Building and Buying in DC’s Resource Protection Areas

Building and Buying in DC’s Resource Protection Areas

Resource protection areas: Essential info for DC area properties.


In the DC area, including Northern Virginia, a critical aspect that impacts property value and building potential is the Resource Protection Area (RPA). It's essential for property owners and potential buyers to understand what an RPA is and how it can affect real estate decisions.

An RPA, or Resource Protection Area, is essentially a zone that's more challenging to build on due to environmental protections, often linked to streams or creeks leading into the Chesapeake Bay. These areas are designated to protect the Chesapeake Bay and are particularly significant in Northern Virginia. They can substantially impact the value of your property, as they impose certain building restrictions.

For example, I recently handled the sale of a property that, under normal circumstances, would have been valued at over $1 million. However, because it was located along a creek and fell within an RPA, its value was affected. While properties in RPAs are not unbuildable, construction is more complicated, often requiring more detailed civil engineering and closer relationships with county officials.


"If you're in the market to build or buy in an RPA zone, it's vital to check the property's status."


If you're considering a teardown on a property within an RPA, it's crucial to understand that you may be limited in terms of expansion, often only allowed to add about 1000 square feet to the existing structure. Nevertheless, properties in RPAs can still be valuable—particularly as rental properties. For instance, the buyers of the property I mentioned earlier chose to rent it out rather than tear it down.

If you're in the market to build or buy in an RPA zone, it's vital to check the property's status. While it might be more challenging to build in an RPA, it doesn't necessarily mean that the property isn't valuable. If you have questions about RPAs, how they might impact your property's value, or if you're considering buying in an RPA zone, don't hesitate to reach out. My team and I are well-versed in navigating these areas and can provide the expertise you need to make informed real estate decisions.


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