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Heated opposition to Chesapeake Bay ordinance in Loudoun

In response to waves of outspoken opposition from residents at a public input session, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors delayed its decision on a water quality measure that would make Loudoun the first jurisdiction in Virginia to voluntarily adopt the requirements of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, including strict water protection rules.

The board's decision followed a forum Monday evening at which more than 100 Loudoun residents signed up to address the supervisors before a standing-room-only crowd. The vast majority of speakers -- including farmers, business owners, local government leaders, developers and homeowners -- spoke out strongly against adoption of the ordinance.

At the session, Purcellville Mayor Robert Lazaro Jr. read from a letter submitted to the board on behalf of the towns of Hamilton, Purcellville and Round Hill.

"The ordinance will have a negative impact on the already weakened economy, especially the county's rural economy," he said. "It's an unfunded mandate that we cannot afford, and we urge you to step back."

Joe Coleman, president of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, was one of the few in attendance who spoke in favor of the ordinance.

"It will not only protect the Chesapeake Bay but also our local streams and local water quality," Coleman said. Voluntary efforts that merely encourage protection of waterways do not work, he added: "We need strong, unambiguous laws that will fully protect and encourage buffers."

The Bay Act requires 84 tidewater localities -- defined as areas subject to tidal influence, including Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties -- to implement strict water protection rules to protect the health of the bay. The act also allows non-tidewater localities to voluntarily adopt the water protection criteria to improve the quality of local waterways and bay tributaries. While Loudoun is not subject to tidal influence, the county is bordered by the Potomac River, which drains into the bay.

Margi Wallo, Sterling district chairman of the Loudoun County Republican Committee, was terse in her assessment that the ordinance was created for political reasons rather than environmental ones.

"We all know that this regulation has nothing to do with the Chesapeake Bay," she said. "What I don't know is how you can live with yourself if you vote for this, and how you can sleep at night."

The board's close vote Tuesday came after more than two hours of debate over the heated nature of the issue, the uncertainty surrounding the impact that the ordinance might have on county residents and the possibility of adding greater flexibility to the measure's regulations.

Supervisor Kelly Burk (D-Leesburg) said she was encouraged by the tone of the previous evening's public input session.

"Most of the people who spoke made the comment that there need to be changes," she said. "They didn't say kill this, don't do it ... many people talked about being flexible, making some changes. And that was a real change from what has been previously been spoken."

But Waters had a less optimistic take on the feedback presented to the board. "There is still a lot of anger," she said. "I think there would have to be some pretty drastic changes for people to buy in to this being a good thing for the county. I don't feel we've done a good job in identifying what the problem is and how this specifically will solve that problem."

York stated his view simply: "We've blown it," he said. "This is a critical issue and unfortunately we have our community completely divided."

It would be better, he said, to start over with a new plan specific to Loudoun's needs, rather than attempting to adopt the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act.

"In hindsight I think it was a huge mistake to go with the Chesapeake Bay," he said.

By Caitlin Gibson  | September 21, 2010; 5:52 PM ET
Categories:  Loudoun County  
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Okayyyyyyy.....What does the act entails?? There was nothing reported telling the reader whats in the act, just a lot of ink about people being upset at a forum and thats not news at all around here!

Posted by: usc932000 | September 22, 2010 6:33 AM | Report abuse

I can only assume you live in DC or MD with you comment usc932000. The story falls under Virginia Politics; if you don't live in Virginia why bother reading that section? For those who live in Loudoun, the article provided the relevant information. And here is a tip...want to know about the Chesapeake Bay Act? Google it rather than complain about a lack of information.

Posted by: devilsadvocate3 | September 22, 2010 8:15 AM | Report abuse

So, we're going to use the recession to get out of everything? What will be the excuse when the economy recovers?

Posted by: jckdoors | September 22, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Oh, SO the "rural economy" in Loudoun is more important the the massive rural economy in the Chesapeake? There isn't much rural left out there amongst the mcmansions.

Posted by: janeway1 | September 22, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

It is hard for me to listen to Margi Wallo say, the ordinances were created for political reasons and "We all know that this regulation has nothing to do with the Chesapeake Bay." I grew up on the banks of the Potomac River in the Northern Neck of Virginia, and I currently live in Alexandria. If this has nothing to do with cleaning up the Bay then I invite her to talk to the watermen I grew up with, I invite we to go sailing to see algae blooms and dead zones, and I invite her to walk the polluted banks of the Potomac River in Alexandria. It’s very unfortunate that Margi and company live within the water shed of a national treasure (that would be the Bay). I guess they have never enjoyed a bushel of blue crabs, dozen raw oysters, or a Rock fish caught from the Bay. The problem is no one likes to clean up someone else’s mess. The national disgrace of what the Bay has become did not happen over night and will take time and sacrifice to clean up. Many generations of pollution and failed clean up efforts occurred before our time, and now we all share the responsibility to fix those mistakes. There is no way to clean up the Bay without sacrifice, and now is a very good time to start before it becomes to late. The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act calls upon everyone to sacrifice in effort to restore a national treasure. Please save your Bay!

Posted by: skaputa | September 22, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Okayyyyyyy.....What does the act entails?? There was nothing reported telling the reader whats in the act, just a lot of ink about people being upset at a forum and thats not news at all around here!

Posted by: usc932000

usc932000 - That's crazy talk! Wanting to know the specifics of the legislation, and why people (rightly or wrongly) might find themselves opposed or supporting it, insane!

What, did you want the WaPo to do actual journalism, invesitigation, and reporting?

Posted by: gth1 | September 22, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

C'mon, this thing is dead, stick a fork in it. By state law, the CBPA can't be altered or changed, it's either up or down and clearly the public sentiment is downward on this. Start over, get it right.

Posted by: ChangeIsNotAStrategy | September 22, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

skaputa - - Everyone wants to clean up the Bay. No one can say whether Loudoun adopting onerous government regulation will actually produce cleaner water. This thing has been about scoring political points, not about actually cleaning the Chesapeake. Asking people to pay extra for permits to build a playground in their backyard is a whole lot of disconnect from oysters in the Bay. That's the problem with this legislation, it applies 50lbs of the wrong prevention for an ounce of cure.

Posted by: ChangeIsNotAStrategy | September 22, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

To the County Supervisors: please stop trying to ram this unwanted piece of junk legislation down our throats. I've attended two public discussions of it and it's plainly obvious that we Loudoun residents do not want this, the ratio had to be 95% against at each public hearing. Supervisors who continue to press for it's adoption will meet the same fate as those who on the national level shoved an unwanted piece of legislation down the nation's throat. We want clean water, we don't want CBPA. We don't believe CBPA will produce cleaner water. We don't need an inflexible legislative vehicle like CBPA. Do the right thing for Loudoun and craft a bill that is better targeted towards cleaning our water, a bill we the public can support and get behind. Hear us now, or hear us on election day.

Posted by: ChangeIsNotAStrategy | September 22, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

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