The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (CBPO) is a Loudoun County proposal to implement the features of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, a lay passed by the General Assembly in 1988 for the purposes of protecting and enhancing water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. It was directed squarely at those parts of Virginia directly in contact with the Bay, specifically the eastern tidewater areas located east of I-95 in Virginia. While there is no restriction on any other locality implementing the features of the Bay Act, the Act does not apply equally well to every location in Virginia. Loudoun is one of those locations and the attempt by the current Board to fit the square peg of the Act into Loudoun’s round hole smells like something other that concern for the Bay.
Basically put, the CBPO will require each and every property owner in Loudoun to file an additional request on top of everything else they do to build anything on their property that disturbs the ground at all. Any area located within 100 feet of a stream, river, pond, or any other body of water will be designated as an RPA (Resource Protection Area). Any project that disturbs less than 2500 square feet of ground will be allowed with a waiver from Loudoun’s government. Note that you still have to file the paperwork to get that waiver and while they assure everyone that such waivers will be routinely issued, there’s no guarantee of that. That means if you want to put in something as simple as a concrete pad for a heat pump, you’ll need the waiver. Any deck, any patio, any garage or shed, and any landscaping – yes, even planting trees – will need this waiver before you can proceed. Anyone currently in a homeowners’ association (HOA) will have to do this in addition to anything their HOA requires. And all of my fellow Loudouners who have for years been thankful they didn’t have to mess with that kind of stuff like I do will now have to start following the process as if Loudoun’s government was their HOA.
It gets much worse if the project is bigger than 2500 square feet. Now you don’t just need a waiver, you need an exception. To get that exception, you have to file all the paperwork, conduct an environmental impact assessment as pertains to the affect your project will have on the body of water you’re near, and go through a public hearing where anyone in the county can come and speak against your getting to build what you wanted on your own property. Please note that someone working a farm with streams on either side of his fields falls into this category. Oh, yes… farms are definitely included.
And this is all being suggested for an area of Virginia that does not fall within the scope of the tidewater area designated in the Bay Act. No scientific assessment has been performed nor is any scheduled to be performed to answer the question of whether or not these actions will effect any measurable improvement in the Bay’s water quality.
The number of building applications filed in the county would astonish most average folks. There are literally thousands every month. As a personal anecdote, allow me to point out that the deck we had built last year was just visited by a representative of the planning commission for the purposes of verifying that what we asked to be permitted was actually built. They got here in April, almost 8 months after the completion of the deck. When I spoke to the woman, she apologized and said they were that far behind in following up on those permits. Eight months, folks. They’ve got enough business that they’re 8 months behind. To this overwhelmed organization, we’re now supposed to throw an additional, complex filing requirement that will require those inspectors to know for sure whether the project falls within an RPA.
Did I mention that Loudoun lacks a map sufficiently accurate to actually determine where all the RPA’s should be? We’ll get back to that.
Loudoun County just completed its annual “Crap-We-Don’t-Have-Enough-Money” exercise colloquially known as “budget hearings” and had to impose a 5% reduction on the budgets of such items as public safety and schools. In the face of budget cutting on what most of us think of as essential services, they want to spin up a program that will no doubt require millions of dollars to put in place and millions more to maintain? The planning commission people at the last hearing said outright that there’s been absolutely no cost-benefit analysis of this proposal, meaning we have no idea whether the money we’d throw at this would provide the benefit suggested. Pulling funds out of an already critically stressed budget, piling on a massive new program onto already overworked staff (or having to hire dozens more bodies), working with no real understanding of whether the benefit is even there or even where this is supposed to be applied is just craziness to even suggest. To press forward is an abdication of one’s custodial duty with the public’s funds and trust.
This is yet another power grab by a Board far more interested in pushing their own social agenda than in looking out for the public interest in Loudoun. Combined with the previously pushed “energy plan” they are seeking to put all of the private property in Loudoun under their direct control. We have a name for that in history and “democracy” ain’t it. Enough, already. Loudoun’s BoS already has plenty of work to do and they need to be getting to it rather than making more work pursuing programs even they can’t show would benefit anyone in Loudoun. They need to kill this and get back to work.
Take a moment and contact the Loudoun Board and let them know you want them to drop this attempt and handle the tasks already before them.