Work Session 3 Minutes


Protection and Progress in the Dragon Run

coordinating land use policies and practices


March 29, 2005Saluda, Virginia




Fred Hutson (Essex); Rick Allen, Anne Ducey-Ortiz, Hal McVey, Buddy Rodgers, Eric Weisel (Gloucester); Kempton Shields (King and Queen); John England, Amy Easterbrook Walker (Middlesex); David Fuss (MPPDC); Vlad Gavrilovic (Paradigm Design)


Welcome & Introductions


Vlad Gavrilovic began introductions. This is a Steering Committee project that is focused on drafting model comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance language designed to preserve the traditional land uses and natural resources of the Dragon Run. Vlad is the consultant for the project and will be facilitating the process. He will also be available to assist the counties in adapting the model language to their own comp plans and zoning ordinances, if needed.


Progress Report

 & Schedule


Vlad provided a brief review of the project status and schedule and what needs to happen to meet the schedule and grant requirements. The Task Force is well into the model Comprehensive Plan district task and starting on the model zoning district task. There are two phases with project deliverables due in June and December. Phase 1 will involve developing model districts for the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance and will include outreach and illustrations to communicate these ideas. Phase 2 will involve working with the counties to adapt the models. He urged the Task Force to try to come to consensus on the comprehensive plan portion at this meeting and maybe review a final version in April. He noted that this does represent an aggressive schedule.


Mr. Shields entered into a discussion of performance standards as an alternative approach to comprehensive plan amendments. The idea would be to apply standards to plans of development rather than limit rezoning proposals.


Presentation of Draft Comprehensive Plan District Text and Maps


Vlad asked the Task Force to step back to focus on broad policies first, then to refocus on implementation strategies. He began a general review of the differences between comprehensive plan districts and zoning districts as follows:


  • Comprehensive plan districts
    • Comprehensive plan is a guide
    • Primarily deals with land use – guides legislative decisions
    • Districts cover a broad area
    • Edges are often defined by broad geographical features
  • Zoning districts
    • Can be mapped or “floating” (e.g. RPC in Middlesex)
    • No fuzzy edges, strictly defined
    • Not a guide, but can include flexible standards
    • Can be use-specific or performance-specific (e.g. Chesapeake Bay Act)


Vlad reviewed the draft model Dragon Run Comprehensive Plan District as follows:


  • General highlights
    • Acknowledge the Dragon Run as a special resource
    • Preserved by landowners and compatible uses
    • Not “frozen in time”, not wilderness
    • Essentially rural – now and in the future
    • District addresses the whole landscape – close integration of natural resources and human uses
    • Looks at broad policies for:

-        Maintaining compatible land uses

-        Protecting rural economic opportunities

    • Does not address specific measures (e.g. buffers, setbacks, runoff, impervious surfaces), but does offer flexibility for implementation
  • Policy highlights
    • Mainly rural and pursue rural economic development
    • Allow residential – not a major focus
    • Not for central utilities
    • Protect viability of farming and forestry
    • Build partnerships for natural resource protection
    • Discourage intensive recreation and visitation
  • Implementation priorities
    • Not policies – may be modified
    • Support existing compatible zoning districts
    • Evaluate current zoning standards
    • Support actions for preservation and education
    • Target compatible industry


Vlad then finished with a list of questions for the Task Force to consider:

  • Of the options that were provided in maps in the packets, which district boundary is most appropriate for comprehensive policies in this draft framework?
  • Which district boundaries are best for comprehensive plan and for zoning?
  • How would the district be mapped and administered?


Discussion and Evaluation


Mr. Shields noted that the Chesapeake Bay Act has exemptions for farming and forestry that have the potential to result in major pollution. He urged to group to consider focusing on development standards for any kind of development. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation says that farming and forestry are potentially the biggest polluters and so there should be a focus on water quality standards for them


The Task Force launched into a discussion of various topics as follows:

