Resource Protection Areas - Did you know?

Real Estate Agent

I live in Jefferson Village in Falls Church, VA, and I tend to think that I have found the perfect little spot in Northern Virginia! In addition to being close to just about everything (route 50, I-495, shopping at the Mosaic District, Bailey's and Seven Corners, and plenty of restaurants) there are also two parks within walking distance from my house, and a couple streams. On just about any afternoon with decent weather you find me and my daughter Ellie either exploring the neighborhood or heading to one of the parks.

Many times, I've passed a vacant lot nearby and thought it would be a perfect location for a home. It looked to be over half an acre and backs to the stream and trees! I did some digging and learned that the lot had been abandoned about 9 years ago and was currently owned by a bank. Thinking I might have found a perfect spot to build a new home, I contacted a builder friend of mine from Land Build Live to see if they would be interested. Almost immediately, they let me know that while the lot was essentially "perfect" for a new home, it was entirely covered in a "Resource Protection Area" (RPA)! 

This got me curious, so I did a little more research and found that many of the lots in my neighborhood near Tripps Run and John Mastenbrook Stream are partially or entirely covered in RPA. While I had seen Resource Protection areas, I didn't realize that they could be smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and I definitely didn't think they could be assigned to existing lots! 

This photo of Caladesi Island State Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor. 

As a Florida native, this is what usually comes to mind when I think of Resource Protection Area. Caladesi Island, Dunedin (Where I got engaged, shameless plug!)  

Resource Protection areas were assigned to protect the Chesapeake Bay, and in my opinion, are very important and valuable to the health of our environment (find out more about the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance through this link.) Here's the definition of an RPA from the Fairfax County FAQ page on 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."

When an RPA is assigned to a lot that has an existing structure, it my cover a portion of the lot, or the entire thing. If a structure is already on the land, in most cases, that structure can be renovated but not removed and rebuilt. For more information on RPAs and to see if your home is effected by one, check out the Fairfax County FAQ page on Resource Protection Areas, and perform a search using the Fairfax County Digital Map Viewer with "Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas" in the map type.

In the case of the lot on in the neighborhood, it seems that an uninformed buyer purchased it back in 2005 when a home still sat on the lot in hopes of building a new house. At some point (maybe after tearing it down), they probably got the horrible news that they would not be allowed to build anything, and had no choice but to abandon the land. This is all speculation from what I could find in tax records (along with my vivid imagination), so don't take my word for it.

If you are considering making an addition on your home, building on your lot, or tearing down and rebuilding a home, it is very important to find out if you are impacted by an RPA. As a buyer, when you see that perfect piece of land or "fixer-upper" with the quiet stream in the back, be sure that you (and your agent) do plenty of research before you buy! And if you are a seller with a nice water view, make sure that you know your lot's history and status before pricing and marketing it to buyers.


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Bruce Walter
Keller Williams Realty Lafayette/West Lafayette, Indiana - West Lafayette, IN

Rita, you have sure identified a great reason why a buyer would want to work with a diligent and experienced agent like yourself to protect them from making a mistake like the previous owner!  You picked a wonderful area to answer the big question, by the way!

May 15, 2015 03:08 AM