If you are planning to buy or renovate a home, a Resource Protect Area (RPA) may be something that will impact you and the value of your home significantly A Resource Protection Area is created to limit development around water bodies with perennial flows. The stated goal is to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
The Chesapeake Bay Act has been around for a while and most purchasers do know that development potential is limited around streams, lakes and rivers in Northern Virginia. However many may not know that in 2003 the regulations were amended with further restrictions put in place. Through the amendments, the definition of what was covered under the act was changed from “tributary streams” to ”water bodies with perennial flow”. The result is that a large number of new areas and homes are now affected – often reaching deep into existing subdivisions and alongside what most would consider “storm drains”.
The most obvious impact on homeowners are limitations on the use of a property and a resulting loss of value. If you are in a RPA, you are subject to restrictions on decks, sheds, fences, extensions on your home and many landscaping projects.
For example, if your home is in an RPA and you want to build an extension to your home in Fairfax County :
For those lots that have areas of RPA on them, the ordinance provides relief from the full effects of the RPA restrictions through the administrative waiver provisions. The provisions allow minor additions of up to 1,000 sq. ft. or 2 percent of the lot area up to a maximum of 2,500 sq. ft. of new impervious area in the RPA for homes constructed prior to the original effective date of the ordinance, July 1, 1993, with respect to both the old and new RPA areas. For homes that were constructed between July 1, 1993, and the effective date of the 2003 amendments, Nov. 18, 2003, minor additions are only allowed to encroach into the new RPA areas created by the amendments. This relief is provided to the current owners of these homes because the regulations were not in effect at the time the homes were built and the original builders did not have the opportunity to plan the location of these homes to avoid future conflicts with the RPA.
The state regulations on which the county’s ordinance is based do not permit detached structures to be treated as minor additions. The construction of detached structures and larger additions in the RPA are still possible, but would be subject to an exception process requiring a public hearing.
(from the Fairfax County brochure on RPAs)
For information on landscaping, fences, sheds and decks look at the brochure link above.
From the above it is clear that determining when a home is built and if that home is in an RPA are both very important.
One tool to do that is the online Digital Map Viewer for Fairfax County – you select the “Chesapeake Bay Map” and then pick the Tax Map number for your property. You can find the tax map number by looking at the two first numbers of the tax-id for the property in the county tax records or tax bill. With the correct map you will have to zoom in to find your property and determine if it is in one of the RPAs. You will have to furthermore determine if the property is in the 1993 or the 2003 RPAs and what effect that has on the specific property (as discussed above.)
Purchasing a home next to water or a small stream is a dream for many. Before you do that though make sure you know what impact, if any, the RPAs has on specific property.
As an aside – if you are in a RPA you may also want to check if you are in a flood-zone…