Board of Supervisors Date:

Raymond E. Graham, Cedar Run
District Supervisor 

October 8, 2009

Staff Lead:


Andrew B. Hushour,
Assistant Zoning Administrator

Community Development



A Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to Sections 3-314.6 and 5-1407 Relating to Motor Vehicle Impoundment and Towing Businesses


Topic Description: 

The proposed text amendment would allow an impoundment lot for a towing business to have more than ten (10) vehicles.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

Conduct a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached Ordinance.

Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted.


Summary Staff Report:


At the May 14, 2009 regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Supervisors, the Board passed an amendment to Chapter 13, Article V of the Fauquier County Code relating to law-enforcement requested towing. The newly adopted amendment seeks to ensure proper storage, availability and service by persons and firms authorized to provide towing services at the request of the Sheriff’s Office or other law enforcement personnel by establishing proper regulatory procedures. As a part of these procedures, Section 13-64.2.e requires that eligible towers be in compliance with local Zoning Ordinance regulations.

Following adoption of the amendments to Chapter 13, Zoning staff received numerous inquiries from existing towing businesses operating within the County requesting certification that their companies were in fact in compliance with zoning regulations. Under the current regulations motor vehicle impoundment and towing businesses are allowed by-right with site plan approval in the I-1 and I-2 zoning districts, and with Special Permit and site plan approval by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) in the C-1 and C-2 zoning districts; in each case, the maximum number of vehicles that can be impounded on a property is ten. 

The vehicle limit raised a significant level of concern by several of the applicants seeking placement on the Sheriff’s Office authorized list of service providers. In many cases, vehicles, especially those that are involved in an automobile accident, can remain on an impoundment lot for many weeks while insurance and repair related activities are carried out. By virtue of this type of activity alone, it is reasonable to consider that an increase in the number of vehicles allowed on-site may be appropriate. Furthermore, in one instance, staff discovered that five separate towing businesses were operating on one parcel (without permits). While there is no expressed prohibition on the number of actual companies allowed to operate on one parcel, the 10 vehicle storage limit would still apply to the property, thus making it difficult for multiple users to realistically conduct business on any given site. Therefore, the purpose of this text amendment is to allow a potential increase in the number of vehicles allowed for impoundment on a parcel, thereby granting more flexibility to both single occupancy and multiple occupancy towing businesses. For this reason, the Board of Supervisors initiated this text amendment at their regularly scheduled meeting held on July 9, 2009.  The Board initiation did not include specific language.

Comparison With Surrounding Jurisdictions

Staff reviewed similar ordinance regulations for Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford and Culpeper counties to assess where impoundment lots were allowed and the limits placed on them. While each county regulates towing and impoundment activities in some fashion, none actually limits the total number of vehicles allowed to be stored on any given site as a by-right use. However, Prince William County only permits the use by-right in its M/T – Industrial Transportation District, and by special use permit only in the B-1 – General Business District and the M-1 – Heavy Industrial District. Similarly, Culpeper County only allows the use to occur in its LI-Limited Industrial District with approval of a conditional use permit. Staff notes both of these examples since as a special or conditional use the governing body would have the authority to limit the actual number of vehicles as a part of any approval, despite the absence of any specified limitation in any zoning ordinance. Fairfax County only allows the use to occur in its higher intensity industrial districts – the I-4, I-5 and I-6 Districts – and prohibits the use in all commercial zoning districts. Furthermore, in its lower intensity I-4 District, all impoundment activities must occur in an enclosed building. Of the remaining counties, Loudoun County does allow the use by-right in both its GB – General Business District and its MR-HI Industrial District with site plan approval. Stafford County has taken a somewhat different approach, in that the activity is not specifically allowed as a primary use but as an accessory use to motor vehicle repair facilities. Therefore, such a use could occur in a variety of commercial and industrial districts as both a by-right and special use.

Proposed Amendment

While the approach taken by other counties sets no real limit on the number of impounded vehicles in a by-right use scenario, staff believes that some limitation in both the commercial and industrial districts is appropriate given the auto-oriented nature of the use. Therefore, as set forth in the attached amendment language, staff is not proposing any change or increase in the commercial districts. Although many of the companies currently operating in the County are found in the commercial districts, staff believes that motor vehicle impoundment and towing businesses are better suited to occur in industrial districts where similar, more intensive uses are already occurring. 

For the I-1 and I-2 Districts, the Planning Commission recommended an increase to the by-right number of allowable impounded vehicles from 10 to 30 for a single site. In addition, the draft language establishes a third category that would allow a user to exceed the 30 vehicle maximum with special permit approval. Staff considered the option of including an upper limit to the number of vehicles allowed for impoundment with special permit approval but opted in favor of a standard that limits the number of vehicles based on the available land area of the subject property. As proposed, a user cannot exceed 10 vehicles per acre of land; therefore, an applicant seeking special permit approval to impound more than 30 vehicles on a 5 acre I-2 parcel has the potential to store up to 50 vehicles on the subject property. The intention is to only allow 10 vehicles per acre, so the 30 vehicles that are allowed by-right on the same I-2 subject property would not be factored into the overall number of impounded vehicles allowed on-site. This scenario limits the introduction of the expanded use on industrial parcels smaller than 3 acres in size since the proposed standards only allow 10 vehicles per acre.

The proposed changes are summarized in the table below.

Required Approval For Impoundment Lot and
Maximum Number of Vehicles Allowed, By Zoning District


Existing Regulations

Proposed Regulations



Special Permit: 10 vehicles


Special Permit: 10 vehicles




By-Right: 10 vehicles

By-Right: 30 vehicles

Special Permit: > 30 vehicles


Process & Planning Commission Recommendation

The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the proposed amendment at its August 27, 2009 meeting and unanimously recommended that the Board of Supervisors approve the text amendment as proposed in this report.


Identify any other Departments, Organizations, or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Fauquier County Business Owners
Department of Economic Development, Fauquier County
Department of Community Development, Fauquier County


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