Habitat Protection & Buffer Exempt Areas

Habitat Protection Areas
Sensitive areas are protected in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area (CBCA) and are called Habitat Protection Areas HPA. These designated and mapped areas include:
  • Critical Area Buffer - A minimum 100-foot wide area along tidal shorelines and tributary streams (Note: shoreline areas developed prior to 1985 and mapped as Buffer Exempt Area are not regulated as Critical Area Buffer, but have certain restrictions, see below)
  • Forest Interior Dwelling Bird Species Habitat and Riparian Woods (FIDS) - Areas of deep woods which support a dwindling songbird population
  • Habitats of Local Significance - Many of these areas support Threatened and Endangered Species
  • Non-tidal Wetlands - Receive a 75 foot buffer from the edge of the wetland
Construction in the Critical Area Buffer or any other Habitat Protection Area is extremely limited and may not be permitted without a variance. Please consult with the county’s Critical Area Planner in the Department of Planning and Zoning for additional information. Note: Habitat Protection Areas and Water Dependent Facilities are not grandfathered and all applicable regulations must be met.

Buffer Exempt Areas
Certain waterfront areas developed prior to 1985 provide limited water quality and wildlife habitat benefits to the bay. These areas have been mapped and designated Buffer Exempt Areas. Waterfront construction is permitted in Buffer Exempt Areas with the following restrictions:
  • Construction or redevelopment within 100 feet of the water requires landscaping of twice (2:1) the area of the new lot coverage. Lot coverage consists of any structure or area where rainwater cannot penetrate. If there is proposed disturbance within the 100 foot buffer, a Buffer Management Plan must be approved by the Department of Planning and Zoning prior to any disturbance.
  • If landscaping is not feasible on-site, the owner may pay a fee in lieu of $1.20 per square foot of landscaping required. These funds are used to improve water quality and wildlife habitat elsewhere in the CBCA. Fee-in-lieu is the last option.
  • Construction of additional lot coverage within 100 feet of the water is limited.
  • There may be no encroachment within the 1st 25 feet landward of the water.