Community Development  |  Stream Buffer Requirements

A Review of Albemarle County’s
Stream Buffer Requirements

On January 4, 2017, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held a work session to discuss the County’s Natural Resources Program.  The County’s Water Protection Ordinance (WPO) was one of several topics discussed.  At the end of the meeting, the Board requested that County staff engage the public in reviewing stream buffer requirements, soliciting ideas and feedback about the ordinance and how it is implemented.

A public engagement process began in April 2017, with a short survey distributed through A-mail, a County email distribution list for individuals interested in County news and events. A total of 281 people responded to the survey.  A summary of the results using pie charts can be viewed here.  The complete survey results, including comments from respondents, can be viewed here.  (Please visit the A-mail web page to learn more about it, and sign up if you are interested.) 

As of July 2017, three public meetings had been held with different stakeholder groups.  A summary of comments and questions from these meetings can be viewed here.  The meetings were:

  • Farmers and Forestry community on May 8
  • Developers and Business community on May 15
  • Conservation community on May 16


Additional public meetings to gather input and ideas are being scheduled.  The NEXT MEETING, open to the public, is set for August 16 at 5:30 pm, in Room A of the 5th Street County Office Building.  The address is 1600 5th Street, Charlottesville, VA, 22902. 

Input is welcome and encouraged from anyone who is interested in providing their thoughts, whether or not they attend public meetings.  A format for providing input will be available as the large public meetings are held.  In the meantime, please email David Hannah, Natural Resources Manager for Albemarle County, with any questions or comments you would like to provide.  He may also be reached by phone at (434) 296-5832 extension 3325. 

Some Background Information 

In 1998, Albemarle County enacted its Water Protection Ordinance (WPO) to help improve and protect water quality throughout the County.  The primary objective of the ordinance was to establish regulations requiring stream buffers.  Section 17-600 of the ordinance addresses stream buffers.  A stream buffer is an area of vegetation adjacent to streams, rivers, reservoirs, and ponds or wetlands. 

A brief overview of stream buffer requirements can be viewed here.  General guidelines for stream buffers are: 

  • In the Rural Area, a 100 foot stream buffer is required on rivers, perennial streams, and intermittent streams.
  • In Development Areas, a 100 foot stream buffer is required on rivers and perennial streams (but not intermittent streams).
  • Along public drinking water reservoirs, 200 foot stream buffers are required. 

The ordinance has been revised a few times since 1998.  The most recent revision was in 2014, to reflect the state’s criteria in its Stormwater Management Program (VSMP), Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES), and Erosion and Sediment Control Program (VESCP).