Arlington County has a new application for the approval of an Accessory Dwelling (AD). Applicants must complete the AD Application Packet.
PRINT/DOWNLOAD: AD Application Packet
This new application was initiated following the County Board’s adoption of amendments to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance (ACZO) for ADs on May 18, 2019, which allow for ADs to be located in new detached accessory buildings.
ADs serve as an important component of Arlington County’s Affordable Housing Master Plan. Considered an accessory (or subordinate) use, ADs promote a greater diversity of housing and household types in single-family neighborhoods, while maintaining neighborhood character and underlying zoning. Whether ADs are located within an existing one-family detached dwelling or a detached accessory building, ADs function as an independent dwelling unit, with their own entrance, kitchen, and bathroom facilities, and are intended for occupancy by no more than three (3) persons.
Submission & Review Process
STEP 1: Pre-Submission – Determine Eligibility of Property
Before applying for an AD permit, determine if your property meets the minimum eligibility requirements of the ACZO: (1) The lot must be located in a district zoned R-20, R-10, R-8, R-6, R-5, R-10T, R-15- 30T, or R2-7; (2) the lot must be improved with a one-family detached dwelling; (3) there cannot already be an AD or a family/caregiver suite on the lot; (4) you must be the owner of the property where the AD is proposed to be located. We recommend that you email the Zoning Division to set up a pre-submission meeting to discuss the Zoning and Inspection Services Division (ISD) requirements.
STEP 2a: Submit Accessory Dwelling (AD) Application Packet
The AD Application Packet is filed with Zoning Administration. One (1) copy of the AD Application Packet and all supporting documents are required. Zoning counter services staff will review the AD Application Packet to determine completeness and collect all associated fees.
STEP 2b: Submit a Building Permit
In addition to completing the AD Application Packet, converting an existing space into an AD or constructing an addition or new building will require a building permit to ensure the project meets the requirements of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC). Learn more about the building permit process. Review the Accessory Dwellings: Top Tips for Success for common building code implications for ADs.
STEP 3: AD Application Review
Zoning staff will conduct a preliminary review of the “AD Application Packet” and forward their recommendation to the Zoning Administrator for final review. If no issues are identified, the AD permit will be approved.
An application for an AD permit must comply with the regulations of the ACZO §12.9.2, which establishes the requirements for the creation, approval, and use of all ADs. All applications for an AD permit must also comply with the coverage, density, and dimensional requirements noted in the ACZO §3.2 and §5. During the review of the AD Application Packet (STEP 3 above), all applications will be checked by Zoning staff to determine if these regulations have been satisfied.
These requirements include (but are not limited to) the following:
- For ADs located in a detached accessory building constructed after May 18, 2019, the following design requirements apply:
- No exterior stairs to an entrance above the first floor can be located on the side of the lot fronting a street.
- The nearest wall of any accessory building containing an AD cannot be located any closer than 25 feet to a street (or officially designated street right-of-way line).
- The height of any accessory building containing an AD is restricted to the lesser of 1-1/2 stories or 25 feet.
- The footprint of any accessory building containing an AD is restricted to 560 sq. ft. (int he R-5 and R-6 districts) and 650 sq ft. in the R-20, R-10, R-8, R-10T, R15-30T and R2-7 districts).
- On interior lots, any accessory building containing an AD must maintain a rear yard setback of at least 5 feet (to the wall).
- On corner lots, any accessory building containing an AD must maintain a rear yard setback of at least 10 feet (to the eave) and a side yard setback of at least 5 feet (to the wall).
- For ADs located in a detached accessory building constructed before May 18, 2019, there are no specific restrictions on the height, footprint, or setbacks of the existing accessory building. In addition, there are no specific restrictions on the location of stairs to an entrance located above the first floor. Any alterations must be confined to the interior only, in accordance with the ACZO §16.
- For ADs located within the main dwelling that have an entrance above the first floor, no exterior stairs to that entrance can be located on the side of the lot fronting a street.
- In addition, all projects must meet the design requirements of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC).
Applicants for an AD permit must own the property where the AD will be located. The property owner must use either the main dwelling or the AD as their primary residence. If the property owner does not use either the main dwelling or the AD as their primary residence, the entire property cannot be occupied by more than one (1) family.
The number and type of parking space(s) required for an AD is established in the ACZO §14.3.
- ADs are permitted on lots with one (1) off-street parking space, subject to the maintenance of one (1) parking space.
- ADs are permitted on lots with two (2) or more off-street parking spaces, subject to the maintenance of at least two (2) parking spaces.
- ADs may be permitted on lots with no off-street parking spaces only when a parking study performed by the Department of Environmental Services (DES) finds that the block is less than 65% parked. If the block is at least 65% parked, then at least one (1) off-street parking space must be created.
The maximum size of an AD varies depending on its location on the lot and the size of the existing main dwelling.
- For ADs located wholly within a basement, there is no specific size limit and only the perimeter walls of the basement restrict its size.
- In all other cases where the existing main dwelling is at least 1,000 sq. ft, the AD cannot exceed 35% of the combined floor area of the main dwelling and the AD, up to a maximum of 750 sq. ft.
- In all other cases where the existing main dwelling is less than 1,000 sq. ft, the AD cannot exceed 45% of the combined floor area of the main dwelling and the AD, up to a maximum of 500 sq. ft.
Once the AD permit is approved by the Zoning Administrator, applicants must file the original copy of the Declaration of Covenants with the Land Records Division of the Clerk of the Circuit Court. The receipt of recordation must be submitted to the Zoning Administrator before ISD can issue a building permit. The Affidavit of Compliance must be submitted to the Zoning Administrator before the Zoning Division can issue a Certificate of Occupancy.
Apply In-Person or Mail
Arlington County Ellen M. Bozman Government Center
CPHD – Zoning Division
2100 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite 1000
Arlington, VA 22210
703-228-3883 | email
For an AD permit, the filing fee is $146, plus a 5% automation enhancement fee. The filing fee is paid when the AD Application Packet is submitted to Zoning Administration. See Zoning Division Fee Schedule.
Additional fees will also apply for any required building permits and the Certificate of Occupancy (CO).