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Bay Act to require review of local laws

by Larry S. Chowning

The Middlesex County Board of Supervisors learned at a January 5 meeting that county and Town of Urbanna codes will be reviewed as part of the Phase III plan of the Chesapeake Bay Act.

This phase requires that state officials review and revise local codes to make sure they are in compliance with the “specific standards that implement water quality performance criteria.”

David Sacks, the assistant division director of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), told supervisors that Middlesex and Urbanna are in compliance with the first two phases of the Bay Act, which included mapping of Chesapeake Bay areas and the adoption of management programs in local ordinances and as part of Comprehensive Plan components.

For Phase III, county and town codes must address and enforce specific development standards. Sacks reported that these standards must minimize land disturbance; preserve indigenous vegetation; minimize impervious cover; address septic pump-out, storm-water management wetland permits, and silviculture exemptions; and plan a development review process, and erosion and sediment control procedures.

Sacks informed supervisors these requirements have nothing to do with EPA taking over the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. “It is a separate thing,” he said.

EPA’s involvement stems from the fact that previously-set standards to clean up the bay have not been met, Sacks said. “We don’t know what will come of this, but EPA standards will certainly trickle down to the localities.”

Middlesex’s Phase III advisory review is due August 2010, and its compliance evaluation is due October 2012.  The Town of Urbanna’s advisory review is May 2010, and its compliance evaluation will be December 2011.

In response to a question from supervisor Carlton Revere, Sacks said the county and town will be reviewed every five years.

County planner Matt Walker said on January 19 the code review may require specific changes, such as new regulations for the handling of storm-water runoff. “We don’t know for sure what it’s going to mean, but it could mean that someone who owns a wooded parcel and wants to build a house will not be able to cut down every tree on the property,” he said.

“I have great hopes the EPA will come up with new and different ways to clean up the bay,” Walker said. “I also hope whatever requirements are mandated, that they are reasonable.”

posted 01.20.2010

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