Environment VA 2008

At the Environment Virginia 2008 conference held in Lexington, Virginia, one session included three speakers with experience in Hanover County presenting under the banner: “Planning for Growth and Development.” The room was packed for a session moderated by Ms. Moira Croghan entitled: “Bringing Water Quality Into Land Use Decisions.” Ms. Croghan opened the session by explaining how watershed planning can be used to address a variety of local environmental requirements while also involving citizens. concerned about the impact of development.

Mr. Jason Espie of the Renaissance Planning Group located in Charlottesville, shared the results of a “build-out analysis” he performed – an innovative technique used to quantify existing land uses in Hanover County. Epsie described the condition of Hanover’s streams, and how pavement and other impervious surfaces, resulting from projected development under Hanover’s County’s newly adopted Comprehensive Plan, will likely to cause further stress to Hanover’s streams, rivers and bodies of water. “Streams become degraded,” Epsie explained, “if there are buildings, roofs and roads coverings 10% or more of the watershed or drainage area.” Epsie’s analysis demonstrated how Hanover County has designated a very large amount of land for development.

The last speaker, Jim Ellis, presented a lecture entitled, “Impacting Local Decisions with a Buildout Analysis: Connecting Citizens and Water Quality Choices.” Mr. Ellis ran for Supervisor (Chickahominy) in the 2007 Hanover County Board of Supervisors race as an independent candidate endorsed by Hanover Conservation Voters, taking 42% of the vote. Ellis drew on those experiences to suggest that more citizen involvement is needed to push leaders into action. Even though the technical issues involving watershed protection are complex, Ellis said that “connecting water quality issues to land use and development decisions is a good strategy for involving citizens in watershed planning.”

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