Community Development  |  Stream Buffer Requirements

A Review of Albemarle County’s
Stream Buffer Requirements

On January 4 and May 3 of 2017, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held work sessions to discuss the County’s Natural Resources Program.  The County’s Water Protection Ordinance (WPO) was one of several topics discussed.  At the end of the May meeting, the Board requested that County staff engage the public in reviewing stream buffer requirements, soliciting ideas and feedback about the ordinance and how it is implemented.

A public engagement process began in April 2017, with a short survey distributed through A-mail, the County's email distribution list for individuals interested in County news and events.  The purpose of the survey was to help County staff understand the level of public awareness about stream buffers and the ordinance, and to begin informing the public about the review process.  A total of 281 people responded to the survey.  A summary of the results using pie charts can be viewed here.  The complete survey results, including comments from respondents, can be viewed here.  (Please visit the A-mail web page to learn more about it, and sign up if you are interested.) 

Three public meetings were held in May 2017 with different stakeholder groups.  From 18 to 20 stakeholder members attended each of the meetings.  A summary of comments and questions from these meetings can be viewed here.  The list of participants can be viewed here.  The meetings were:

  • Farmers and Forestry community on May 8
  • Developers and Business community on May 15
  • Conservation community on May 16

A larger public meeting was held on August 16 to gather more input and ideas from the general public.  More than 50 people attended the meeting.  An article about the meeting by Charlottesville Tomorrow can be viewed here.  Another public meeting was held on October 3.  Approximately 25 people attended, and an article about the meeting appeared in The Daily Progress.  The article can be viewed here.   

The final public meeting in the buffer review process was an informational presentation to the Albemarle County Planning Commission at their October 10 meeting.  The podcast from the meeting is available here.  The presentation begins at roughly the 99:00 time marker.  

County staff will hold a work session with the County Board of Supervisors on December 6, 2017 to discuss the results of all the meetings and explore possible revisions to the stream buffer requirements.  

Input is welcome and encouraged from anyone who is interested in providing their thoughts, whether or not they attend public meetings.  Please email David Hannah, Natural Resources Manager for Albemarle County, with any questions or comments you would like to provide.  He may also be reached by phone at (434) 296-5832 extension 3325. 


Some Background Information 

In 1998, Albemarle County enacted its Water Protection Ordinance (WPO) to help improve and protect water quality throughout the County.  The primary objective of the ordinance was to establish regulations requiring stream buffers.  Section 17-600 of the ordinance addresses stream buffers.  A stream buffer is an area of vegetation adjacent to streams, rivers, reservoirs, and ponds or wetlands. 

A brief overview of stream buffer requirements can be viewed here.  Generally, the rules for stream buffers are: 

  • In the Rural Area, a 100 foot stream buffer is required on rivers, perennial streams, and intermittent streams.
  • In Development Areas, a 100 foot stream buffer is required on rivers and perennial streams (but not intermittent streams).
  • Along public drinking water reservoirs, 200 foot stream buffers are required. 

The ordinance has been revised a few times since 1998.  The most recent revision was in 2014, to reflect the state’s criteria in its Stormwater Management Program (VSMP), Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES), and Erosion and Sediment Control Program (VESCP).