Jan. 10, 2018 - Hampton City Council approved a more flexible plan to help people build on lots that contain land where development is limited by the Chesapeake Bay buffer zones.
Those buffer zones — mandated by the state Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act — require that the natural vegetation remain in areas up to 200 feet from certain waterways. The goal is to allow the vegetation to help filter out pollution, for a cleaner Chesapeake Bay.
However, it has presented some challenges to home-buyers and home-builders.
In 2015 and 2016, there were 14 applications for exceptions to the Chesapeake Bay rules relating to one development, Firefly Lane, in which new homes were built so close to the mandatory buffer zone that residents had virtually no side or back yards.
The new regulations would:
- Add a 20-foot “special green zone” to ensure that lots allow for some backyard space. (Natural vegetation in the Chesapeake Bay buffer zones cannot be mowed or exchanged for lawn.)
- Amend setback requirements for lots if that green zone makes it impossible to build. Those would allow homes on these lots to be built a little closer to the street and the lot lines — dropping the front setback from 30 feet to 15 feet.
- Allow a simpler process for exemptions to the act that are permitted by the state. Those requests for permitted encroachments, which are under law required to be granted, will have a staff review rather than a full board approval.
- Applications for other types of exceptions would now go to the Board of Zoning Appeals, rather than the Chesapeake Bay Review Committee.
In other business, Council also:
- Adjusted side-yard setbacks to allow for side porches on corner lots in some districts. Covered front porches are part of the city’s pattern book for new construction on “infill” lots in some older neighborhoods, and also side porches on corner lots that face a second street. The smaller lots in some neighborhoods have created challenges.
- Approved a cell phone tower at at 332 Rip Rap Road.
- Endorsed the Element Hotel at Peninsula Town Center as a qualifying tourism project consistent with the Commonwealth of Virginia tourism zone gap financing program.