Category Archives: Zoning Requests

Unprepared: Judge Faults MVP, Highland Planning Comm. Faults ACP

The February 1, 2018, Roanoke Times reports, “With just a few hours remaining until Thursday, the day that Mountain Valley Pipeline had hoped to start work on a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia, a judge put a pause to those plans. The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon came during a proceeding in which Mountain Valley had sued nearly 300 property owners who refused to surrender their land for the controversial project. Although the laws of eminent domain give Mountain Valley the power to obtain forced easements for its buried pipeline, Dillon ruled, she rejected the company’s request for immediate access to the parcels. Facing a tight deadline to have trees felled along the pipeline’s route by March 31 to meet federal wildlife protections, Mountain Valley executed what’s called a quick-take condemnation. That process might have allowed the company to start work by Thursday on the disputed properties. But first, Mountain Valley was required to demonstrate it could pay the property owners just compensation for the easements — at prices to be determined at trials later, likely well after construction had begun. Such a demonstration would have included paying a bond or deposit with the court. At a hearing earlier this month, Mountain Valley presented appraisals for just nine of the nearly 300 properties, which Dillon said was insufficient information on which to base an appropriate bond amount. ‘Until MVP can provide a more fulsome basis on which the court can assure that just compensation will be paid, the court cannot allow immediate possession at this time to nearly all of the properties,’ Dillon wrote in a 52-page decision released shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday.”

Read Judge Dillon’s Opinion here and her Order here.

As reported by the February 1, 2018, Highlander, the Highland County Planning Commission at their January 25, 2018, meeting based their decisions on the many mistakes and unanswered questions in Dominion’s presentation requesting local permits for lay-down yards and crossing easements. This is the first time county planners have been given an opportunity to see what Dominion proposes – including heavy truck traffic for 10 hour/day on 6 and perhaps 7 days a week over steep, narrow, and winding roads, giant equipment traveling more than 10 miles on those roads, permanent access roads on steep mountain slope (with more mileage than the pipeline itself), unsecured construction yards, lack of reliable water sources for dust control, lack of a traffic study requested by Virginia’s Dept. of Transportation. “It was no surprise to anyone, except county staff, that the applications submitted were full of holes and mistakes. Landowners all along the pipeline’s proposed path in three states have found hundreds of errors made by the company over the last few years, from egregious omissions to simple math mistakes.”

“Citing numerous errors and inadequacies, the Highland County Planning Commission on Jan. 25 voted to set one public hearing, but tabled two other land-use applications for Dominion to establish proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction lay-down material storage yards.”

Nelson BZA Public Hearing, February 12, 2018

The Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals will hold a public hearing on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s request to obtain variances for 11 floodplain crossings in Nelson County totaling 4.5 miles of floodplain, 3.5 for pipeline and one mile for access roads.  The public hearings will be February 12, 2018, 7 p.m., at the Nelson County High School.

Variances are required because, under Nelson’s floodplain ordinance, pipelines qualify as “critical facilities” whose construction is not normally allowed in floodplains. “Critical facilities” are prohibited because even a slight chance of flooding poses too great a threat to public health, safety, and welfare. Critical facilities include “structures that store or transport highly volatile, flammable, explosive, toxic, and/or water-reactive materials,” as well as nursing homes, police stations, and public utilities. The ordinance also lists hazardous materials, including natural gas, which may not be stored in Special Flood Hazard Areas for longer than 30 days because they “would pose an unacceptable risk…during flooding”.

The floodplain ordinance is available online.  It is Article 10 of the Nelson County Zoning Ordinance.

During their January 16 meeting, the BZA adopted procedures for the public hearing: speakers must sign up to speak during the hearings and will be limited to three minutes unless they are representing a group, in which case they have five minutes to speak. The BZA will take up and make decisions on the 11 floodplain crossing applications individually, because they want to provide a “clean record” for each application. Application hearings will be held in the same order as they appear in the application, from the westernmost crossing, S. Rockfish River up near Wintergreen, and ending with the Wingina crossing near the James River.

