In the decade following the settling of Jamestown, some 6,000 people were lured to the colony, many in hopes of becoming rich land owners. An emigrant able to pay his own way to the colony would get 50 acres — and another 50 for every head he brought with him. Eventually, the offer grew to 100 acres.
On the average over the next decade, Virginia is expected to gain about as many people every six weeks as it gained in its first decade.
Needless to say, they will not be getting 100 acres per head.
To the contrary, concern that rapid, uncontrolled growth is destroying forests, wetlands, farmland, endangered species habitat and adding pollution to the Bay has spawned a series of recent initiatives in various Bay states to protect wetlands, farms and trees.
Efforts to protect sensitive areas and reduce development-related pollution are now entering a new stage as Virginia and Maryland officials are taking serious looks at comprehensive statewide growth management initiatives.
In Maryland, sweeping legislation was introduced that would determine which areas of the state could be developed, and which would be protected. The General Assembly put off action on the package this year to allow further study, but the measure is expected to return in some form next year.
In Virginia, a 33-member panel established by the General Assembly has embarked on a multi-year study of growth related problems in the state and report what legislation may be needed.
Also this year, the Bay Program's Population Growth and Development Subcommittee is to review initiatives underway in each of the Bay states and report by the end of December what efforts remain.
This activity comes three years after a committee established by the Chesapeake Bay Program Executive Council reported that current growth trends in the Bay states "will slowly overtake gains being made in improving environmental quality."
The committee, known as the Year 2020 Panel, said in their report that "procedures currently being used throughout the Bay region for managing and providing for growth and development are inadequate."
By the year 2020, the panel noted, population in the Bay watershed will grow by 2.6 million, or 20 percent.
The Panel's report provided the prompting that led to the creation of study committees in both Maryland and Virginia.
"The purpose of our report was to get the states to move individually, and at least two of the three have," said Robert Gray, chairman of the Year 2020 Panel.
This movement does not come without controversy, however. Discussions of growth management raises questions about whether such programs infringe on the rights of property owners; how far the government can go in restricting use of private land for a perceived public benefit; and what level of government should address such issues.
The main environmental concern of growth is suburban sprawl. Low density development destroys farm land, removes forests, puts pressure on sensitive areas such as wetlands and animal habitats. In Maryland, for example, the present rate of development would mean that nearly 700,000 acres of farms and forests would be developed by the year 2020.
As land is paved for roads and parking lots, storm runoff into local waterways increases, and brings with it pollution swept from the streets. Air pollution increases as people drive further to work and to stores.
These concerns have gained increased attention in the Washington suburbs as people debate where — and if — a new bypass highway should be built around the nation's capital. Supporters say it would relieve congestion, critics say it would cause more sprawl.
Growth in population, sprawl and congestion have already raised questions as to whether the new Clean Air Act will reduce air pollution around the Bay, or just slow the rate at which some types of pollution grow. Emissions of nitrogen oxide from automobiles and power plants are thought to contribute roughly a quarter of the nitrogen entering the Bay. Nitrogen is one of the major nutrients that have contributed to the Bay's decline.
A Nonpoint Source Evaluation Panel which examined runoff pollution in the Bay watershed recently recommended that — among other things — growth management programs were needed to help contain sprawled development. The panel noted that urban and suburban land contribute greater nutrient loads, on a per acre basis, than other land uses.
Officials working with the Chesapeake Bay Program this year are taking a careful look at growth and land use and their impacts on the Bay as they carry out what is known as the 1991 re-evaluation. The project is examining whether the Bay states can meet a goal of reducing nutrient loads to the Bay by 40 percent by the turn of the century — and whether that is the proper goal to restore the Bay's diminished living resources.
"The 1990s provide a real sort of visionary opportunity to link these things that textbooks tell us are linked," said Robert Perciasepe, chairman of the 1991 Re-evaluation Workgroup. "You can read textbooks on nonpoint source pollution and they tell you land use. You read textbooks on air pollution and they tell you land use.
"We now have people saying that land use is a problem in general, so here's an opportunity over the next four or five years, if we can get into growth management in different states — and I'm confident that in some way or another we will — that the way that's done can really have a positive effect on some of these other pollution problems that we have."
Information about population growth and land use will also be fed into the sophisticated computer models being developed for use with the 1991 re-evaluation. Trends in population will directly affect land use, water consumption and sewage output — all factors for consideration when officials decide what strategies are needed to reduce nutrients, and how much they will cost, said Keith Buttleman, chairman of the Bay Program's Growth and Development Subcommittee which has been working for several months to pull this information together.
"What all of us can do...we can make it clear that the whole future of the Chesapeake Bay is linked to the population in the region and the growth we are expecting," Buttleman said. "We've got to address the effects of population growth."
Here's a look at some of the initiatives underway in the Bay states.
Maryland was the first to plunge into growth management with Gov. William Donald Schaefer appointing a Commission on Growth in the Chesapeake Bay Region which began meeting in October 1989. The 32-member commission was chaired by former U.S. Rep. Michael D. Barnes and contained representatives from state and local governments, business, agriculture, developers, forestry and others.
