Ordinance returned to commission

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Cumberland County Board of Supervisors voted to return the Cobbs Creek Reservoir Watershed Protection Ordinance to the Cumberland County Planning Commission during its meeting July 9.

The ordinance was the subject of a public hearing by the Cumberland County Planning Commission in June. Commission members voted to table the ordinance.

At-large planning commission member William Flippen spoke during the public hearing for the ordinance.

Flippen spoke in reference to the ordinance’s prohibited use of poultry waste, or chicken litter, at the other reservoir watershed area.

He said Henrico County had been good about grandfathering agricultural land and horse pastures near the reservoir site.

“But I think they have overlooked this one thing,” Flippen said.

Flippen said there were other reservoirs in Virginia that allow the use of chicken litter, citing that the Sandy River Reservoir in Prince Edward County allows the use.

Prince Edward County Administrator Wade Bartlett said that the county does not have a specific regulation in relation to poultry litter at the Sandy River Reservoir. He said the county owns all of the land surrounding the reservoir up to a certain elevation. Bartlett said any poultry house owner or anyone who uses poultry waste is subject to regulations by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality or other state and federal agencies.

Flippen argued that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has regulations about pollutants at buffers but only requires a 35-foot permanent vegetation buffer for chicken litter.

“I think we’re back to discussing science versus fear,” Flippen said. “We have the Department of Environmental Quality saying that if you have a buffer, 35 feet buffer, that would prevent negative effects.”

In a previous report, Paul Peterson, project manager with Arcadis, an engineering firm involved with Henrico County, said that the ordinance would protect the potential for pollution at the reservoir.

“The ordinance would prohibit land application of biosolids, livestock waste, poultry litter or other animal waste,” Peterson said in an email interview. “The purpose of the prohibition is to protect intended uses of the reservoir including recreation and direct use as a public water supply.”

The concern for the chicken litter, he said, is that “land application of poultry waste could have negative effects on both recreational use and future drinking water supplies due to contaminants in runoff that reaches the reservoir. Minimizing contaminant inputs will help protect reservoir uses for future generations.”

Betty Myers also spoke during the hearing, citing that she appreciated the steps outlined by the ordinance to protect water quality, but argued about the steps in place to protect water quality in reference to the Green Ridge landfill.

“It appears to me that you are treating the people at the northwest corner of Cumberland County a lot differently than what you are in the southeast,” Myers said, “and I’m really concerned about that.”

She said that the planning commission should have a recommendation before the board takes action.

District One Supervisor William “Bill” Osl said there were several concerns he had about the ordinance.

He said the reasons for the reservoir was for Cumberland’s desire for economic development, residential and agricultural growth, and recreational use purposes. He cautioned against some additional restrictions outside of federal and state regulations.

These concerns included prohibited use for tree removal for site lines and businesses.

“If we want economic development around the reservoir, part of the vista is necessary,” Osl said, citing the view adjacent to potential businesses. “If you have 150 feet of trees that are around the reservoir, that’s not going a provide an appropriate vista for economic development purposes.”

He said trees at waterlines also have the potential to create problems overtime.

Osl had a similar concern about mowing as a prohibited use, citing that some federal conservation programs allow mowing.

He agreed with Flippen’s concern about the prohibited use of poultry litter, citing that it is used by agriculturalists in the county.

Osl also addressed prohibited items for recreation use, which include swimming or fishing tournaments outside of designated areas. He argued that there could be boaters who may enjoy swimming out on the water.

District Two Supervisor Lloyd Banks said Cumberland representatives brought up similar concerns about the ordinance a year or two ago.

He expressed support for revising the tree removal portion.

“The Grand Canyon could be on the other side of Cumberland Restaurant but if you couldn’t see it, what good would it do?” Banks said.

Banks said that it seemed like the “relationship between Henrico has been very lopsided, as it relates to the benefits potentially for Cumberland.”

District Five Supervisor Parker Wheeler voted to send the ordinance back to the Cumberland County Planning Commission to make a recommendation. The motion was approved unanimously.