FAQs: Resource Protection Areas

What are Resource Protection Areas?

Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) are the corridors of environmentally sensitive land that lie alongside or near the shorelines of streams, rivers and other waterways which drain into the Potomac River and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay. In their natural condition, RPAs protect water quality, filter pollutants out of stormwater runoff, reduce the volume of stormwater runoff, prevent erosion and perform other important biological and ecological functions. RPAs include any land characterized by one or more of the following features:

  1. a tidal wetland
  2. a tidal shore
  3. a water body with perennial flow
  4. a nontidal wetland connected by surface flow and contiguous to a tidal wetland or water body with perennial flow
  5. a buffer area that includes any land within a major floodplain or any land within 100 feet of a feature listed in 1-4.

Development in RPAs is regulated by the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, enacted by the Board of Supervisors in 1993.

Are fences allowed in Resource Protection Areas?

Fences are permitted in an RPA without an exception or waiver subject to compliance with certain design requirements that collectively maintain the functional value of the buffer. Fences should be designed so that they do not inhibit or alter surface flow (i.e., water must be able to flow under and through the fence unimpeded), and vegetation may only be removed to provide for the actual placement of the fence. Where vegetation is removed, it must be replaced with other native vegetation that is equally effective in retarding runoff, preventing erosion and filtering nonpoint source pollution from runoff. Fences should be located to avoid the removal of trees. If the fence were to be placed in an area that was an existing maintained lawn, the revegetation requirement would not be applicable. For further information, please contact Land Development Services at 703-324-1720, TTY 711.

Are sheds allowed in Resource Protection Areas?

The administrative waiver available for minor additions is not available for construction of detached accessory structures such as sheds. Accessory structures are specifically prohibited in the state regulations from consideration as minor additions. However, the construction of small sheds that do not require a building permit (the current limit under the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code is 256 square feet of building area) constructed over existing maintained grass lawns can be considered to be an inconsequential modification to an existing use and may be permitted. As a general rule, sheds should only be located in RPAs when there are no reasonable alternatives for locating the shed outside of the RPA. Sheds should be designed so that they do not inhibit or alter surface flow. Locating a shed in an undisturbed RPA area is more problematic because there would normally be at least some other place on the lot that the shed could be located without encroaching into the undisturbed area of the RPA and should be discussed with county staff. The construction of multiple small sheds in the RPA also is problematic and should be discussed with county staff.

Are decks allowed in Resource Protection Areas?

Decks are treated as minor additions under the ordinance and therefore are permitted subject to an administrative waiver process. The administrative waiver process is available only for minor additions to homes constructed prior to the original effective date of the ordinance, July 1, 1993, for existing and new RPAs and homes constructed prior to the effective date of the amendments for newly designated RPAs. For further information, please contact Land Development Services at 703-324-1720, TTY 711.

How can I get a map that shows the outline of an RPA on any county parcel?

Go the the County's Digital Map Viewer and choose the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas map

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