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Tech issues create permitting backlog after county launches online land use system

The Fairfax County Government Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County’s new online platform for permitting, zoning and other land use activities has hit a speed bump.

A backlog of applications has emerged since the county finished rolling out its Planning and Land Use System (PLUS) on Oct. 31 due to issues with the technology, Fairfax County Land Development Services confirmed.

“Due to a technical issue, LDS is currently processing a backlog of applications following the launch of the updated Planning and Land Use System (PLUS),” LDS Director William Hicks said in a statement to FFXnow. “We are working to resolve the issue and temporary workarounds for customers are in place until a solution can be implemented.”

Fairfax County’s Planning and Land Use System, which is currently experiencing technical issues (via Fairfax County)

PLUS has been in the works for years, as the county’s planning and development agencies pushed to modernize and consolidate processes that had been siloed in a sprawling network of platforms.

The upgrade’s first phase launched in October 2020, moving materials related to food permits, street name and address changes, and zoning pre-application meetings over to the new system. Other transactions, from fire code permits to public facility reviews (known as 2232 reviews), followed over the next two years.

The rollout culminated in late October with the conversion of the permitting and inspections database (rest in peace, FIDO) and plans and waivers system (PAWS). The process required a 10-day shutdown of all land use systems starting Oct. 21.

Though the county announced on Nov. 1 that the full PLUS was now available, the transition has evidently not gone as smoothly as hoped.

An anonymous tipster told FFXnow that the system hasn’t been working since the temporary outage on Oct. 21, affecting occupancy and residential use permits:

Permits are not getting issued. This is also affecting tenants getting occupancy permit, not allowing them to move into the spaces, residents moving into their home because RUPs cannot be issued. The County has been at a dead stop for almost a month now and people are getting very upset. Fairfax also is not giving out any information on when the system will start to work again.

LDS didn’t specify what the technical issues are, but a spokesperson confirmed they’re affecting all applications, not just ones that migrated with the final phase of the rollout.

A new page added to the LDS website yesterday breaks down the known challenges with details about what happened and who to contact as staff try to fix PLUS.

For example, data for some development projects started before Oct. 21 got corrupted, preventing users from accessing their documents. The county has a complaint form that those affected should complete.

Hicks says customers with questions can call the LDS customer line at 703-222-0801, though there is currently an approximately 2-hour-long wait.

According to the alert issued at 3 p.m. yesterday, the county has over 1,000 building permits and plans to process, which could take over two weeks:

  • Customer Walk-in Service (no appointment): approximately 30-minute queue
  • Virtual Appointments with Customer Service: 3 – 4 business days
  • Processing Building Permits and Plans: 2+ weeks (over 1,000 permits in the queue)
  • Residential Inspections: 2 business days
  • Commercial Inspections: Next business day
  • Major Site Processing Time: +/- one week
  • Minor Site Processing Time: +/- two weeks
  • Other (e.g., waivers, plats, studies) Processing Time: +/- two weeks

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