HAMPTON, Va. (WVEC) -- Hampton City Council is hoping to add some flexibility to home-buyers and home-builders who are impacted by Chesapeake Bay buffer zones.

The buffer zones, which are mandated by the state's Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, require natural vegetation remain in areas up to 200 feet from certain waterways. The vegetation is mean to help filter out pollution and lead to an overall cleaner Chesapeake Bay.

One neighborhood development, Firefly Lane, has encountered issues with the buffer zones, leading to virtually no side or backyards for some new homes.

The City of Hampton said newly approved regulations would:

  • Add a 20-foot “special green zone” to ensure that lots allow for some backyard space. (Natural vegetation in the Chesapeake Bay buffer zones cannot be mowed or exchanged for a lawn.)
  • Amend setback requirements for lots if that green zone makes it impossible to build. Those would allow homes on these lots to be built a little closer to the street and the lot lines — dropping the front setback from 30 feet to 15 feet.
  • Allow a simpler process for exemptions to the Act that are permitted by the state. Those requests for permitted encroachments, which are under law required to be granted, will have a staff review rather than a full board approval.
  • Applications for other types of exceptions would now go to the Board of Zoning Appeals, rather than the Chesapeake Bay Review Committee.