There’s something wrong with this picture

While I can understand the need to protect wetlands, there’s something wrong here:

Doug and Tammy Nicoll spoke at the hearing, arguing that they had been given permission in the 1990s to mow their lawn and were shown by inspectors where to cut. The board found them in violation anyway but did not order them to restore the grass or give them a fine. The board recommended that they stop mowing, adding that they could apply for a permit.

That’s right: the Nicolls had permission to mow:

During the same [1994] hearing, they were told they could mow, according to transcripts provided by the Nicolls, who obtained them under the Freedom of Information Act.

The transcript shows that a member of the city’s staff used a photograph to detail where the Nicolls could mow.

It also shows that [Cynthia] Hall, the [Norfolk Deputy] city attorney, attended the meeting but did not address the mowing issue. A permit for mowing was not mentioned.

At some point in the last 20 years, you’d think somebody would have advised the Nicolls that they needed a permit to mow their lawn.

My guess? The other folks did something that garnered the attention of the city’s wetlands board:

Deanne Pulliam and Patricia Yeiser were given 120 days to work together on a plan to update their properties to avoid future violations. They had also received notices for storing or installing recreational equipment in wetlands. The board will rule on their cases after the owners present the plan.

And the Nicolls were just caught up in the sweep. The current board probably just looked and saw that the Nicolls lacked a permit. I doubt they looked back at 20-year-old transcripts. But as soon as they became aware of them, they should have backed off and quietly asked the Nicolls to obtain a permit. Or just given them a permit.

A little honey goes a long way, folks.


2 thoughts on “There’s something wrong with this picture

  1. I saw this article. A few things jumped out at me. First it sounds like the city needs to do a better job of getting information about living near wetlands out. That aside. Rules always change. Just like building and zoning codes things change so to say I was allowed to build a garage 20 years ago so I can build one like that now would likely end you with a building violation.

    Also one of the ladies said she did not know there was a wetlands board. Again, I could build a house and say I did not know the city had a planning department and I needed a permit to build but that would not make the city let me build what ever I wanted.

    These people have been called in front of the board for years. At this point it might be beneficial to them to ask the wetlands staff what the requirements/restrictions are and get it in writing. Its hard to fight what is in writing however , again the laws change.

    Lastly, the paper and the people who commented on this story said the owners were mowing there lawn. It makes you in-vision the yard in front of your own house. Well I have never been on their property however, if this is wetlands grass (what ever percentage) that is different. Wetlands grass has strong roots but it is beneficial because it reduces shoreline erosion by the deep roots, absorbed excess nutrients in run off helping with pollution control, traps and removes sediment water which improves water quality and lastly is a habitat for wildlife.

    Also rules apply to wetlands shrubs for the same reason. There are regulations to how much you can trim and that you should not toss the cuttings in the wetlands. Lynnhaven River Now has a good page on it.

    The people did not pay the fines and they were waved. Which makes me think they likely have decided that is the best route. Instead of ask for permission ask for forgiveness its easier. Putting the max fines in the story is misleading as that is usually not the case in these situations. Since before they have not paid when even given a fine. See if the police department or building departments just wipe away your next ticket.

  2. What bothered me was the comments left by readers on the first run of the article. So much wrong information because people assume they know the rules and facts without ever bothering to research them. Some of these would scare people to not ask so I mention them.

    One person said You get a fine, you appeal to the wetlands board, they fine you again or sue you. You have no appeal. This is wrong. The wetlands board are not city employees they are an appointed board like your planning board. If you disagree with them you appeal to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Only if you lose at both and refuse to fix/stop/pay or what ever is requested could it go to court. The wetlands board layer added an extra layer for home owners / builders to appeal.

    Another said the City makes home owners stick to the rules but they themselves exempt there development. That happens in a lot of city’s sadly. Do as I say not as I do. However, new storm water regulations for the TMDL go in effect by the state in July. Hopefully, with the state watching that will stop.

    As you can see from the comments in the original story. People are strongly opinionated one way or another. A lot comes from misinformation and rapidly changing laws at the state tries to in-act rules to protect surrounding water ways and all home owners on the wetlands. I think this problem over the next 5 years will only get more heatedly discussed.

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