Dragon Run Special Area Management Plan

Advisory Group

October 15, 2002



- Topics -

1.      Welcome


2.      Update on Memorandum of Agreement


3.      Major Issues and Available Tools


4.      Proposed and Possible Action Plans


5.      Adjourn – next meeting Nov 12?






Nancy Miller (CBLAD); Mike Anderberg, Mary Ann Krenzke, Davis Rhodes (Friends of Dragon Run); Robert Gibson, Frank Herrin, Rachel Williams, Russell Williams (King and Queen); Pat Tyrrell (Tidewater RC&D); Dorothy Miller (Essex); Karen Reay (DGIF); Anne Ducey-Ortiz (Gloucester); David Birdsall (Resource Management Service, Inc.); David Milby (DOF); Andy Lacatell (The Nature Conservancy); Julie Bixby (VA Coastal Program); David Fuss (MPPDC)


Update on Memorandum of Agreement


After brief introductions, David informed the group that the Dragon Run SAMP Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) had been signed by all four counties (Essex, Gloucester, King and Queen, and Middlesex) and the Planning District Commission. He congratulated the group on this successful effort and indicated that the group now had an increasing sense of responsibility to develop action plans to achieve the goals and objectives laid out in the MOA.


Major Issues and Available Tools


David noted that one of the main pressures on the Dragon Run Watershed will be development, which is what spurred the formation of the Dragon Run Steering Committee in 1985. He briefly discussed the population projections over the next 30 years for the four counties in the watershed.


David then shared a watershed management hierarchy with the group that he modified from a presentation at the 9th VA Watershed Management Conference by D. Hirschman of Albemarle County. This hierarchy consists of three levels of management – land use; redevelopment and BMP’s; and restoration. Political willpower and cost both increase as one descends the hierarchy, so that restoration is often strongly supported but it costs the most. David noted that the presentation contended that stakeholder groups, such as the SAMP Advisory Group, tend to slide to the middle of the hierarchy. Yet, new development with BMP’s leads to higher pollutant loading because it is still a net increase in pollutants.


Watershed Management Hierarchy (modified from D.J. Hirschman, Albemarle County)



Land Use

Political Willpower


Cost ($$)



Redevelopment, BMP’s



Restoration (buffer, wetlands, forest)


·         Stakeholder groups tend to slide to the middle of hierarchy

·         New development with BMP’s still leads to higher pollutant loading (e.g. population increase, buildout analysis)


David mentioned that, from the SAMP meetings, the major issues for the SAMP are:


·         Farm and Forest Preservation

·         Habitat Protection

·         Lack of Understanding of Value of Ecosystem, Traditional Uses, and Landowner Stewardship

·         Public Access vs. Trespass


David then discussed a variety of land use tools that are available, including:


Command and Control                                           Voluntary


Comprehensive Plan                                               Easement Programs (e.g. PDR, PACE)

Zoning, Subdivision Ordinance                            Land Use Taxation

Regulation Enforcement (e.g. Bay Act)                Ag/Forestal Districts

Other Ordinances                                                    TDR Program

Cluster Zoning                                                         Market Initiatives

                                                                                    Federal and state programs

                                                                                    BMP’s – Farm and forest plans


It was noted that Middlesex and Gloucester Counties use land use value taxation and that Essex and King and Queen Counties do not use land use value taxation.


Mike Anderberg indicated that there are a variety of tax credits available for donation of conservation easements.


Proposed and Possible Action Plans


David then presented the group with action plans that have been proposed by the working groups.


1.      Institute Overlay District for Dragon Run Watershed in all 4 counties

·         Triggers official request for Steering Committee opinion for rezoning requests, conditional use permit applications, and special exception rulings


This concept would require the Steering Committee to meet more frequently than quarterly; it would also need to maintain a low level of burden on the landowner, since there is concern that it would add extra time and effort to an already lengthy process. This might be too often for involving the Steering Committee, so an alternative would be to leave action up to the individual counties unless it represents a major departure from the comprehensive plan. It was noted that, while special exceptions and conditional use permits might be too often (e.g. kennels), rezoning requests in the watershed are not frequent and the Steering Committee would act as a citizen review of consistency with the county comprehensive plan. There is also a high value of information being shared between the Steering Committee, the Board of Supervisors, and the Planning Commission that would increase the level of comfort between these entities.


