More Myths & Facts

10 Myths

About Loudoun’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (CBPO)

1. Myth: The CBPO requires a 100 foot “no disturb” buffer on each side of most anything that resembles a drainage ditch, turning thousands of unsuspecting suburban backyards into “no disturb areas.”

Fact: The key word to remember is “perennial.”  Any water body, stream, ditch, or lake which has perennial or year-round flow through it, is to have 100 feet of protected area on either side called the Resource Protection Area (RPA). CBPO, Section 1222.05 (b).  Most people know if their property has a stream or ditch with year-round flow in it.

2. Myth: Loudoun County Staff estimates that half the county will be in a “no disturb buffer area.”  County staff do not want to release the online map showing the extent of the Possible Resource Protection Area (RPA) and has released an inaccurate map that is subject to change.

Fact:  Staff has indicated that an estimated 10% of parcels in Loudoun contain mapped RPA, and the map is available online.   Most people will not experience any direct impact.

3. Myth: County staff estimates that it may cost $6,700 for an owner of a ¼ acre lot with an existing home to map the extent of the RPA on his lot before installing a patio or other minor improvement.

Fact: For improvements like a deck, shed, or patio, which are less than 2500 sq. ft, it’s business as usual unless RPA is shown on the lot.  Swing sets and fences are exempt. On lots where there is RPA, a Locational Clearance Map is required (cost: up to $15) with a hand-drawing by the owner to show the improvement site.  As long as the improvement is outside of the RPA, nothing else is required.  See the Fact Sheet for diagrams and information about requirements for improvements inside the RPA.

4. The CBPO will allow Loudoun County officials to manage every minor homeowner use such as planting and small buildings.

Fact: The goal is to protect existing trees in the RPA area and keep the RPA as natural as possible so that it readily absorbs and slows down floodwaters.  Currently no county regulation restricts tree clearing in the RPA, where trees help to reduce flooding and help keep the stream clean.  If homeowners can avoid tree clearing or putting structures in this area, everyone wins and County officials will not have need or cause to get involved.

5. Scientists have studied Loudoun’s streams and reported to us that they are in great condition.

Fact:  The County-commissioned Versar study indicated that 78% of stream miles in Loudoun are stressed or severely stressed, meaning that they are degraded.  A wealth of data indicates that Loudoun streams are experiencing an increasing number of problems.  Riparian buffers have repeatedly been scientifically proven to reduce negative impacts on streams from a wide variety of activities.

6. The State of Virginia studied whether Loudoun County needed to be part of measures to protect the Bay and concluded there is no science to justify the implementation of the Bay Act.

Fact: To the contrary, the State office that assists local governments in enforcing the Act, indicated that Loudoun should be included in the current Bay Act (p. 81) in a report entitled Implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Act. It has also said that the Bay Act helps “local aspirations to achieve local water quality goals.”(p. xi) Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, JLARC (Oversight Agency of the General Assembly).

7. Under the proposed ordinance agricultural and farm animal uses would be subject to expensive, overly restrictive standards and “mitigation.”  This will destroy agriculture and livestock businesses in Loudoun.

Fact: Agricultural standards required by the ordinance are already utilized by most farmers who follow agricultural Best Management Practices in order to reap greater long term health and sustainability in their farming operations.

8. The CBPO defines “development” as any land disturbance greater than 2,500 sq ft, and demands that if anyone “develops” their property, they must plant and preserve the mandated 100 foot buffers and do expensive water quality studies.

Fact:  Subdivision requirements for developers would be more restrictive under the proposed ordinance.  These requirements would push development farther from streams to protect existing buffers, minimize land disturbance, preserve indigenous cover, minimize impervious cover and reforest buffer areas.  For homeowners, the County regulations include waivers and exceptions and an easier process depending on the extent of the impact for those who must build in the RPA.

9. Myth: The CBPO deems all uses in land that contain RPA “non-conforming;” this will have detrimental affect on the value of many properties.

Fact: Non-conformance is a zoning term describing a use that does not comply with an ordinance, but has the legal right to exist according to land use regulations.  Non-conforming status only applies to structures that are actually located within the RPA. As long as a structure is not in the RPA, it is in conformance.  Staff has identified 1,850 structures with an address that are within the RPA and within 25 ft of the RPA (out of 52,000). Only structures that legally exist in the RPA on the day the Ordinance is adopted would be deemed non-conforming.  The structure may be enlarged or expanded by Administrative Waiver.  CBPO, Section 1222.10 (a)

10. The Dillon Rule is a law that requires studies to justify the need for tidal buffers on non tidal land.  The County has not yet done such a study, NONE.  This means that if the Board ignores the simple facts that make this unnecessary, and pass it, it will be challenged and tossed out.  But only after taxpayers pay for all this nonsense.

Fact: The Dillon Rule specifically allows counties to use any authority permitted to them by the State.  Virginia State Code authorizes any jurisdiction in the state to adopt the Chesapeake Bay Ordinance without need for studies.  The CBPO has been adopted in 84 other jurisdictions, is well-tested and will stand up to legal challenge.

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One thought on “More Myths & Facts

  1. I fully support the restrictions on development, but am concerned about impact on how I supply water to my cattle, currently from a perennial stream on my property. In the past, I have had offers from the county to share the expense of placing water troughs in the fields; the county has never followed through. I should appreciate factual information on this issue.

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