  • Forestry is not as big of a polluter as agriculture
  • Infrastructure needs come along with human habitation
  • Is residential less harmful? Than forestry? No, regrowth of forested land stops pollution problems after about one year. So, one year out of 25-50 yields erosion. Yet, construction and maintenance of homes causes perpetual erosion and pollution problems
  • There is a need for a bigger buffer from forestry and farming activities, even with Best Management Practices. Is a 100-ft buffer appropriate?
  • There are various enforcement issues surrounding most of the laws, both state and local
  • There is a loophole that developers use to clear land under the guises of forestry and then later build home sites. In this way, they use the forestry buffer exemption to clear more land.
  • Can the state required buffers be exceeded locally? Yes, but check with a county attorney
  • Gloucester County has had problems with forestry regulations in zoning districts, so that now forestry is allowed in every zoning district
  • For the Dragon Run district policies, what do we want to accomplish? What policies should be in the draft district?
  • Consideration of the Land Use section of the draft district
    • Mr. Hutson said that the policies say the right things
    • Ms. Ducey-Ortiz said that there might be an addition to allow commercial that supports rural areas/character/uses
    • Value-added land uses/operations would be good
    • Could point #3 be wordsmithed to carry a positive approach?
    • Does point #1 say it all?
    • There is a concern that stating that incompatible uses are not allowed might give opponents of projects too much ammunition at public hearings (i.e. people will use any wording to their advantage to fight any project)
    • What about inserting the word “major” into point #3?
  • Rural Character section point #4 could include references to cluster development and preserving open space/natural areas
  • David noted that full enforcement of performance standards does not achieve 100% pollution removal, even with the best technology available – it is still a good idea to mention them, though
  • Statewide standards are strict and potentially effective, but there are not enough personnel to enforce and monitor their implementation
  • Mr. England noted that preservation of wildlife habitat is much different than standards for water quality. For example, reducing fragmentation of forests and farms is better for wildlife habitat by maintaining low intensity uses/development
  • Vlad returned to the question of which district boundary is best?
    • Mr. England responded that the entire watershed is logical for the comprehensive plan
    • Mr. Shields indicated that he is uncomfortable with a watershed-wide approach because that encompasses so much of King and Queen County
    • Mr. England said that it makes sense to look at the comprehensive plan generally, then each county can adapt it to their particular situation
    • Mr. Shields indicated that the comprehensive plan and zoning boundaries should be aligned (e.g. King and Queen development corridors) and that there should be a focus on performance standards. He is comfortable with costly performance standards as long as it is applied close to environmental features
  • Vlad offered some new, possibly radical options
    • Each county could use different mapping methods for district boundaries
    • The district could be a text amendment only, and not change the future land use maps

-        Ms. Ducey-Ortiz cautioned that a text-only district could cause more distrust among citizens because it is not clearly identified on a map. It would also be more difficult to administer.

-        Mr. McVey asked if it could be dealt with on a case-by-case basis

-        Mr. Shields never envisioned a mapped district for the comprehensive plan. He expected to do that at the zoning level that would match the comprehensive plan language

-        Mr. McVey noted that the model district will be adapted to each county and the counties may not all do the same thing

  • Mr. Shields indicated that the Task Force should remain practical about buffer distances. For example, a major accomplishment would be expanding the buffers from forestry and farming to 100 feet.
  • Ms. Ducey-Ortiz and Ms. Walker both indicated that the watershed boundary concept makes sense at a comprehensive planning level
  • Mr. Shields said that he was opposed to intensive uses, but not to prohibiting major residential up to four miles from the Dragon Run
  • Mr. Rodgers said that the public may envision restrictions throughout the entire watershed if it is mapped as such in the comprehensive plan, even if that is not the intent or the text does not support that belief
  • Mr. England believes that the proposed policies are appropriate for the comprehensive plan, but what restrictions apply at the zoning level is different
  • Mr. England suggested that one option would be to have the district boundary be a specified distance from the Dragon Run, but that regulations could differ on a gradient along that distance (more stringent nearer the Dragon Run)
  • Mr. Hutson argued that the Dragon Run cannot be protected with a buffer solely along the main stem without dealing with the tributary streams that also can convey pollution
  • Mr. England noted that the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act already offers protection for tributary streams (perennial only)
  • Mr. McVey suggested that the general overlay district might be in narrative text only, and not be mapped. Narrower definitions of what regulations apply where would be dealt with later at the zoning level. An example might be a policy that states that residential growth should be farther from the Dragon Run and should be encouraged to use cluster development techniques.


In summary, Vlad noted that the Task Force had come to consensus on the following items:

  • Performance standards should be used, particularly at the zoning level
  • General statements of purpose
  • Text only, no map amendment proposed
  • Begin crafting the zoning district at the April meeting, using the Dragon Run Conservation District (King and Queen and Middlesex) as a starting point


Things to Do


  1. David will send out copies of the document A Stream Corridor Protection Strategy for Local Governments by the University of Virginia for review by the Task Force


  1. Vlad will revise the draft comprehensive plan district narrative and draft a model zoning district narrative