Accessory Dwelling Units

The City of Fredericksburg is conducting a community process to develop an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) ordinance to help expand housing options and affordability in neighborhoods throughout Fredericksburg. With citizen input, the process will shape the proposed amendments to the Zoning Ordinance that permit the construction of ADUs.

As of March 28, there have been 6 community meetings / public hearings with the Planning Commission, 3 meetings with neighborhood associations, and one community event sponsored by Fred 15 / Fossil Free Fredericksburg / Disability Resource Center regarding Accessory Dwelling Units.  The discussion at those meetings used a draft ordinance as a starting point for discussion.  As the meetings progressed, a matrix was developed comparing Fredericksburg’s draft proposal to ADU ordinances adopted in other localities in Virginia.  Here is the comparison of Fredericksburg’s original draft ordinance with the ADU ordinance from other Virginia localities.

Public discussion on potentially permitting ADU’s has taken many forms.  Some discussion regarded general support or general discouragement of ADUs.  Discussion also included the need for more flexible / relatively affordable housing and how an ADU ordinance would be enforced Some focused on potential impacts of ADUs on public utilities, services, or parking. More detailed discussion regarded whether a property owner should be required to live on-site, appropriate notification of surrounding property owners when an ADU is proposed, the appropriate size of ADUs, and whether existing rules on accessory structures regarding coverage of the rear yard, setbacks, and height were appropriate.  

Based on the public discussion and the analysis and information provided by the Planning Department, the Planning Commission has now begun the process of developing their recommendation on whether or not ADUs should be permitted and if so, then what the rules governing their development should be.  Planning Commissioners submitted comments on the draft ordinance prior to their March 22 meeting.  Here is a table showing the Planning Commission’s draft comments on the original ordinance

The Planning Commission will continue to discuss these comments in the upcoming community meetings.  It is anticipated that the Planning Commission will either modify the original draft ordinance and recommend approval, recommend approval of the original draft ordinance, or recommend denial of the ADU ordinance to the City Council at their May 10 meeting. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What are Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)? 

ADUs, also commonly referred to as “in-law apartments” or “granny flats” are secondary, independent living units with a separate kitchen, sleeping area and bathroom. ADUs can also be occupied by a limited number of people not related to a family in the principal dwelling on a property. ADUs can assume different forms, for example as basement apartments, converted garages, or new smaller dwelling units detached from a primary residence.

          If ADUs are permitted can more people live on a single family detached lot then can under the current rules?

2. Why is the City developing an ADU ordinance? 

An ADU ordinance will help expand housing options and affordability in neighborhoods in the city. The City’s Comprehensive Plan includes goals encouraging a variety of housing, infill that is compatible with established neighborhoods in terms of scale and massing, and historic housing types (such as ADUs) to protect and enhance the City’s historic neighborhoods.  Additionally, the Area 7 Downtown Small Area Plan calls for the evaluation of ADUs as a tool to ensure City neighborhoods can evolve to meet modern housing needs.

3. How will ADUs impact housing affordability in Fredericksburg? 

ADUs have the potential to expand housing supply and choice in the City. ADUs are smaller and have fewer amenities than traditional rental housing options, which increases the likelihood that they would expand housing affordability. ADUs may also help homeowners, including first-time buyers, families with children who need care from a live-in provider, as well as long-time residents, including elderly, remain in Fredericksburg more affordably.

4. How can ADUs facilitate aging in place?

ADUs can enable seniors and persons with disabilities to age safely, comfortably, and more affordably in place by providing on-site housing for caregivers.

5. How can ADUs support homeownership and wealth building? 

ADUs allow homeowners to generate new rental income to more comfortably afford their primary residence and increase the value of their property, which creates additional equity.

6. Where will ADUs be allowed? 

The City is undertaking a review of ADU ordinances to see what models and practices might work in Fredericksburg. Community engagement will be an important feature of the review. Community engagement, including public meetings to explain ADUs, how they work, and solicit feedback, will begin in February. This process is anticipated to shape where ADUs are allowed.

7. Will the City establish design guidelines and regulations to determine where ADUs can be located on a site and what they can look like? 

Yes, as part of the ongoing review process, and future community engagement, guidelines will be refined, including consideration for size, scale, placement and parking.  A draft ordinance description is included below as a reference point.

8. Why should I participate in this process? 

Your thoughts are needed to help develop an ordinance that adds the flexibility needed to create additional housing while limiting impacts on surrounding neighbors.  A draft ordinance description is included below as a reference point.

9. How can I participate in this process? 

You can stay informed about the project by following along on the project website (this webpage). Engagement opportunities will be posted on the project website. Community input gathered throughout the process will inform staff’s policy recommendations that will be considered by Planning Commission and City Council.

10. What is the difference between an ADU approval “by-right” or by “special use”?

By-right is permitted in a zoning district after an administrative review to ensure the use complies with any regulatory standards.  Special use requires each proposed ADU to go through a public hearing process with the Planning Commission (for a recommendation) and the City Council (to decide whether or not to approve) in addition to compliance with any regulatory standards.

