Work Session 4 Minutes


Protection and Progress in the Dragon Run

coordinating land use policies and practices


April 26, 2005Saluda, Virginia




Anne Ducey-Ortiz (Gloucester); Robert Gibson, Kempton Shields (King and Queen); John England (Middlesex); Julie Bixby (Virginia Coastal Program); David Fuss (MPPDC); Vlad Gavrilovic (Paradigm Design)


Project Schedule Recap


Vlad Gavrilovic began by reviewing the project schedule, the steps to develop a zoning approach, and how there will be illustrations of the approach that the Task Force chooses to take with zoning.


Discussion of Final Draft of Model Comprehensive Plan District Text


Vlad provided a brief review of the latest revisions to the draft that was distributed via email and asked for any comments. Some of the main changes include broadening the economic development beyond forestry and farming to rural development, and including mention of performance standards in implementation and introduction sections.


Comments included:

-        On page 3, change the date of the MOA from 2001 to 2002

-        Mr. Shields indicated that he had no comments and that his issues had been addressed

-        Mr. England thought that the Task Force had made good progress

-        Ms. Ducey-Ortiz stated that it provides flexibility to differences between counties in the implementation phase and allows for more specificity at the zoning stage

-        Vlad indicated that the Task Force could revisit the model comprehensive plan district to see how it holds up during discussion of the model zoning district


Consensus was reached on the model comprehensive plan district text.


Presentation of Draft Zoning Framework


Vlad briefly presented the draft model zoning framework, as it was distributed to the Task Force prior to the meeting. He began with an introduction to the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act requirements and the Dragon Run Conservation District (Middlesex and King and Queen Counties). He compared the extent of the Resource Protection Area (RPA) and the Resource Management Area (RMA) in the four counties. The RPA includes land use restrictions and the RMA includes performance standards. The Dragon Run Conservation District is mapped in Middlesex and not mapped in King and Queen. It includes land use restrictions. The boundary definition is complex (partly based on soils), even though it is a simple ordinance. Vlad compared the extent of the Dragon Run Conservation District and the RPA. There was a discussion of the extent of the RPA as it relates to perennial streams.


Vlad presented two broad optional approaches – land use-based and performance-based. With land use-based provisions, benefits of low density, rural uses are not quantifiable, but large parcels and wildlife habitat can be maintained and recreation pressures remain low. With performance-based provisions, they can be more flexible and creative, more effective in addressing problems, more quantifiable, and more difficult to administer.


Vlad offered several optional zoning approaches.

  1. Extend and simplify the Dragon Run Conservation District – eliminate soils as the boundary delineation and extend the buffer from 100 feet to 300 feet
  2. Upgrade the Dragon Run Conservation District with performance standards

-        Apply the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act standards to the new 300-foot buffer

-        Require BMPs in this buffer for farming and forestry

  1. Extend an overlay district watershed-wide that addresses basic land uses

-        Include a land use table of permitted uses and those requiring special exception or conditional use

-        Allows more control over particular uses of higher density

  1. Extend an overlay district watershed-wide to address residential densities

-        Make the zoning and subdivision ordinances consistent

-        Options include sliding scale zoning and mandatory open space requirements


Vlad offered his recommendation – a watershed-wide overlay zone which makes minor changes to standards and uses, and extends the Dragon Run Conservation District and applies Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act standards within it.


Discussion and Evaluation


Vlad asked the Task Force to consider the following questions:

  • What standards should be used?
  • What standards best protect natural resources?
  • What standards best protect traditional industries and uses?
  • What provides the best zoning framework?


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

Expanded Buffer

  • Mr. Gibson asked about the rationale for the 300-foot buffer and what implications there would be for timber harvest in that buffer
  • The idea would be to expand BMPs to the 300-foot buffer
  • Mr. Gibson felt that the timber harvest would be significantly reduced, particularly on the high ground adjacent to the Dragon Run that produce good timber growth
  • The Task Force discussed the positive environmental impacts of the buffer and the penalty it imposes on forestry operations
  • Mr. England suggested that simplification is a good approach
  • Mr. England also asked what is gained by adding an additional 200 feet of buffer

Land Use-based vs. Performance-based

  • Mr. Shields revived a discussion comparing the land use-based provisions and the performance-based provisions, using the example of low impact development standards as justification for using performance-based standards
  • Mr. Shields noted that it would be difficult to explain why land use restrictions occur in the Dragon Run and not anywhere else in the county
  • Ms. Ducey-Ortiz expressed reservation about creating something new or adding a new layer of regulation; she views piggybacking on existing controls on land use and performance standards as preferable
  • Mr. Shields indicated that restricting a few obviously incompatible land uses (e.g. landfill) might be okay, but that a long list of permitted uses for the Dragon Run did not seem useful
  • Mr. Shields thought that limiting central sewer and water might go farther to limiting land uses


  • Mr. Shields noted that King and Queen already spent a lot of time evaluating smart growth principles and residential densities during the ongoing comprehensive plan update process and that the Planning Commission would not support adjusting residential densities to 1 per 25-50 acres
  • Mr. Shields views clustering preferable to low-density sprawl
  • There was a brief discussion of Planned Unit Districts and Rural Planned Community districts

Performance Standards

  • Mr. England asserted that using performance standards was the most practical approach, as long as the Task Force is not trying to reinvent the standards
  • Mr. England indicated that consistency among the counties is most important; language in the comprehensive plans is good, but it is more difficult to mesh the counties’ zoning ordinances together
  • Mr. England noted that all of the counties use performance standards via the Chesapeake Bay Act and it might be best not to create another layer but utilize existing frameworks
  • Ms. Ducey-Ortiz noted that Gloucester has experienced a growth cycle of population growth leading to higher density uses leading to more population growth
  • Ms. Ducey-Ortiz indicated that Gloucester’s existing zoning is supportive of farming and forestry, although it may have some incompatible uses; one exception is the business center of Glenns at the intersection of US 17 and Rt 33
  • Ms. Ducey-Ortiz wondered if changing densities to make the counties consistent would be worth all the difficulty
  • Mr. Shields worried about listing a permitted use in the model zoning district that is not currently addressed and actually encouraging something that would otherwise not occur


Vlad summarized the current consensus points as:

  • It may be best to wait to publicize the recommendations after the model zoning district has been customized for each county. Otherwise, there may be unnecessary heartburn about elements that will not end up in the final county versions.
  • There is not much support for proceeding with the density issue
  • A model land use table with few items that are incompatible or should be considered as a conditional use
  • Use of performance standards – agree on a basic set first, then adapt them to each county’s existing code system


Further discussion:

  • Mr. Shields noted that there may be socio-economic issues that arise if standards add significant costs to development
  • Site plan standards might be used, such as landscaping, buffering, and percent cover
  • A question arose of whether minor subdivisions would be required to adhere to site plan standards; Ms. Ducey-Ortiz indicated that it would be difficult to administer due to limited staff time
  • Mr. England asked if it is possible to look at standards compared to what the four counties have on the books now
  • Vlad responded that the Land Use Policy Audit addresses that question
  • Mr. England observed that it is important to know what areas need to be addressed
  • Mr. England noted that it will be best to simplify the recommendations as much as possible
  • There was some discussion of using an open space/cluster standard and how a sliding scale would work
  • Finally, there was discussion that a 300-foot buffer would be too much, particularly for forestry; gains might be made if the existing 50-foot buffer from streams for forestry was expanded to 100 feet