Because this is important to immediately adjacent counties and possibly others in the watershed, a review of rezoning requests, special exceptions, and conditional use permits should be tried. The group should be careful about how it is presented to the elected officials for their approval, however. The group should look into how other PDC’s have handled review bodies and lessons that they have learned from their experiences.


2.      Establish Public Education Campaign

·         Promote the community and economic benefits of farming/forestry

·         Promote the unique ecological/recreational values of the Dragon Run

·         Target BOS, Planning Commissions, civic/community groups

·         Delivered by Steering Committee, landowners, PDC staff

·         Help to establish specific topics in comp plans


The education effort should target service clubs and civic groups. It should also focus on Boards of Supervisors and Planning Commissions. Effort could be aimed at the schools, such as 4-H, teacher/class projects, PTA, high school civics classes, and science classes. It was noted that to reach decision-makers, education must target adults; yet, youth education is important for continuing efforts into the next generation.


Karen Reay announced that Willy Reay will be hosting a Dragon Run Conference at VIMS at the end of January. The conference will focus on presenting research findings about the state of the natural resources in the Dragon Run. It will mostly involve state and local agencies and organizations.


3.      Develop Awards Program

·         Honor local citizens who are good stewards (e.g. farmers, forestry operators, hunt clubs)

·         Solicit nominations from agency/organization reps


This is an excellent opportunity to gather landowners once a year to speak with them about the planning process and the future of the Dragon Run. The awards could also provide an incentive for landowners to install projects that would demonstrate good stewardship of the land. This could be tied to the idea of a festival for the Dragon Run communities, with the emphasis being on landowners and good stewardship – celebrate history, culture, quality of life, etc.


This topic sparked a debate about a conflict between establishing the community’s connection to the Dragon Run and overuse causing damage to the ecosystem. Friends of Dragon Run was offered as an example of an organization that provides a connection to the stream without too much use.


This line of discussion led to a discussion of the need for land-based access that does not put tremendous pressure on the aquatic resources but can establish the community’s connection to the land and water of the Dragon Run. The VDGIF Birding and Wildlife Trail for the Coastal Area was discussed. Just out in early October, the trail guide lists 18 loops in the Coastal Area. Texas-based consultants identified sites, which were investigated for features like parking. The Friends of Dragon Run property at Rt. 603 in Mascot is the only Dragon Run site. Maps are also available online. David Whitehurst is the VDGIF contact for the Trail Guide. Some concern was expressed about whether the concept of seeking permission from private landowners was addressed for sites on privately owned property.


4.      Erect Watershed Boundary Signs

·         Make community and visitors more aware of the watershed as important resource


Like the Adopt-a-Highway signs, this would increase community awareness of the Dragon Run watershed. The signs would serve as part of the public education campaign. Signs can be vandalized, but should be inexpensive. Some landowners may not like the idea because of visual/aesthetic impairment of the area.


Other ideas that had been proposed or that should be considered, but that were not discussed are:


1.      Lobby for State Bill to Establish Nutrient Credit Transfer Program

·         Could allow credits in the Dragon Run Watershed to be sold to other areas in the state that need to pollute


2.      Provide Tax Breaks for Farm/Forest Land or Open Space


3.      Establish a Purchase of Conservation Easements Program

·         Target high quality habitat

·         Target farm and forest land

·         Will need to educate landowners, accountants, estate planners, attorneys

·         Re: Farmland Preservation Steering Committee


Areas of Concern or Ideas to Consider


Minor subdivision requirements

Permitted uses

Farm and forest plans


No wake zones

Exceptional waters designation

Conservation/Cluster Subdivision

Net Buildable Lot Subdivision




It was decided that the next SAMP Advisory Group meeting would be held on Tuesday, November 12, 2002 at the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission offices from 7-9 PM. The meeting was adjourned.