- A bill based on the commission's recommendations, the Maryland Growth and Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, was introduced into the General Assembly in January. The bill was designed to protect sensitive areas and limit suburban sprawl by directing future development to growth areas which would have higher density development.
- The bill drew opposition from the state Chamber of Commerce, developers, the state Farm Bureau and many local government officials. Critics charged the bill was too far reaching and would have usurped the authority of local governments to manage development.
- Under the proposed law, local jurisdictions would classify all their land into one of four categories:
- Already developed areas, which are the state's older urban areas and developed suburbs, but which may have some opportunities for infill and redevelopment.
- Designated growth areas, which are adjacent to existing developed areas or in areas specifically designated as suitable for new growth.
- Rural and Resource Areas, which would be all areas that do not fall into the other two categories. Development would be limited to one unit per 20 acres. Exceptions could be made in some cases in Rural and Resource Areas, primarily for people who had plans before the law was to take effect.
- Sensitive areas which would be protected from development. These include critical habitat for endangered species; steep slopes of 25 percent or more that cover at least 5,000 square feet; buffer strips of 50 to 100 feet along streams; and floodplains. Among the highlights of the proposed legislation:
The bill would have been phased in over a period of years to allow regulations to be crafted that would spell out specifics of the land classification process. The law, for example, does not spell out housing density levels that would be sought in growth areas.
Such regulations would be written over an 18-month period, then go through the state's normal regulatory review process. After the regulations were adopted, local governments would have 18 months to submit land use plans to the state which conform with the regulations. They would have another 18 months to bring zoning ordinances, subdivision regulations, zoning maps, site review ordinances and other land use regulations into conformance. The whole program probably would not have been operating until 1996.
Between the passage of the law and the time the full growth management program was put into place, land would be managed under an interim program. The interim program would have categories much as the final program, but would be based on zoning maps and sewer plans that already exist.
The legislation would also have set up an appeals process for landowners. It called upon the state to make planning grants available to local governments, and to create a Growth and Infrastructure Fund to help finance infrastructure improvements in designated growth areas.
While it does not have legislation on the table as does Maryland, growth management issues have received top-level attention in Virginia for years. In 1984, for example, the Governor's Commission on Virginia's Future said the state needed to plan for economic development while exercising wise stewardship of natural resources.
In September 1989, representatives of government, business, agriculture, environmental groups and others gathered at a conference in Williamsburg to offer guidance on potential legislation. Conference participants grappled with possible solutions to key growth management questions: What legislative changes are needed to deal with growth? Who should pay for infrastructure, how should growth be spread through the state? How could resource-based industries be protected from growth? And how Virginians could be encouraged to accept changes required to manage growth?
Today, those questions and potential solutions are being dealt with by the 33-member Virginia Commission on Population Growth and Development being chaired by Delegate W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr.
The commission was created by the legislature in 1990 following an initial review of the issue by a committee in 1989. The new commission has a five-year life during which it will undertake a more detailed review of the issues and make recommendations for potential legislation.
The commission recently divided itself into three committees to study issues and potential solutions. A Resource Committee will investigate ways of defining and protecting natural, cultural and historic resources. A Finance Committee will study issues such as the use of fees, taxes and incentives to influence plans. A Governance Committee will study issues such as defining the state, local and regional roles in growth management planning and implementation.
While the committee work goes on, the commission plans to conduct a series of meetings across the state to present information about the commission's work and receive input from the public.
At this point, there is no central effort looking at statewide growth management, though several related efforts are underway. The state House of Representatives last year formed a special committee to look at growth issues across the state. The committee held a series of hearings, but did not complete a report before the end of the legislative session. A new committee is expected to be formed soon to resume the task and possibly make recommendations for legislation.
In other efforts, the state Department of Community Affairs, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Environment Council, is conducting a series of growth management workshops for local governments as well as preparing a growth management manual.
Also, after several years of extinction, the State Planning Board was revived by the General Assembly last year, although members have not yet been confirmed by the Senate. Recent legislation also required counties to develop comprehensive plans, though counties have only an advisory role in zoning decisions made by townships.
Trying to solve mounting problems at the regional level, a task force of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is seeking support in the capital area for a binding compact under which cities and counties would establish general transportation, land use and environmental goals. A draft report from a 30 member task force representing the district, local governments in Virginia and Maryland, federal agencies, regional transit and airport authorities, and the public and private sector, was completed at the end of 1990 and is now being revised. A final report is expected in June.
Visions of the future
TheYear 2020 Panel reported to the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council in December 1988 that it was 'dismayed' by the lack of comprehensive planning in the Bay states. It offered six linked 'visions' to guide future actions.
Vision I: Development is concentrated in suitable areas.
Vision II: Sensitive areas are protected.
Vision III: Growth is directed to existing population centers in rural areas and resource areas are protected.
Vision IV: Stewardship of the Bay and the land is a universal ethic
Vision V: Conservation of resources, including a reduction in resource consumption, is practiced throughout the region.
Vision VI: Funding mechanisms are in place to achieve all other visions.