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Building a Better Code

On December 12, 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to update its Wetland Conservation Areas Ordinance to strengthen protection of valuable wetlands and surface waters, make permitting processes more streamlined, predictable, and consistent for applicants, and ensure that natural resource protections are balanced with property rights.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why are we updating the Wetlands Conservation Ordinance?

Building a sustainable and prosperous community requires a state-of-the-art regulatory framework for development, particularly with respect to Orange County’s environmentally sensitive areas. The current Wetland Conservation Ordinance, Chapter 15, Article X, was created 35 years ago and has not been substantially modified since then. The goals are to protect high-priority wetlands, make the permitting process and outcomes more streamlined, predictable and consistent, and ensure that natural resource protections are balanced with property rights.

What are wetlands and why are they important?

Wetlands are often called the earth’s kidneys because they filter pollutants from the water that flows through them. In addition, they act as giant sponges, capturing large amounts of rainwater and releasing it at a slower rate, thus protecting us from flooding. Finally, these delicate environments are habitats for a stunning diversity of plant and animal species.

Is preserving wetlands cost effective?

Yes. Think of wetlands as natural infrastructure. Keeping wetlands intact saves taxpayer dollars that would otherwise need to be spent on expensive “gray infrastructure” projects like stormwater treatment systems, flood controls, pollution removal systems and storm recovery efforts.