Prince William County has eased regulations in certain areas to encourage distribution and fulfillment centers.
During its meeting Tuesday, the Board of County Supervisors approved a zoning text amendment to remove regulatory hurdles for the businesses.
The action creates an overlay district that makes it easier for the businesses to open while allowing larger facilities compared to other areas of the county. An overlay district allows certain land-uses on top of base zoning designations in targeted areas.
The Board of Supervisors initiated work on such a district in 2017, and the plan reached a public hearing in 2018, but county staff then deferred action to further hammer out details.
The county’s existing zoning code doesn’t define distribution and fulfillment centers or neighborhood retail and fulfillment centers.
The districts create by-right uses to reduce regulatory hurdles with regulations differing for large facilities like an Amazon warehouse compared to a UPS Store.
Planning Director Parag Agrawal said the businesses were already becoming more popular over the past few years, but their growth was accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“[The] industry is changing and evolving because our buying habits are evolving,” he said.
Many of the county’s distribution centers are in the Balls Ford Road area, where a majority of the overlay district will be.
County planner Alex Stanley said the district would come with design guidelines, including screening of delivery areas.
Within the overlay district, distribution and fulfillment centers would be able to reach 350,000 square feet by right, with larger facilities requiring a special-use permit. The limit of by-right use outside of the district would be 80,000 square feet.
Neighborhood retail and fulfillment centers would be allowed to reach 30,000 square feet before requiring a special-use permit.
“The industry is changing and there is this increased demand to fit more facilities, to be able to provide services and goods to people closer to where they live,” said Christina Winn, executive director of the county’s Department of Economic Development. “Being able to have this overlay district and zoning text amendments will make it so much easier for businesses to come in and get to market faster.”