Fri08292014

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CB’s Mitchell reports on Chesapeake Bay Act Phase III requirements

There is a balancing act that takes place under Director of Planning and Zoning Gary Mitchell’s purview between the needs and wants of waterfront property owners and the town’s responsibility to fulfill the mandates contained in the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act.  
The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act was adopted by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to guide and assist localities in an effort to preserve and enhance water quality in the Chesapeake Bay through land use decisions.  Currently, Phase III of the Bay Act requires all 84 local governments subject to its provisions to enact ordinances

that minimize impervious cover and land disturbance and preserve indigenous vegetation on building lots that are waterfront.  
According to Mitchell, impervious cover is gravel, concrete, paved driveways or walkways that typically do not absorb stormwater nor allow the water to trickle into the soil.  There are other options available to property owners such as pervious concrete, creating a rain garden or practicing low-impact development.  A series of meetings to educate the public on Bay Act mandates will take place in the spring and summer with funding provided by a state grant to purchase educational brochures.
Mitchell reported to the Planning Commission at its January meeting that Phase III processes for permits are in place, there is a planning checklist in place, and the two areas found to be non-compliant in a recent survey by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation are ready to be changed to ensure compliance.  The Planning Commission approved Mitchell’s proposed ordinance and voted to  make a recommendation to council to accept the ordinance as written.  Mitchell will present the new ordinance to the town council for action in February.
The two areas found to be non-compliant by the DCR were related to plats and surveys of property and corrective measures have been put into place, according to Mitchell.  Each new plat or survey will now include detail on the exact location of RPA and RMA areas.  RPA, or Resource Protection Area, is the area contiguous to a protected waterway.  RMA, or Resource Management Area, is the area adjacent to the RPA, which are served by stormwater drainage systems that provide no treatment of stormwater discharges and can affect water quality.  
Also mandated by the Bay Act is a protected 100-foot buffer extending outward from the waterline.  For example, if your home is located in a protected area, you are not allowed to build additional structures or walkways or take down trees or disturb vegetation in the buffer zone.  The 100-foot buffer area serves to insure stormwater is filtered through the soil before entering the waters of the Potomac River or any of our local bays.  Because approximately 75 percent of Colonial Beach is surrounded by water that flows into the Chesapeake Bay, the Bay Act plays an important role in regulating land use in our town.
Before a property owner can request a permit to make changes to the property within the buffer zone, the ordinance requires that for the first 50 feet — furthest from the waterline — a water quality impact study be performed before any permits can be issued by Mitchell.  For changes in the second 50 feet — closest to the waterline — the ordinance requires a water quality impact study and approval by town council.   
According to Mitchell, the Bay Act requirements create a template for localities to “help lower the impact on the environment” from stormwater drainage and other pollution.

Kathy Flanagan

 

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