Community Development  |  Stream Health / Stream Buffers


Stream Health in Albemarle County’s Development Areas

In 2017, county staff conducted a series of public meetings to determine local residents’ perspectives and awareness of the stream buffer regulations in the county’s Water Protection Ordinance (see section 17-600). The process culminated with a work session with the Board of Supervisors on December 6, 2017. 

At the December 6, 2017 meeting, the Board directed staff to develop strategies for improving stream health and water quality in the county. Phase one of the process addresses the county’s seven Development Areas. Upon completing phase one, the process will shift to address the county’s Rural Area in phase two. The public engagement and review process during 2017 is described below under “A Pubic Review of Albemarle County’s Stream Buffer Requirements."


During 2018, County staff developed a list of thirteen draft proposals aimed at improving stream health and water quality in the Development Areas. The proposals reflect the comments and ideas heard during the 2017 public engagement process about stream buffers.  The proposals are not intended to impact potential development in any way, but to identify ways of improving stream health as development takes place.

In October and November of 2018, staff members reviewed the draft proposals with the public to solicit feedback. Staff met individually with six of the seven Community Advisory Committees (CACs), each of which represents a different Development Area. A public meeting was held on November 1, 2018 at the County Office Building. A short, online survey was available to provide feedback about the proposals, from October 23 through November 25. A summary of the survey results are available.   

Staff participated in a work session with the Board of Supervisors on January 9, 2019.  During the meeting, staff recommended moving forward with nine of the proposals.  Two proposals require thorough Comprehensive Analysis and should be worked on in the future.  Three proposals can be reconsidered in the future.   The Board approved staff's recommendations.  A summary report and information presented during the work session are available here.  A video of the meeting can be viewed here.  Staff will develop more detailed proposals to present to the Board and the Planning Commission at a joint work session scheduled for July 9, 2019. 

For more information or to provide comments, please email David Hannah, Natural Resources Manager for Albemarle County.  He may also be reached by phone at (434) 296-5832 extension 3325. 


A Public Review of Albemarle County’s
Stream Buffer Requirements

At the December 6, 2017 meeting of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, County staff described the roughly seven month public review process of the County’s stream buffer regulations.  Information about the meeting and presentation, including a video of the entire meeting, is available here.
The stream buffer portion of the meeting begins at about the 50:00 minute mark, and includes a short powerpoint presentation.  Among the materials for the meeting were a six page background report and images used in the powerpoint presentation. 

The Board of Supervisors endorsed the staff recommendation to continue the stream buffer review process in two separate phases.  The first phase will focus on the County’s Development Areas.  Staff plans to return to the Board in 2018 with their findings and recommendations.  As soon as phase one is complete, work will begin on the County’s Rural Area.

Below is information describing the stream buffer review process that began in April, 2017.


On January 4 and May 3 of 2017, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held work sessions 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 May 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, the County's email distribution list for individuals interested in County news and events.  The purpose of the survey was to help County staff understand the level of public awareness about stream buffers and the ordinance, and to begin informing the public about the review process.  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.) 

Three public meetings were held in May 2017 with different stakeholder groups.  From 18 to 20 stakeholder members attended each of the meetings.  A summary of comments and questions from these meetings can be viewed here.  The list of participants 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

A larger public meeting was held on August 16, 2017 to gather more input and ideas from the general public.  More than 50 people attended the meeting.  An article about the meeting by Charlottesville Tomorrow can be viewed here.  Another public meeting was held on October 3, 2017.  Approximately 25 people attended, and an article about the meeting appeared in The Daily Progress.  The article can be viewed here.   

The final public meeting in the buffer review process was an informational presentation to the Albemarle County Planning Commission at their October 10, 2017 meeting.  The podcast from the meeting is available here.  The presentation begins at roughly the 99:00 time marker. County staff held a work session with the County Board of Supervisors on December 6, 2017 to discuss the results of all the meetings and explore possible revisions to the stream buffer requirements.  

For more information, please email David Hannah, Natural Resources Manager for Albemarle County.  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.  Generally, the rules 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).