Land Development Services

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. and Friday, 9:15 a.m. - 4 p.m. Please note that visitors may not be added to in-person queues past 3:45 p.m.
703-222-0801 TTY 711
12055 Government Center Pkwy
Fairfax, VA 22035
Bill Hicks

Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance

The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (CBPO) was adopted to protect our local streams and one of the world's most productive estuaries, the Chesapeake Bay, from pollution due to land use and development. All of Fairfax County drains into the Potomac River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. In an effort to protect and improve the quality of these waterways, Fairfax County designated environmentally sensitive areas known as Resource Protection Areas.


Resource Protection Areas

buffer limitsResource Protection Areas (RPAs) are regulated corridors of environmentally sensitive land that lie alongside or near the shorelines of streams, rivers and other waterways. 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.

In Fairfax County, RPAs include any land characterized by one or more of the following features:

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

Development, uses and activities within RPAs are regulated by the CBPO, Chapter 118 of the Code of the County of Fairfax.

RPA Guidance Map

The interactive Watersheds and Resource Protection Areas Viewer displays estimated locations of watershed boundaries, watershed management areas, and RPAs in Fairfax County.

Little Rocky Run StreamProtect the Buffer!

Generally, no development, land disturbance, nor vegetation removal is allowed within the RPA boundary without prior approval from Fairfax County’s Department of Land Development Services. 

  • This includes the removal of dead, dying or diseased trees and shrubs, noxious weeds, or invasive plants.
  • Additionally, clearing-cutting of vegetation is NOT permitted nor is the removal of vegetation to create lawns.

Non-compliance with RPA restrictions is a violation of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance. Violators are required to develop and obtain approval for an appropriate restoration plan and may be subject to penalties.




State regulations require that RPAs be designated around all water bodies with perennial flow. Perennial flow is defined as a body of water flowing in a natural or man-made channel year-round, except during periods of drought. The first county RPA guidance maps were adopted July 1, 1993 (1993 RPA), using existing map information to estimate the RPA features described in CBPO § 118-1-7(b). The Department of Public Works and Environmental Services later conducted field studies to identify all perennial streams throughout the county and used this information to prepare a set of maps showing the location of RPAs as defined under the revised CBPO. The amended maps were adopted by the Board on November 17, 2003 (2003 RPA).

The county maps display the boundaries of the RPAs adopted by the Board in 1993 and the additional RPAs adopted in 2003. The maps display the general locations of RPA boundaries for planning purposes and the actual limits may be further refined by site-specific field studies conducted at the time a site-related plan is submitted to develop a property. For more information on site-specific RPA delineations, see the “Why are site-specific RPA delineations required” FAQ. For submission details, see our RPA Plan permit guide.

For more information on the mapping of perennial streams visit Perennial Stream Mapping Project.

Exception Review Committee (ERC)

The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance Exception Review Committee (ERC) is a public hearing body appointed by the Board of Supervisors to review applications to conduct land disturbing activities within the RPA.


For more information, contact the Site Development and Inspection Division at 703-324-1720, TTY 711, or via email. Ask to speak with a stormwater specialist.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant