Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

R. Holder Trumbo, Jr., Scott District Supervisor


January 14, 2010


Staff Lead:


Kimberley Johnson, Zoning Administrator


Community Development



A Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to Section 4-400 To Add and Clarify Permitted Uses in the Floodplain


Topic Description: 

The proposed text amendment primarily seeks to clarify existing regulations on permitted uses in the floodplain, based on longstanding administrative practices.   The amendment does also make some substantive changes, allowing certain recreational and agricultural structures within the floodplain as a permitted use rather than a special exception use.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

Conduct a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached Ordinance.


Staff Report:

Over the last several years, two major text amendments related to floodplain have been initiated and considered by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, but each have ultimately been tabled with no consensus reached on the major issues raised by these amendments, to include redevelopment in the floodplain, floodplain relocation and/or channelization; procedures related to wetland banking in the floodplain; and increased requirements for floodplain studies. 

Each of these text amendments also included relatively minor changes to the floodplain regulations which staff sought in order to clarify and simplify the application of the floodplain Ordinance.  This text amendment seeks to separate these minor issues from the more controversial ones, in the hopes that these minor issues can be resolved while discussion continues on the broader issues raised by the earlier text amendments.

Each of the changes proposed by this text amendment is summarized below.

Section 4-405 sets forth the uses that are permitted in the floodplain district (by-right).    The following changes have been proposed to this section:

  • A reference has been added to the standards in 4-407 to help users of the Ordinance more clearly understand that the limitations of 4-407 apply to permitted uses. 
  • The current language that states no structures are allowed with any of the uses has been changed to state that structures are allowed where specifically authorized as part of the listed use.  This change rectifies an existing contradiction in the regulations, some of the uses listed as permitted necessarily require structures.  For example, private streets are currently allowed by-right if serving no more than three lots; however, such streets cannot be built without some structure for crossing the floodplain, and such structure has always been allowed despite the apparent prohibition in the Ordinance against structures.
  • Open fences have been added as a permitted structure with agricultural uses.  Such fences have historically been allowed, despite the existing language which appears to prohibit all such structures.
  • Agricultural mills have been added as a permitted building in conjunction with agricultural use, with only the waterwheel itself allowed in the floodplain.   This change is proposed in conjunction with a specific situation where a small grist mill was built adjacent to the pond, with the building outside the floodplain but the water wheel and its support within the floodplain.  There seems to be little policy value to requiring a special exception in this case.
  • Agricultural ponds have been added as a permitted use.   This is a substantive change, as currently all ponds are taken through the special exception process.   The Planning Commission deleted this proposed change from its recommended version.  The Commission felt that the special exception process had allowed conditions requiring best management practices on such ponds, important for mitigating potential environmental impacts of ponds in the floodplain. 
  • Trails, including footbridges; open buildings such as pavilions and gazebos; open fences; and recreational structures such as play equipment, picnic benches, etc. have been added as permitted structures for recreational and open space uses.  Such features have often been allowed by-right, despite the existing language which appears to prohibit all such structures.
  • As noted earlier, language has been added clarifying that the structures necessary for a street serving up to three lots is allowed as part of the permitted use.
  • Improvements to existing public streets have been added as a permitted use.  This is a substantive change, as such improvements currently require special exception approval.
  • Underground public and private utilities (except wells, which are specifically prohibited by the County Code) have been added as a permitted use.  While the existing language of the Ordinance would appear to require a special exception for such uses, they have often been allowed in the past as permitted uses. 

Section 4-406 sets forth uses allowed with approval of a special exception.   No change is proposed to this section except to clarify the shift of public street improvements to the permitted section.

Staff would note that for all by-right and special exception uses, the standards for approval continue to be the same, and in both cases applicants must demonstrate through technical analysis that no increase in flooding will occur off-site.


The Board of Supervisors initiated the text amendment on October 10, 2009.   On December 9, 2009, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on the text amendment and unanimously recommended approval of the revised version of the amendment.


Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted.

Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Property Owners

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