People who want to speak MUST SIGN UP BEFORE THE MEETING STARTS. If you cannot get there before the hearing starts, you may have someone else sign you up to speak. You (or the person signing up for you) must provide your name and address to ensure that the County has an accurate record of exactly who spoke.

People must sign up separately for each crossing they wish to comment on and will have 3 minutes to speak at each. (5 minutes if they represent a group). You may only sign up once for any one specific variance hearing.

If you have “general” comments that would apply to more than one crossing, you may specify during your comments that you want them to be applied to all eleven crossings (or to three of them or whatever). This will help avoid unnecessary repetition of the same testimony from a single speaker. You may request that your comments be entered into the other hearing records regardless of which hearing you choose to speak at. Or you may speak specifically about a particular variance, e.g. Muddy Creek or South Fork Rockfish River 1.

Nine of the eleven variances requested are in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA). Such zones are determined based on events (determined by the American Society of Civil Engineers) that may occur in them, and Nelson County has 6 of the 8 determining factors: mudslides, flash floods, high velocity flow, erosion, alluvial fans, and winter ice jams. Nelson County’s flood plain ordinance includes what are called Higher Standards prohibiting Critical Facilities & Hazardous Materials in floodplains (e.g. pipelines carrying natural gas at high pressure).

People may submit written comments and any supporting documents for the public record online by e-mailing them to:  You can also submit larger files directly to a dropbox they have set up at

If the submissions are made by Tuesday or Wednesday (February 6 or 7) before the public hearing, they will be included in the BZA packet that is distributed and posted online before the meeting. However, since it is highly unlikely that the BZA will make its decision that night, written comments may be submitted after the meeting as well and still “count”. Submissions that are not included in the BZA packet will be made available to the general public, but it may take several days for the County to post them to the website for public access. We recommend that anyone speaking at the meeting also provide the BZA with a written copy of their comments.

The county will be making audio and video recordings of the meeting, but they will not be uploaded to a website. They will be made available to people on request, however. Attendees are also welcome to tape/videotape the hearing themselves, as long as the equipment is not disruptive (e.g. blocks access to the podium, etc.)

If the meeting goes on for too long (it has not been defined what “too long” means), the BZA will continue it at a later date to be announced.

Some suggestions for what to include in your comments (at the hearing or submitted in writing):

  • Why the existing ordinance is wise to prohibit the placement of infrastructure such as natural gas pipelines in the floodplain
  • Why the BZA is obligated to uphold the intent of the ordinance
  • How granting a Variance in this case runs counter to the description in the official Standard for BZA Review of Variances
  • What specific dangers exist at specific crossings

Learn more! Come to Rockfish Valley Community Center on February 5, 2018, between 6:00 and 8:30. Get educated about the importance of floodplains in our county and why we need to protect them from Dominion’s ACP. We’ll answer questions and provide “talking points” for the upcoming BZA meeting.

Most importantly, we urge everyone to attend the hearing, even if you do not plan to speak. Ask the BZA to PROTECT our floodplains and DENY DOMINION’S REQUEST to cross floodplains so that our safety as well as our water quality and water supplies are preserved!

Floodplain Information and Education Meeting

April 2011 flooding, Goodwin Creek

Friends of Nelson will hold an information and education meeting to help you learn about floodplains and Nelson County’s floodplain ordinance. Drop by any time between 6:30-8:00 pm on Monday February 5, 2018, at Rockfish Valley Community Center.

Dominion & Atlantic Coast Pipeline want to override Nelson County’s important FEMA Floodplain Management Ordinance protections. ACP needs approvals from Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals to cross 11 floodplains in Nelson County.

Come learn what’s at stake with the Board of Zoning Appeals Variance requests and how to participate in the upcoming public hearings at Nelson County High School at 7 pm on February 12th. We’ll have “talking points” handouts and answer any questions you may have about submitting public comments. We MUST urge the Board of Zoning Appeals to reject Dominion/ACPs request for ordinance protections to put their pipeline through our floodplains – our water is at stake!

The floodplain ordinance is available online.  It is Article 10 of the Nelson County Zoning Ordinance.

