2nd Notice of Violation Issued
Richard Moncure, FOR’s Tidal River Steward, spoke to the Richmond County Board of Supervisors (BOS) again, this morning. Since bringing the violation to the attention of Richmond County Staff and Supervisors last fall, Friends of the Rappahannock have been actively involved in making sure damage to the site is remediated and that future phases of the project are done with the appropriate permits from the appropriate permitting authorities.
This is the fifth month in a row FOR has spoken to the Richmond County BOS. In addition we have had countless conversations with county staff, owners and representatives of Virginia True, our partners and citizens of Richmond County.
For more than 150 days FOR has been urging action by the county and compliance by Virginia True. Last week, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a second notice of violation for stormwater compliance to Virginia True Corporation, the Fones Cliffs developer. The first Notice of Violation from DEQ, dated Feb. 15, came after developers illegally cleared 13.5 acres of forest last fall. Since then developers have not taken required steps to address the damage, which led to the second violation notice on April 4.
Meanwhile, Richmond County officials finally approved an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan for 13.5 acres cleared area. More than 150 days after illegal land disturbing began the county is still working with the developer to finish ‘housekeeping items’ to address in the paperwork for the plan. Those items include a bonding strategy and a decision on a permitted responsible land disturber.
FOR staff has heard from a lot of people on this issue. They represent a broad range of visions for this property from 5-star resort (the owners) to wildlife conservation (not the owners). At FOR we respect the land owner’s right to develop their property in accordance with the county approved zoning. However, that assumes compliance with appropriate State environmental regulations, local ordinances and proffers offered by the developer and accepted by the county.
“The County and the developing parties agreed to proffers that can help provide guidance so that this project can avoid these circumstances in the future. Richmond County needs to utilize the tools they have provided to make sure this project doesn’t continue to be a cost to Richmond County and the Rappahannock River.” – Richard Moncure
Friends of the Rappahannock will continue to keep an Eagle Eye on developments at Fones Cliffs and push all parties to honoring commitments to protect water quality.
FOR staff remains in contact with all parties with a ‘seat at the table’. In a recent letter to the Board of Supervisors (Feb 7th with 50 pages of supporting documentation), FOR urged the county to get the Virginia True project into compliance as quickly as possible for the current land disturbing activity so that the 13.4 acres cleared site can be stabilized to minimize runoff and erosion before any additional work is started.
Within the past month, Richmond County and VA DEQ have held Virginia True to a relatively short leash and progress towards compliance is slowly being made. FOR will continue working with Richmond County, VA DEQ and representatives of the Virginia True Corporation to get the project back into compliance and keep it there for the balance of the project. If this project damages the river during its construction it obviously does not serve the best interest of the river, but neither does it serve the interests of developer, the county or the region in support of tourism to an important ecological and historical resource located in Richmond County, Virginia.
Fones Cliffs is a unique piece of the Rappahannock River Watershed that is an important ecological and historical resource located in Richmond County, Virginia.
Initial development interests in the property centered around potential mining of diatomaceous earth, and harvesting the timber. A rezoning approval by the Richmond County Board of Supervisors in October of 2015 allowed the development of a golf course, spa and resort on the cliffs.
Unfortunately, the very first steps taken by the developer, Virginia True Corporation, were taken without any County permits for land disturbance or State permits for stormwater management. Virginia True Corporation illegally cleared 13.4 acres in October and November of 2017 before Friends of the Rappahannock became aware of the situation and notified Richmond County staff. On November 30, 2017, after an initial site inspection, Richmond County issued a Stop Work Order to Virginia True Corporation.
Since the first calls made by by FOR staff to Richmond County staff and supervisors in mid-November, our staff have provided additional information and voiced our concerns in two letters to the Board and public comments at each of the monthly Board of Supervisors meetings held in the intervening months.
In our most recent letter to the Board of Supervisors, on Feb 7th with 50 pages (hyperlink to the letter) of supporting documentation, FOR urged the county to:
- Attain the compliance of Virginia True as quickly as possible for the current land disturbing activity (this means getting the site stabilized to prevent erosion from stormwater and obtaining all necessary erosion and sediment control approvals, land disturbance permits and stormwater permits from the County and the State.
- Obtain a complete and current Conceptual Plan for the full 964-acre site and a complete Phase II submission for at least Section 1 of the Virginia True project so the County and the State can make ensure that appropriate environmental controls are in place prior to any land disturbance activities.
- Make Virginia True adhere to the Proffer Statements accepted as part of the rezoning approval so that all appropriate geotechnical studies and any design strategy to stabilize the cliffs will be advanced before land disturbance so that setbacks can be established in the overall master plan.
FOR is appreciative of the efforts Richmond County and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VA DEQ) have made to hold Virginia True to a relatively short leash. Progress towards compliance is slowly being made.
- The county set a timeline for the completion of certain tasks focused on attaining compliance for the 13.4 acres cleared without approvals and permits (and stormwater management in place). On March 2, 2018 representatives from Virginia True Corporation submitted an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan for the 13.4 acres to Richmond County that is pending approval.
- VA DEQ has given Virginia True until March 15, 2018 to submit plans for stormwater management on the disturbed 13.4 acres. Meanwhile, VA DEQ has also issued a Notice of Violation to Virginia True Corporation and has initiated penalty negotiations.
Virginia True Corporation illegally broke ground on this project more than 150 days ago, and the project is still not in compliance (although the corporation is finally making moves in the right direction). We hope that Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s move towards enforcement action will help provide the motivation for Virginia True to get the project back into compliance..
FOR will continue working with Richmond County, VA DEQ and representatives of the Virginia True Corporation to get the project back into compliance and keep it in compliance for the balance of the project.