Although the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of the Bay Act in 1988 applied only to the state’s so-called “Tidewater” localities, section 10.1-2110 of the Bay Act provides for the adoption of the Bay Act by any local government, assuming they adhere, with some flexibility, to the regulations laid down by Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board. In fact, language of the Bay Act suggests that it would have widespread applicability throughout Virginia, as it refers not only to the Chesapeake Bay but to the Bay’s tributaries and to “other state waters” whose protection would benefit the “general welfare of the people of the Commonwealth” (section 10.1-2100).
Loudoun County is not one of the 84 counties originally required to adopt the Bay Act (although initially, in the late 1980s, the General Assembly did consider including Loudoun, and possibly the entire state, under the auspices of the “Land and Water Planning and Protection Act,” which later became the Bay Act[i]); however, after reviewing various options for the protection of both the quality and quantity of the county’s water, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors decided to give the Bay Act a closer look. That’s why the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance is currently being considered by Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors. But to understand how we’ve reached this point, let’s back up a bit…
For well over a decade, Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors has stated its commitment to conserving, preserving, and restoring Loudoun’s natural resources. In an effort to protect Loudoun’s water resources, the Board of Supervisors approved, in early 2003, revisions to the County’s Zoning Ordinances, which included the replacement of the County’s Floodplain Overlay District (FOD) and Scenic Creek Valley Buffer Regulations with the River and Stream Corridor Overlay District (RSCOD). Among other things, the RSCOD regulations implemented 50-foot riparian buffers to protect rivers, streams, and 100-year floodplains, and placed limitations on the uses and development allowed in the RSCOD. However, the RSCOD, as well as two other environmental overlay districts, were invalidated in March 2004 by the Circuit Court due to “insufficient public notice.” The Board of Supervisors at the time made no effort to reinstitute the RSCOD, and the county reverted to its original FOD and Scenic Valley District regulations.[ii]
Fast-forward to 2008. A new Board of Supervisors, understanding the importance of riparian buffers in safeguarding stream health, began looking for potential water quality protective regulations similar to those adopted in 2003. After considering the available options – including the original RSCOD regulations – the Board opted, in April 2009, to establish the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act Work Program, which would investigate how to integrate Bay Act regulations into the county’s existing ordinances.
Since April 2009, the program staff has developed a draft Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area map depicting the general extent of Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) and Resource Management Areas (RMAs) in the county. In addition, the staff has investigated how the Countywide Transportation Plan, the Codified Ordinances of Loudoun County, the county’s comprehensive plan, the Facilities Standards Manual, and the Revised 1993 Loudoun County Zoning Ordinance would need to be amended to accommodate the Bay Act’s regulations.
After detailed review and consultation with stakeholders, the Planning Commission voted on May 12, 2010 to recommend that the Loudoun Board adopt the ordinance. Shortly thereafter, on May 24, the Board held a public hearing on the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act draft amendments.
On June 15, 2010, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted to forward discussion of the draft amendments to the Tuesday, September 21, 2010 business meeting of the Board, giving the citizens of Loudoun several months to learn about the Bay Act and its regulations, and to provide feedback to the Board.[iii]
After a summer of county-wide district meetings to provide details about the Ordinance to the public, the County also held a series of facilitated stakeholder meetings in the fall. The results and staff recommendations have been compiled and presented to the Board of Supervisors. The Board will take up discussion of the Ordinance on January 19th in a Committee of the Whole meeting scheduled for 1:30 P.M.