FAQs: Land and Soils

Does the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance apply to my home improvement project?

The answer depends on the type of home improvement project you are planning and the location of your home.

The Chespeake Bay Preservation Ordinance is designed to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries by requiring wise resource management practices in the use and development of environmentally sensitive land features. At the heart of the Bay Act is the idea that land can be used and developed in ways that minimize impact on water quality.

Certain areas of the county have been designated Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas and divided into Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) and Resource Management Areas (RMAs). The ordinance does not apply to home improvement projects if you are planning an interior alteration or if you are in a RMA. Most of the county is in a RMA.

The ordinance does apply if you are disturbing land in a RPA. Contact the Site and Addressing Center at 703-222-0801, TTY 711, to determine if you are in an RPA. If your home is near water, it may lie within an RPA.

What are the permit requirements for land disturbing activity?

You do not need a land disturbing permit unless your project:

  • Disturbs more than 2,500 square feet, (includes 10 feet added to each side of the perimeter of the footprint of your project), or
  • blocks existing drainage patterns, or
  • requires more than 18 inches of cut or fill. (This refers to cut or fill left outside after project completion and excludes the cut or fill that is part of a completed structure. Cut or fill is soil that is removed or added in order to create the desired contour or flatness in an area of land.)

For further information regarding Fairfax County policies, you may call the Site and Addressing Center at 703-222-0801, TTY 711.

How do I get my conservation deposit back?

After construction is complete, request the release of the Conservation deposit in writing to the Site and Addressing Center, 12055 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, Virginia, 22035-5504. Submit a completed Federal W-9 form with this letter.

Once the request is received, an inspection will be conducted to verify conformance with the approved grading plan and to ensure that the lot is properly stabilized.

After the inspector has approved the release of the escrow, the Site and Addressing Center will prepare the escrow release voucher. The Department of Finance will release the funds by check. This process may take four weeks.

Does it make any difference what types of soil are on my lot?

Yes, some soils are of poor quality and may not be suitable for supporting certain types of structures. Poor or problem soils are soil types that may have a high water table, expansive clays, low shear strength or other poor qualities. If your property contains a problem soil, you may need to hire a geotechnical engineer to investigate the soil and a structural engineer to design the foundation system for a new structure.

Some areas of the county have soils and rock that may contain Naturally Occurring Asbestos (NOA). While living in these areas is not considered to be a hazard, precautions should be taken during construction to prevent exposure to NOA. A discussion of construction safety practices in areas of NOA, as well as links to regulatory and other resources, can be found on the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District's website at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/nvswcd/asbestos-safety.htm.

To determine what types of soil are on your lot, you may call the Site and Addressing Center at 703-222-0801, TTY 711,  and one of the technicians can check the county soil maps and determine the type(s) of soil on your lot and give you some general information regarding the soil types in Fairfax County. You also can look up the soil map and soil type(s) using the tax map number of your lot (tax map numbers can be found on the Real Estate Assessment Information Site).

Contact Fairfax County: Phone, Email or Twitter | Main Address: 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035
Technical Questions: Web Administrator

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