Virginia Coastal Program: 2008 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:

2.02

Grantee:

Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission

Project Title:

Law and Policy Regarding Floating Homes

Project Description as Proposed:

As the Middle Peninsula continues to transition from a less rural to a more suburban community, public policies that currently serve as management tools for near-shore land, public water bodies, and water use rights and privileges must adapt. Conflicts are becoming increasingly common between waterfront property owners, watermen, boaters, recreational fishermen, sportsmen, aquaculture industries, and others seeking to use the Commonwealth’s water resources. In response to this transition, the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission (MPPDC) and its member localities, in partnership with Virginia Sea Grants’ Coastal Community Development Program and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Coastal Zone Management Program, undertook a study to enable local governments to identify and determine the issues and conflicts that are affecting the waterfront #NA07NOS4190178 Task 93.01. This project proposes to address one outstanding issue from task 93.01.

This project will form a study committee to consider the policy implications of floating homes from a local government perspective. There has been a noticeable increase in some coastal areas of people living on “boats” that are more like floating homes than traditional boats. The floating homes can cause serious problems for adjacent landowners, other water users, and the provision of local government services. The study committee will address:

What is a floating home
When should local government become concerned about management issues
What public services should or could be required
How might these homes be taxed
Definition of transience
Discussion of visual appealing versus visually appalling
Use of zoning as a tool to manage areas of moorage
Recommendations for a policy to restrict floating homes in Gloucester County

Federal Funding:

$9,000

Project Contact:

Lewie Lawrence, (804) 758-2311; llawrence@mppdc.com

Project Status:

12/1/2009 - 9/30/2010: Project Completed

Final Product Received:

A Planning Report: Law and Policy Regarding Floating Homes Oct 1, 2008 - Sept 30, 2009 (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

As the Middle Peninsula continues to transition from a less rural to more suburban community, public policies that currently serve as management tools for near-shore land, public water bodies, and water use rights and privileges must adapt. Conflicts are becoming increasingly common between waterfront property owners, watermen, boaters, recreational fishermen, sportsmen, aquaculture industries, and others seeking to use the Commonwealth’s water resources. As a coastal region, there is a new emerging coastal issue stemming from an increase of people living on “boats” that are more like floating homes/structures than traditional boats. Therefore to respond to this issue, the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission (MPPDC) undertook a study to enable local governments to identify and determine the issues and conflicts that are associated with floating structures and coastal governance.

To consider the policy implications of floating structures from a local government perspective, as well as from the perspective of stakeholders, industry and the citizens of the Middle Peninsula Region, a Floating Home Study Committee was created in Spring 2010. Consisting of representatives from Essex, Gloucester, King & Queen, Mathews and Middlesex Counties, the Committee worked to develop recommendations as to how localities may want to consider managing floating structures and their associated uses. In order to supplement the Committee’s knowledge of floating structures, MPPDC staff performed research of local policy language related to floating homes and similar policies from the Middle Peninsula localities, other locations in Virginia, and throughout the United States. Additionally in partnership with the National Sea Grant Law Center, a comprehensive report was developed to focus on approaches that other states and localities across the nation have taken to regulate and manage floating homes within their respective jurisdictions. This document also helped to evaluate how local governments in Virginia might regulate floating homes. Providing definitions of floating homes/structures, to taxation impaction of these structures to addressing local government authority, this report was used as supplementary information and research for the Floating Homes Steering Committee to consider in developing policy recommendations localities in the Middle Peninsula.
 
Over the course of four meetings, the Committee recommended that before deciding how to manage or regulate floating structure, the “use” must be define or classified. The Committee developed three classifications: (1) marine moorage, (2) private pier moorage, and (3) random moorage along waterfront. The Committee also recommended that a locality should then decide where floating structures should be moored (ie. at a marina, near a marina, or a floating home subdivision). Finally the Committee recommended the use of four policy tools to manage floating structures depending on how proactive, or reactive, the county wanted to be with regards to this issue. Policy tools include the establishment of a pass-through zone and mooring zones; public mooring areas; no discharge zones; and/or requiring floating structure pump-out plans. Ultimately however the Committee felt strongly that a locality’s position on floating structures be clearly articulated in the County’s Comprehensive Plan and the appropriate policies should coincide with the community’s desired approach. 
 
Recommendations and information gather through this project will published in the next outreach effort by Virginia Sea Grant/VIMS Advisory Services in order to assist in the future management of floating structure in other coastal regions.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email: Laura.McKay@deq.virginia.gov

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to Virginia.Witmer@deq.virginia.gov

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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