11. Do ADUs have to comply with the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code? 

Yes, ADUs must comply with the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code. The City’s Building staff will issue violation notices if they do not.

Upcoming Meetings:

The Planning Commission of the City of Fredericksburg will hold many in-person meetings to discuss a draft Accessory Dwelling Units ordinance for the ADU ordinance proposal.  The public hearings and community meetings scheduled to discuss this item are attached here

Here is information made available at each of the meetings held so far:

February 4 – College Heights Civic Association – Questions and Responses from a neighborhood meeting at the Lutheran Church.

February 8 – Public Hearing Staff Report including information on other localities experience with ADUs, an analysis of the supply and characteristics of neighborhood parking, and anticipated impacts to public services / utilities.

February 11 – Handouts with information on the Historical Character of Neighborhoods Character, Definition of a Family, and What Can I do on a Single Family Lot.

February 14 – A neighborhood meeting was held with the Rising Sun Neighborhood Association at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library (the same handouts from February 11 were provided).

February 22 – Continuation of Planning Commission public hearing.  Please see staff report.

February 23 – Community session at 718 Caroline Event Space (6:00); sponsored by Fred 15 / Fossil Free Fredericksburg / the disAbilty Resource Center.

March 8 – Continuation of Planning Commission public hearing.  Please see staff report.

March 15 – Community meeting was held at Lafayette Elementary School.

March 22 – Continuation of Planning Commission public hearing. Please see staff report.

April 1 – Community session to be held at the School Board Meeting Room at 210 Ferdinand Street at 10 AM.

April 12 – Continuation of Planning Commission public hearing at 715 Princess Anne Street at 6:30 PM. Please see staff report.

April 19 – Community session to be held at the Police Department Training Room at 2200 Cowan Blvd. at 7 PM

April 26 - Continuation of Planning Commission public hearing at 715 Princess Anne Street at 6:30 PM. Please see staff report. 

May 10 – Continuation of Planning Commission public hearing at 715 Princess Anne Street at 6:30 PM. Please see staff report.

Draft Ordinance:

Here is a draft ordinance for discussion:  The City of Fredericksburg proposes amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance to permit and to establish regulations governing the use of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) associated with single-family detached dwelling units.   An ADU is a secondary dwelling unit established in conjunction with and clearly subordinate to a principal dwelling unit, whether part of the same structure as the principal dwelling unit or as a detached accessory structure on the same lot.  The total occupancy permitted within a single family lot (a family and two unrelated persons or no more than three unrelated people total) are not proposed to be changed.  This amendment would permit a full kitchen for the ADU.  The proposed regulatory standards for ADUs include:  

  • An accessory dwelling unit is only permitted in association with a principal single-family detached dwelling unit.
  • Only one accessory dwelling unit is permitted per lot.
  • An accessory dwelling unit may have no more than one kitchen, in addition to the principal dwelling’s primary kitchen. 
  • An accessory dwelling unit shall not be calculated as part of the maximum allowable density.
  • Together, the occupancy of the principal single-family dwelling and the accessory dwelling unit shall not exceed the definition of a family.
  • Any accessory dwelling unit shall be limited in size.  It shall not exceed:

(i)   400 square feet of heated area if the ADU is located in an accessory structure; or

(ii)  40% of the gross floor area of the principal dwelling if the ADU is in the same structure as the principal dwelling.

  • Any exterior entrances to an accessory dwelling unit shall be permitted only on the side or rear of the principal dwelling. 
  • Either the principal dwelling or accessory dwelling shall be occupied by a resident manager.  The manager shall maintain current contact information on the accessory dwelling unit permit. The resident manager will be the primary point of contact for any property maintenance or use complaints and will manage the public services provided to the site.  The principal and accessory units shall share public utilities and services. 

More Information and / or to comment:

Information pertinent to the applications may be examined online on the City’s website at, or by request for a mailed copy.  Contact 540-372-1179 to request a mailed copy.   Additional information will be available on the City website, by close of business on the Fridays before scheduled meetings. Please check the Public Information page

Any written comments submitted on a hearing item, must include the name and address, including zip code, of the commenter, be limited to 5 minutes or less read aloud, and shall be submitted in one of the following ways:

  1. email to
  2. U.S. Mail (PO Box 7447, Fredericksburg, VA 22404) or 601 Caroline Street Suite 400, or
  3. dropping them in the Community Planning & Building drop off box in the front lobby of 601 Caroline Street marked ATTN: PLANNING COMMISSION

Comments received before 1:30 p.m. on the day of the meeting will be read into the record at the Planning Commission meeting.

Persons requiring accommodations to facilitate participation at the public hearing are encouraged to contact the Planning Services Division at least five (5) days before the meeting.

For questions, please contact Taylor Owen, Administrative Specialist, 540-372-1179.


Additional Information on Accessory Dwelling Units: