If I change something on my residential property, do I need to receive an architectural approval?
If you live in a single-family detached or attached home or a townhouse, you do not need to receive an architectural approval to change the appearance of your home or property. There is an exception: If you live in the Old Town Fairfax Historic Overlay District, the area at the center of the City closest to Old Town (Main Street/University Drive area) you will need an architectural approval to change the appearance of your home or property. Contact planning staff to confirm whether you are located within this district by calling 703-385-7930. See below to find out what changes require approval.
If I change something on my commercial property, do I need to receive an architectural approval?
Yes! Any change to the appearance of a commercial property anywhere in the City requires an architectural approval. See below to find out what changes require approval.
What kinds of projects require architectural review?
Any change to a property that is visible from a public place, such as the roadway, a park, or a government-owned property. This could include but is not limited to:
Doors or windows
Signs in certain parts of the City (contact staff to confirm)
Repairs and in-kind replacements do not require architectural review.
Always contact staff to confirm! The planning office can be reached at 703-385-7930.
Are there other reviews I need besides architectural review when changing the appearance of my property?
Yes! In almost every instance, projects that require architectural approval also require other Zoning or Code Administration approvals. These include but are not limited to site plans, sign permits, zoning permits, building permits, electrical permits, and mechanical permits. For more information on site plan reviews, sign permits, and zoning permits, contact the Department of Community Development and Planning by calling 703-385-7930. For more information on building permits, electrical permits, and mechanical permits, contact the Department of Code Administration by calling 703-385-7830.
How do I apply for a certificate of appropriateness?
The application package can be found here. Detailed instructions are laid out within. Always feel free to contact planning staff for help filling out this application and to ask questions about submission requirements by calling 703-385-7930.
Are there different types of architectural reviews?
Yes! Larger projects, including painting work, require approval of a major certificate of appropriateness. This process requires a hearing before the Board of Architectural Review, or BAR, and potentially City Council as well. Smaller projects require approval of a minor certificate of appropriateness, which is reviewed administratively by staff and does not require a public hearing. Contact planning staff and tell them about your project so that they can tell you what approval you will need.
What happens if I complete work that requires an architectural approval without acquiring the approval first?
Staff will issue a notice of violation, or NOV, to the property owner. This is a warning that requires that a plan of correction be submitted to the planning office within 30 days. Failure to comply will result in issuance of fines that increase in cost over time.