Nelson BZA to Hold Hearings on ACP Flood Plain Crossings

The Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals will hold public hearings on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s request to obtain variances for 11 floodplain crossings in Nelson County totaling 4.5 miles of floodplain, 3.5 for pipeline and one mile for access roads. Variances are required because, under Nelson’s floodplain ordinance, pipelines qualify as critical facilities whose construction is not normally allowed in floodplain. State law mandates decisions on variance requests within 90 days of the January 16, 2018, application date.

The BZA has retained David Shreve, former Campbell county attorney who has a private practice in Altavista, as legal counsel for the review, and has requested technical assistance from Draper Aden Associates, an engineering, environmental services and surveying firm with offices across the commonwealth and in parts of North Carolina.

The BZA’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be February 5, during which they will meet in closed session with Shreve and Draper Aden to go over application details. The public hearings on the variance applications will be February 12, 2018, 7 p.m.

During their January 16 meeting, the BZA adopted procedures for the public hearing: speakers must sign up to speak during the hearings and will be limited to three minutes unless they are representing a group, in which case they have five minutes to speak. At Shreve’s suggestion, the BZA will take up and make decisions on the 11 floodplain crossing applications individually, thus providing a “clean record” for each application.

The February 12 meeting is currently planned for the General District Courtroom in the Nelson County Courthouse, but because of anticipated large turnout may be moved to a different site. Announcement of meeting site will be included in public notices posted in the Nelson County Times and on the county website. Additionally, the BZA left open the possibility of extending the public hearings a day if there is not adequate time to hear all public comments.

A listing of the requested variances is posted on the BZA portion of the Nelson County Website.

ACP Construction Yard in Augusta County

At their January 4, 2018, meeting the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals considered Dominion’s application for the required permit to use a 34 acre site in Churchville, currently zoned as agricultural, for two years as a storage yard for ACP construction materials, equipment, fuel and worker trailers. At least 400 workers would be coming and going from the site each day, 6 days a week, and large trucks and equipment would be traveling between the site and the proposed pipeline construction site 10-20 miles away. The property in question is on winding Rt. 42, designated as a Scenic Highway.

About Special Use Permits, the Augusta County General Code says, “No Special Use Permit shall be issued without consideration that, in addition to conformity with any standards set forth in this chapter for Special Use Permit uses, the following general standards will be met either by the proposal made in the application or by the proposal as modified or amended and made part of the Special Use Permit:

  • 1. Conformity with Comprehensive Plan and policies. The proposal as submitted or as modified shall conform to the Comprehensive Plan of the county or to specific elements of such plan, and to official policies adopted in relation thereto, including the purposes of this chapter.
  • 2. Impact on neighborhood. The proposal as submitted or as modified shall not have undue adverse impact on the surrounding neighborhood.”

The Augusta County Comprehensive Plan states, “Agriculture will continue to be the predominant land use in the county and a major part of the economy. The county’s scenic beauty and natural environment will be preserved, with farms, forests, mountains, rivers and streams providing the framework and context for development in the urban areas, and continuing to define the landscape in the rural areas.”

More than 250 people turned out at the BZA meeting to speak against the application, including Ryan Blosser, whose adjacent 4-acre organic farm is downhill, downwind, and downstream from the proposed yard, meaning it no longer would be possible for him to maintain his organic status and the organic CSAs which are his family’s livelihood. When the BZA members asked Dominion if they had discussed their plans with the Blossers, the answer (not surprisingly) was “No.” When they were asked if they were planning on compensating the Blossers for the hardship they were imposing upon them, the answer (again not surprisingly) was “No.” Dominion representatives initially stated at the meeting that they have “no responsibility” to their neighbors. The BZA tabled any decision on the matter and will consider it again at their next regular meeting on February 1 at 1:30.

Read the News Virginian coverage of the meeting here, and read Ryan Blosser’s impassioned letter to the editor here. A Facebook page, Augusta County Standoff, is following the issue. A petition page asks the Augusta Board of Zoning Appeals to turn down the application. You may send email opposing the application to Sandra Bunch (Secretary),

The YouTube video below is a 20-second time lapse of a Rover Pipeline construction yard over a three year period, 2014-2017.