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Gauge Height: 6.49'
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Conservation groups rate Va. localities on “greeness”

July 28, 2012 2:58pm

Earlier this week, three conservation groups released their review of Virginia’s county and municipal ordinances to assess the use of sustainable development practices. The report, Promoting Low Impact Development in Virginia: A Review and Assessment of Nontidal County Codes and Ordinances, is intended to help achieve needed ordinance changes to protect water quality from impacts caused by land development.

The James River Association, Potomac Conservancy and Friends of the Rappahannock conducted an analysis of local development codes and ordinances in 41 Virginia localities to determine the local barriers to employing Low Impact Development (LID) principles. LID principles use design practices that filter and store rainfall runoff, instead of allowing that runoff to directly travel into local streams.

The 41 Virginia localities were rated on the degree to which LID is encouraged and water quality considered in the rules that dictate the nature and character of development. The project took an in-depth look at whether a locality’s ordinances touched on, required or encouraged 76 LID principles. Scores ranged from 3 percent to 72 percent, with the average locality score being 27 percent. All of the 76 LID principles were adopted by at least one locality, demonstrating that the incorporation of LID into local codes is achievable.

“We are excited by the successes that communities had implementing LID principles across Virginia,” said James River Association Executive Director Bill Street. “All the pieces to solve the puzzle of how to improve water quality and economically thrive in the Commonwealth are in place. We’d like to see these cost-effective LID practices become the standard in every city and county in Virginia.”

One example that the study provides on how LID can be incorporated into local decision making is by looking toward solutions such as redevelopment incentives and stormwater source controls. These types of measures would preserve green spaces and reduce the amount of stormwater that enters local waterways.

The project partners rated the 41 localities on LID principles, grouped into the following four categories: Minimization of Land Disturbance; Preserving Vegetation; Minimizing Impervious Cover; and General Water Quality Protection. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University and the Center for Watershed Protection assisted in the review and assessment.

The executive summary, report and test results are available at

About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?