal dwelling or the accessory living unit. Additionally, only one, not both of these may be rented out. Two people maximum is the limit on who can live in the ALU, spacing is limited to two rooms. The health department will be required to approve of the property depending if it is on a well or a septic system, before any administrative or special permit is ever approved.
In terms of numbers, if a dwelling has an accessory living unit, there cannot be two boarders or renters. Only in the case that a dwelling that doesn’t have an ALU and is occupied by a family is permitted to have up to two renters. And for that one person allowed in the ALU, for an administrative permit to be approved the owner of a unit must provide an extra parking space for that ALU. If it is on a public street, three off street parking spaces must be available, versus four for a private street.
In the event that someone, at least in Fairfax County, wants to sell their house with an accessory living unit, it is permissible to sell without removing the ALU. However, in the case that it isn’t removed, the administrative permit doesn’t transfer to the next tenant. There must be communications between the seller and buyer and the new tenant must meet all requirements and apply for another administrative permit. If it isn’t approved, the owner may just utilize the ALU for personal use, and may not allow anyone to live in the ALU on the property.
If any citizen wants to build just a shed in their backyard, that’s permissible without a permit. It may not be in the front yard or on a lot containing less than 36,000 square feet and must be below 8 ½ feet high.
If you live in Arlington County, you may go to: https://www.arlingtonva.us/Government/Programs/Building/Permits/Accessory-Dwelling for information and prices on ALUs.
Fairfax County residents can go to:
https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/planning-development/zoning/accessory-living-unit for information about ALU’s and prices.