Please call members on Senate Agriculture Committee to oppose HB 1089

February 25, 2014

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

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THE ISSUES

Please call members on Senate Agriculture Committee to oppose HB 1089
ACTION
HB 1089 (Morris) expands the definition of agricultural production activities in the Right to Farm Act to include the practice of aquaculture.

Please contact members of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee to oppose HB 1089. Without any dissenting votes at either the committee level or in the full chamber, HB 1089 passed the House. The bill is scheduled to be considered Thursday, February 27.

THE ISSUE
In areas zoned as agricultural or silvicultural, no special use permit or special exceptions would be required for aquaculture activities. HB 1089 is an attempt to undo two recent Virginia Supreme Court cases that upheld the authority of localities to require a special use permit for aquaculture operations.

TALKING POINTS

• HB 1089 limits the flexibility of Virginia’s coastal counties to utilize the Special Use Permit process to allow aquaculture operations on a case-by-case basis in residential and other districts not zoned for agriculture.

 • The bill undermines local land use authority.

 • HB 1089 fails to recognize the inherent differences between aquaculture and agriculture. The practice of agriculture is generally spread out over multiple acres of land. For aquaculture, much of the activity is generally concentrated on or near a pier that may be located on a small parcel where certain intensive commercial activities may not be compatible with other uses, especially if those uses are primarily residential. According to the definition in Section 3.2-2600 of the Code of Virginia, an aquaculture facility could include “any laboratory, hatchery, pond, raceway, pen, cage, incubator or other equipment used in aquaculture.” These are facilities that may not be compatible with certain surrounding land uses.

KEY CONTACTS
Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee: Puckett (Chairman), Hanger, Watkins, Ruff, McEachin, Petersen, Stuart, Marsden, Stanley, Miller, Ebbin, Cosgrove, McDougle, Wexton, Lewis

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE

 

Helpful stormwater bill flies through the General Assembly
SB 423 (Hanger) has now advanced through both chambers of the General Assembly with super majorities. After passing the Senate 38-2 on February 11, the bill unanimously passed the House on February 21.

Its companion measure, HB 1173 (Hodges), is expected to advance by a similar margin in the Senate. On February 5, HB 1173 passed the House, 93-1. These important bills, supported by VACo and VML, allow localities not subject to Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4*) permitting requirements to turn over responsibilities for managing their stormwater management programs to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

As amended, HB 1173 and SB 423 provide a six-month extension to the current July 1, 2014, deadline for Augusta, Fauquier and Montgomery Counties to adopt their local Virginia Stormwater Management Programs (VSMPs). Extra time for these counties is granted by the legislation due to their very recent designation by DEQ as “MS4” localities. Until January 1, 2015, stormwater programs for these three counties will be managed by DEQ.

As amended, HB 1173 and SB 423 have these other provisions beneficial to all localities:

• Authorization for the State Water Control Board to adopt regulations creating a procedure for approving permits for individual parcels in a common plan of development.

• Establishment of a procedure by the State Water Control Board that will relieve single family lot owners from requirements of obtaining a registration statement when engaging in a land disturbance (this is designed to reduce development costs for owners of smaller lots that are not part of a common plan of development).

• For a permit applicant or permit holder aggrieved by a local government decision, the bill allows for appeals to be conducted in accordance with local appeal procedures. (Current VSMP regulations require more formal processes).

Because these companion measures with emergency clauses are passing with super majorities in both houses, the legislation should go into effect upon signature by the governor, not the usual date of July 1 when most bills passed by the General Assembly become active. This expedited enactment will provide DEQ and localities with immediate authorization to go forward with implementation of a significantly revised stormwater program.

*(According to DEQ, these are the larger Phase 1 MS4 counties subject to individual permits: Arlington, Chesterfield, Fairfax, Henrico, Prince William. Smaller Phase 2 MS4 counties subject to general permit requirements: Albemarle, Augusta, Botetourt, Fauquier, Hanover, Isle of Wight, James City, Loudoun, Montgomery, Roanoke, Stafford, York.)

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE

 

Senate agritourism bill passes both chambers
HB 268 (Orrock) and SB 51 (Stuart) are companion bills that limit local government authority to regulate certain on-farm business activities. More specifically, these bills prohibit local governments from approving certain on-farm business activities through special exceptions, special use permits, or administrative permits unless such activities have “substantial impact” upon public health, safety and welfare. The legislation provides no guidance with respect to the meaning of “substantial impact.”

After passing the Senate by a vote of 32-7, SB 51 passed the House, 75-19. HB 268 passed in the House by a vote of 73-23. HB 268 is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Agriculture Committee on February 27.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE

 

Senate Finance passes bill that makes Port of Virginia grant program a statewide program
HB 672 (Poindexter) expands the Port of Virginia’s Economic and Infrastructure Development Grant program to a statewide grant program. The bill passed through the Senate Finance Committee on February 25 after passing through the House of Delegates with no opposition.

VACo worked to support this change that would allow exporting businesses in any locality to be eligible for the grants.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston

 

Regional Balance for State Water Control Board bills pass
HB 1193 (Webert) requires the governor to try to ensure that State Water Control Board membership is “geographically balanced.” Because the State Water Control Board has been newly assigned with the responsibility of reviewing and approving local stormwater programs, VACo adopted a position in its 2014 Legislative Program supporting “regional balance” on the State Water Control Board. VACo supports HB 1193, which has now unanimously passed both houses of the General Assembly.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE

 

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