Northampton curbs off-site wetlands mitigation banks

March 15, 2023
Exmore Wetlands Mitigation Bank

The Northampton Board of Supervisors took action on a plan to curb the installation of compensatory wetlands mitigation banks within the County to offset off-site development projects at their regular monthly board meeting Tuesday night over the objections of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and their lawyers.

The County had been discussing action for months after the Nature Conservancy bought at 28 acre field south of Exmore and turned it into non-tidal wetlands. The project will yield $1.8 million in mitigation credits to the Nature Conservancy to sell to companies who develop land in non-tidal wetlands areas in the same watershed to off set their disturbance. Planning Administrator Susan McGhee informed the board at their December meeting that any development on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay could be mitigated on an Eastern Shore bayside farm.

Jay Ford, the Policy Advisor for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, spoke to the board during the citizens comment period and said his organization had concerns.

“There is a concern that this action would set a precedent that would undermine the mitigation program writ large,” said Ford. “I would ask the board not move forward at this time, but ask that you send a letter to the DEQ(Virginia Department of Environmental Quality)… DEQ can answer any questions you might have.”

Ford’s comments were echoed by Shannon Varney, a lawyer who represented mitigation bank operations.

The Board was unswayed.

Supervisor Dixon Leatherbury made two motions, the first to only allow off-site compensatory mitigation for development projects within Northampton County with a major special use permit. This passed on a 4-1 vote, with the nay vote coming from Supervisor Oliver Bennett, who commented he didn’t want these projects to occur at all in Northampton.

The second vote was regarding wildlife impoundments. The board voted to continue to allow their use by right, but not for mitigation purposes. This also passed on a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Bennett again voting in the negative.

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