Accessory Dwelling Regulations Update
On May 18, 2019, the Arlington County Board adopted an ordinance updating the standards for accessory dwellings in the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance that take effect July 1, 2019. If you are interested in submitting an application for an accessory dwelling, visit the Building Arlington accessory dwelling permit application process webpage for more information.
What are accessory dwellings?
Accessory dwellings are smaller, independent second dwellings on a single-family lot. They have their own living, bathroom, and kitchen space. Homeowners often build accessory dwellings to house a relative, age in place, or to bring in additional income by renting the space. In Arlington, accessory dwellings can take multiple forms: they can be located within or attached to the main dwelling, like a basement apartment or an addition, or they can be within a new or existing accessory building.
County Board Action – May 18, 2019
On May 18, 2019, the County Board adopted new standards that permitted the establishment of new detached accessory dwellings and increased flexibility for homeowners to convert their existing accessory building into a detached accessory dwelling. In November 2017, the County Board adopted standards that permitted accessory dwellings within existing detached accessory buildings, but the Board did not establish standards for newly-built detached accessory dwellings. The Board directed the County Manager to conduct a study of potential setback options for new detached accessory dwellings.
This zoning study examined side and rear setback options for new detached accessory dwellings, by:
- Looking at what other cities and counties require for setbacks
- Conducting an analysis to see how many lots could potentially establish an accessory dwelling depending on the setback option
- Developing new three-dimensional model imagery to try to visualize each setback option
- Considering the potential effects of each setback option
- March 5, 2019: Open House: Proposed Accessory Dwelling Setbacks
- March 12, 2019: Zoning Committee of the Planning Commission (ZOCO) Meeting and Review of Draft Zoning Ordinance Amendment Text
- March 14, 2019: Contractors and Permit Expeditors Monthly Meeting
- March 27, 2019: Accessory Dwellings Working Group Meeting
- March 28, 2019: Urban Forestry Commission Meeting
- April 11, 2019: Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee (NCAC) Meeting
- April 15, 2019: Commission on Aging Meeting
- April 25, 2019: County Board Request to Advertise
- May 6, 2019: Planning Commission Meeting (final consideration and recommendation)
- May 9, 2019: Citizens Advisory Commission on Housing (Housing Commission) Meeting
- May 18, 2019: County Board Meeting (final consideration and action)
County Board Action – November 27, 2017
Accessory dwelling revisions. ZOA-2017-05. Adopted November 27, 2017. This amendment revised the accessory dwelling regulations as follows:
- To allow detached accessory buildings to be used to create accessory dwellings, only where the building existed prior to November 27, 2017 and where only interior alterations may be conducted to convert to an accessory dwelling (and with other restrictions related to height and footprint);
- To allow accessory dwellings up to a maximum size of either 750 sf or 35% of the combined area of the main and accessory dwelling (whichever is smaller); except with no limitation on size of accessory dwellings wholly within a basement;
- To remove limitations on location of the door to an accessory dwelling; and to restrict exterior stairs to a second-story accessory dwelling to frontages not facing a street;
- To continue to require a deed covenant be filed on the land records and that the owner sign an affidavit of compliance;
- To continue to require owner-occupancy, however, to allow the property to be occupied by no more than one family if the owner does not occupy the property as his/her primary residence;
- To remove the annual limit on total number of accessory dwellings that may be approved per year; and
- Revisions also included minor revisions to parking requirements, use of home occupations and accessory homestay in accessory dwellings; and an increase in the maximum size of a family/caregiver suite. Staff report. Supplemental report.
Request to Advertise
The County Board, at the October 21 meeting, advertised public hearings by the Planning Commission on November 6, 2017, and the County Board on November 18, 2017, to consider proposed amendments to Sections 12, 14 and 18 of the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance to revise the accessory dwelling regulations in order to increase opportunities for residents to add accessory dwellings, while maintaining the residential neighborhood character.
Letter from the Planning Commission
Video of the County Board Meeting
Meeting Schedule – 2017
A Working Group has been set up to assist staff in determining what changes need to be made to the accessory dwelling ordinance in order to encourage greater usage while preserving Arlington’s single-family neighborhoods. The Working Group is made up of members of the Housing Commission, two members from the Commission on Aging, a member from the Civic Federation and a member from the Alliance for Housing Solutions.
All meetings are at Courthouse Plaza, 2100 Clarendon Blvd. (unless otherwise noted)