Surry supervisors offer Chesapeake Bay agreement to Claremont

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Surry County has proposed an agreement with the town of Claremont pertaining to local enforcement of Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act.

The state law requires counties, cities and towns in the Tidewater area to ensure construction projects within their incorporated limits comply with the act’s protections for the bay and its tributaries. The 2½-square-mile town is located along the southern bank of the James River at Surry’s border with Prince George County.

Deputy County Administrator David Harrison told Surry supervisors at their April 7 meeting that the state Department of Environmental Quality was “requiring the town of Claremont to establish a process to review and enforce Chesapeake Bay preservation regulations, to include employing staff or contractors, or the establishment of a memorandum of understanding” with Surry County.

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Per the proposed memorandum, the county would review erosion and sediment controls for projects exceeding 2,500 square feet of land disturbance, and would review site plans, water quality impact assessments and building permit applications — provided Claremont reviews them for conformity with the town’s zoning and subdivision ordinances before sending them to the county.

The town would retain responsibility for taking any enforcement action needed against properties that fail to perform the required five-year pump-out for on-site septic systems, and would be required to meet with county officials at least annually to coordinate their Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act efforts.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously that evening to approve the memorandum, which will be forwarded to Claremont’s Town Council for its review before taking effect.

The issue dates to 2020, when DEQ inspectors authored a preliminary report claiming the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act was “not being implemented within the Town of Claremont, and has not been for some time.”

Claremont Mayor George Edwards, however, contends the town had already corrected the issue on its own by awarding a contract to Bowman Consulting in 2021 for erosion and sediment compliance reviews. The town’s request for a memorandum of understanding with the county, he said, is months old.

“I am looking forward to looking at that agreement … . “We’re hopeful, but at the same time, we’re cautious,” Edwards said.

According to DEQ spokesman Greg Bilyeu, the state has been working with the town since 2021 under a draft corrective action plan. The plan, which originally imposed a March 15 deadline, requires the town to meet nine conditions for compliance. Among them, the town is to amend its local Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act Overlay District ordinance to “ensure consistency” with state regulations, amend its subdivision and zoning ordinances “as necessary to ensure there are no inconsistencies” and “ensure proper review of development proposals” either by hiring additional staff or consultants, or by entering “into a formal agreement with Surry County.”

The town advertised a March 23 public hearing on changes to its subdivision and CBPA ordinances “to comply with DEQ regulations.”

“​​We’ve provided an extension, as they’ve engaged a consultant through grant funding from DEQ …  to April 30th to address remaining items as they work with the consultant,” Bilyeu said.