At the October 4th County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, Wildlife Management LLC petitioned for an exception for 6011 Martins Landing Road, which is zoned Working Waterfront. Currently there is a 1,458 sq. ft. single-family dwelling and a 1,855 sq. ft. aquaculture storage building at that location. The request calls for new encroachments into the buffer of 1,969 sq. ft. but does not include the dwelling’s existing porches. There already exists a 1,855 sq. ft. aquaculture storage building which was permitted both as redevelopment and a water dependent facility through zoning clearance and waiver. The new request proposes to connect the single-family dwelling by a 114 sq. ft. elevated breezeway (catwalk) and convert the 2nd floor of the aquaculture storage building as an addition to the single-family dwelling. That addition will contain bedrooms and bathroom(s). The BZA approved the exception request with the staff’s recommended conditions, which included additional water quality controls, silt fencing, removal of unnecessary impervious surfaces, permanent seeding of denuded areas and additional mitigation planting. It must also comply with the Virginia Health Department, NHCO Floodplain Management and NHCO Building Code regulations before issuance of a building permit.
While the exception is permitted by Code of Virginia § 15.2-2307, there does not appear to have been a residential use on this property prior to the current owner coming. The current zoning ordinance also does not appear to allow for residential use:
Pg 39 of 240, Working waterfront use has NO RESIDENTIAL USE permitted.
WORKING WATERFRONT USES, STRUCTURES AND BUILDINGS. Commercial and public uses that depend upon water to function and are located on, over or adjacent to or have direct access to a body of water such as, but not limited to, fishing, aquaculture, docks, wharfs, boat ramps, marinas, marine transportation, shipping, ports, harbors, as opposed to a use that may be enhanced by water such as, but not limited to, restaurants and housing.
Pg. 75 of 240, NO RESIDENTIAL USE indicated
Pg. 76 of 240, Working Waterfront Chart, Top line, Dwelling Units/Ac “NOT APPLICABLE”
Maximum Density – Dwelling unit(s) per Acre(s)
(sfd = single family dwelling) (mfd = multi-family dwelling)
Pg. 76 of 240, WW Chart, Line 8, “Accessory Dwelling Unit Setbacks” If there are “NO DWELLING UNITS” why is there any discussion on Accessory Dwelling Units.
Critics argue that the county has overstepped, ignoring clear prohibitions in the Zoning Ordinance with regard to building and residential uses at or along the waterfront. In the case of this property, there has never been a residential use prior to the applicant coming to the area, and the request to include the existing unpermitted single-family porches so as to permit these encroachments as after-the-fact is inappropriate. Opponents also argue that this approval opens the door to residential development along the working waterfront. There has been a push for limited residential in the past coached within the term “live/work”. The apparent impetuous is to have a place for workers to sleep and eat that is closer to “work”.
Critics argue that “live/work” is merely a guise for more commercial development along working waterfront districts. Precedents set by the courts which tend to apply a “free use” doctrine take a dim view of attempts to restrict what you can and cannot do once you use the words “residential”—that is unless you explicitly set restrictive uses. Once anyone sets up house along the working waterfront, condos and developments may not be far behind.
On page 22 of the General Provisions, the current definition of “live/work unit” is:
“LIVE/WORK UNIT. A structure which must include a
residential dwelling unit but which may also include a
commercial or business use operated by the owner/tenant. All
uses must be allowed in the district in which the unit is
For working waterman and folks in the aquaculture industry, the ambiguity of the “live/work” language is disconcerting. What effect new residential areas will have on the ability for commercial waterman to conduct business is still a question. Whether the ordinance’s language for working waterfront is restrictive enough to adequately protect sensitive areas that are regularly flooded and generally unsuitable for residential use, is also an open question.
Critics have told the Mirror that they are concerned that property and citizen rights, as well county code is being trampled under to make way for economic development that will only benefit a few while causing detrimental effects for the majority of county residents. If Pandora ’s Box has been opened here, and there will be no control on building along sensitive areas of the waterfront, the detrimental effects on the environment, aquaculture and tourism could be hard to overcome.