Advocacy Alert: Submit Comments for Zoning Ordinance Rewrite by July 18
Loudoun County has changed a lot since the current 1993 zoning ordinance was approved, and staff needs to hear feedback from residents to ensure a balanced zoning ordinance will match the current vision of Loudoun County. The public comment period for the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite Process closes on July 18, 2022. There are three methods for submitting comments. Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy recommends submitting comments via the online comment box method (as described below), but any method is helpful. Learn more about the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite process.
Zoning Ordinance Rewrite Recommendations
Below are Loudon Wildlife Conservancy’s priority recommendations for the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite. (The full list of recommendations will be posted soon.) These recommendations are set up so that you can copy and paste them as comments for each section of the Ordinance. Chapter 5 has the most implications for the environment, so it is listed first.
The section headings are direct links to the Online Comments Box sections of the Zoning Ordinance on the county website. Click on the links to submit comments via the vertical gray “COMMENTS” box on the left-hand side of the page.
- (5.03.03 NERS) The use table should be clarified to indicate active recreation uses are not permitted within major floodplains, only passive recreation uses.
- (03.04.B) State species of concern (per VA Wildlife Action Plan) and studies and prioritization for protection of exemplary natural communities, habitats, and ecosystems (per VA DCR Natural Heritage Program) should be added as an environmental checklist item(s), and this should be a universal requirement, not just for RSCR.
- (04.04.A) The baseline should be to protect all important environmental and historic features, with subtraction of credit if those elements are not protected. Delete bonus credit section and create a checklist of environmental protections which if complete, allow for a “fast track” review in exchange for full protection of environmental and historic features.
- (5.04.03.A.3.a) Wildlife and habitat evaluations (by ecologists and biologists) should be used to evaluate exemplary natural communities, habitats, and ecosystems; and these evaluations should include species of greatest conservation need from the Virginia Wildlife Action Plan. Man-made landscapes that have “gained importance” needs to be clearly defined.
- (04.05) Open space design standards for landscaping should be required to incorporate ecological value (ie native plants, wildlife benefits, etc.). These standards could be evaluated by ecologists, biologists, and other staff. Model ordinance language from other jurisdictions currently exists to implement in zoning ordinance.
- (04.06) Type-specific open space standards should include mentions of contiguous habitats, wildlife travel corridors, native plant vegetation, etc. to demonstrate ecological value.
- (5.04.07) Wildlife corridors, native vegetation prioritization, and environmental protection should be included as part of linear parks that accompany trails.
- (06.0) Invasive plant species should be removed during the development process, and the planting of native vegetation along corridors that provide connections to other natural, environmental, and heritage resources should be prioritized.
- (5.06.A.4) There should be a 100% native trees and shrubs requirement for new vegetation.
- (5.07.07.A) Landscaping requirements should include reference of sustainability measures and support for wildlife corridors that can be further described in the FSM. Applications should note the location and prioritize protection of exemplary and high-quality habitat communities on adjacent parcels to protect areas critical for maintaining connectivity between high value habitats. Additionally, exemplary or high-quality wildlife areas should be mapped, and protection prioritized, as part of wildlife corridors, to ensure barrier-free movement between identified wildlife corridors. Necessary conditions should be maintained to provide habitat function for species along wildlife corridors and species of greatest conservation need as identified by the VA Wildlife Action Plan.
- (5.08.05) International Dark Sky Association Standards should be more fully incorporated including the establishment of light zones to determine appropriateness of lighting, especially for rural areas. Exemptions should be more limited and/or greater standards should be in place for homes, roads, all types of athletic fields, and public monuments as these items create some of the greatest amounts of light trespass and sky glow.
- (2.03) In addition to being addressed in Section 5.04, in the Transition Policy Zoning Area section, siting of open space should be required to be contiguous to supplement the natural and heritage resources connecting communities and natural resource areas such as wildlife corridors.
- (3.01) A future zoning amendment should initiate a regulatory path to allow “solar facility, commercial” in certain rural areas which includes strict performance standards to protect exemplary and high-quality habitats, and other natural resources, from land disturbance.
- (3.05) International Dark Sky Association lighting performance standards should be applied across all site-specific uses.
- (3.05) Use-specific standards draft text deleted 9/15/21 as part of the Zoning Ordinance Committee review should be included and forwarded to the Planning Commission for review.
- (05.06.02.F) Data Center use-specific standards should include native plant percentage requirements (100% recommended) and contiguous habitat with prioritization for exemplary and high-quality habitats. There should also be requirements for preservation of native trees and the removal of invasive species.
- (3.05.08.04.A.3) Due to a high-intensity use, rather than just sketch plans, site plans should be required for Brewery, Limited. As part of site plans, native plant communities should be mapped and ranked according to their ecosystem functional value, and applications should note the location of mapped exemplary and high-quality wildlife and habitat communities on adjacent parcels to protect areas critical for maintaining connectivity between high value native plant communities.
- (4.01) Uses that are NOT permitted in Overlay Districts should be identified. There are too many loopholes for high-intensity operations that would harm the environment, nature, wildlife, and quality of life for neighbors.
- (4.03.F) Appropriate special exception uses should be revised. Special exception uses should be limited to marinas, boat rentals, docks, piers, wharves, water ski jump facilities; special events; and passive recreation uses.
- (4.04.D.A) The crest and ridgeline protection setback should be from the ridgeline, not the crest, and it should be 200′.
- (4.04) In the MDOD, supplemental application materials should include mapping native plant communities and ranking them according to their ecosystem functional value, and applications should note the location of mapped exemplary and high-quality wildlife and habitat communities on adjacent parcels to protect areas critical for maintaining connectivity between high value native plant communities. VA DCR has definitions/resources for identifying exemplary habitats.
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