Fairfax City Approves Expanded Zoning for R&D Businesses

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The Fairfax City Council unanimously approved new zoning ordinances on Nov. 17 that would allow research and development businesses to set up in commercial corridors throughout the Northern Virginia city. 

“As our economy evolves, our zoning ordinance needs to follow suit,” Nicole Toulouse, Fairfax City’s economic development senior vice president, told Commercial Observer.  

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The approvals support Fairfax City Economic Development’s goal of attracting the next wave of high-tech companies including research and knowledge-based businesses in industries such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and biotechnology.

“We had been experiencing situations where our strategic priority industries for business attraction efforts have been at odds with permissible uses in our commercial corridors,” Toulouse said. “This amendment will be beneficial for decades to come to help economic development attract exciting new companies to Fairfax City.”

The move to allow R&D uses in commercial areas is a growing trend around the Washington, D.C., region. Similar zoning rules have been passed in jurisdictions such as Fairfax County, Arlington County, the District, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County in recent years.

“It’s important to regularly review and update our city’s ordinances to make certain they reflect the most current information available,” Catherine Read, Fairfax City’s mayor, said in a prepared statement. “R&D by its very nature is about capturing cutting-edge ideas that will benefit us all. We want to reduce barriers to firms establishing their businesses here in Fairfax City.”

No companies have taken advantage of the new zoning yet, but it’s expected that numerous deals will be announced in the first quarter of 2024, according to the Fairfax City Economic Development.

Keith Loria can be reached at Kloria@commercialobserver.com.