October 22, 2012
Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Citizens for Stumpy Lake Appeal Chesapeake Wetlands Decision
(RICHMOND, VA)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and Citizens for Stumpy Lake (CSL) have appealed a Richmond Circuit Court judge's final ruling in a wetland permitting dispute dating from 2003.
That's when CBF and CSL challenged a State Water Control Board decision granting Tri-City Properties, a Virginia Beach development company, a state permit to destroy a huge tract of protected nontidal wetlands in Chesapeake, Va.—181 acres as the United States Army Corps of Engineers concluded. Tri-City sought the permit to develop a massive residential and commercial development immediately adjacent to the Stumpy Lake Nature Preserve in Virginia Beach.
After years of litigation over technical issues (the case went to the Virginia Court of Appeals twice and once to the state Supreme Court), Richmond Circuit Court Judge Margaret P. Spencer summarily upheld the Water Board's action. Her ruling, which became final on September 20, 2012, provided little indication of the court's reasoning. CBF and CSL have long argued that the permit violated Virginia's nontidal wetland protection law by failing to require Tri-City to avoid and minimize wetland losses.
Regardless of the Richmond court's decision, the project is unlikely to proceed according to the original plan. The Army Corps refused to issue the necessary federal permit for the same project Tri-City requested in the state permit. The Corps specifically disagreed with the Water Board, concluding that the wetlands delineation accepted by the Department of Environmental Quality for the development was inaccurate and that Tri-city had failed to demonstrate the absence of practicable, less environmentally damaging alternatives.
CBF and CSL are appealing the Richmond court decision because the Water Board has refused to correct or withdraw the permit, suggesting that it could follow the same approach with other projects. The appeal was filed Friday (Oct. 19, 2012) in the Virginia Court of Appeals in Richmond.