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Vienna Town Council Reluctantly Approves Chesapeake Bay Amendments

Council members argue amendments would adversely affect adjoining property owners.

The Vienna Town Council approved Monday proposed amendments to the Ordinance Provisions and the Official Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas Map. It will take up final approval on the ordinance at the next Council meeting on Dec. 1.

But the decision was divided, with a 4-3 vote, and Council members expressed their dismay at the amendments. Their main concern was over one amendment in particular, which modified the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas Map to show that the Resource Protection Area (RPA) would extend its original terminus from Northside Park to the outfall pipe adjoining Capitol Building Supply's property at 431-435 Mill St. N.E. This modification was done to accommodate Piney Branch stream, which was designated as a perennial stream, or a stream with a continuous water flow.

"This whole procedure is a usurping of local authority. This whole procedure is a usurping of property," said Councilman Al Boudreau. "I don't think we have a choice but [to] approve this thing tonight."

Because Monday's meeting was a public hearing on the amendments, a handful of citizens voiced their opinion. Vienna resident George Creed was concerned that land records don't reveal the location of RPAs.

"For people who live in perennial flow, there's no way to identify," Creed said.

Another citizen was concerned over how the 100-foot required buffer would affect property tax. One other question that came up was if and how property owners could develop their property if they wanted an addition.

Planning and Zoning director Greg Hembree replied that if property owners wanted to redevelop, they would encounter an extra set of guidelines, since their property abuts an RPA. If they wanted to enlarge a shed located within the 100-foot buffer, for instance, they would have to go through the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Councilwoman Maud Robinson agreed with several Council members in remarking that the ordinance places an extra burden on the property owner.

"To me, this almost constitutes as a taking of property," Robinson said.

Councilwoman Laurie Cole, who along with Councilman George Lovelace and Councilman Sydney Verinder voted against the approval, said she was concerned that there weren't any disclosure guidelines set in place to inform prospective property owners that their property would be next to an RPA.

"What we're addressing tonight is not so much an environmental issue but an autonomy issue," Cole said.

Verinder agreed, "The principle is right on. The administration [of it] is right off. ... We don't have a choice here. This is basically state-mandated."

Council members Robinson, Boudreau, Edythe Kelleher and Vienna mayor Jane Seeman voted to approve the amendments.