Bedford supervisors vote to change SML dock permit process

Property owners no longer have to get preapproval from AEP for a county permit.

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. – There are changes in Bedford County with regard to Smith Mountain Lake and dock permits.

County supervisors approved the permit processing change Monday night, but Appalachian Power isn't quite on board.

This is happening as some property owners around the lake sue American Electric Power over its shoreline management guidelines.

Lynn Barnes has lived on Smith Mountain Lake for about 20 years now. When he built his dock, a county permit was enough to break ground. But Appalachian Power's shoreline management plan, introduced a few years ago, changed that. And now, another change.

"We just made it so that if you want a building permit, you'll come to us apply for a building permit. It will be up to AEP about size, distance and square footage," said Curry Martin, with the Board of Supervisors, District 2. 

On Monday night, the Bedford County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance that removes the need for Appalachian Power's preapproval when the county approves a building permit for a dock. Supervisor Curry Martin said a smoother permit process was needed in Bedford County.

"That's the main reason for being on the lake is to have a dock and enjoy the recreation," said Martin. 

Back at Barnes' dock, the board's decision is a welcome one.

"We look to Bedford County to be our representative and to provide the property rights protection that we all deserve," said Barnes. 

So the story, and the courtroom cases, will continue. But for now, Bedford County can approve a building permit but Appalachian Power still has the final say on the details of the dock.

"I look back being here on the lake for almost 28 years, the quality of construction of homes and docks prior to the shoreline management plan was very high," said Barnes. 

Appalachian Power released a statement to WSLS about the decisions saying:

"Certainly we were disappointed by Bedford’s action last night. The issuance of a building permit by Bedford County is not a substitute for a Shoreline Management Plan permit from Appalachian Power. We strongly urge shoreline property owners to consult with our shoreline management team before starting any construction activities on Smith Mountain or Leesville lakes. The courts have consistently upheld the Appalachian SMP and the company’s property rights at the project. Virginia law provides that any county ordinance regarding docks must not conflict with the rights and responsibilities accorded the company in its federal license which incorporates the SMP."

To learn more about the Appalachian Power shoreline management plan, click here

To read about ongoing court cases between property owners and AEP, click here