Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:


Planning Commission


July 14, 2005

Staff Lead:



W. Todd Benson, Assistant Zoning Administrator


Community Development



A Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to Section 2-308.4 to Eliminate Density Credit for Floodplain


Topic Description:


Section 2-308.4 of the Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance allows a fifty percent density credit for land located within the 100-year floodplain for residential zoning districts.  The proposed amendment eliminates all density credit for floodplain in the residential zoning districts.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:


Hold a work session and consider adoption of the attached Ordinance.

Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted. 


Summary Staff Report:


At issue is a reduction of density - a cessation in the transfer of density credits from unbuildable floodplains to adjacent land.  For many years, the Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance has prohibited development in floodplains and further required homes to be set back 25 feet from the floodplain boundary.  In all but the RA and RC zones, the County also has allowed a developer a 50% density credit transferable to his non-floodplain lands.  At issue, is the 50% credit.  The proposed text amendment would eliminate the transferred density credit in all residential zoning districts.


It is important to note that this Ordinance has no impact on allowed uses of land and this Ordinance will not affect a lot which is otherwise buildable today; buildable lots are  grandfathered by § 2-403.  Thus, for example, if the Carberrys (who spoke at the last public hearing) have 32 buildable lots platted, this amendment will not affect them.


Authority for this action is found in the Virginia Code which allows localities to regulate density and protect water quality and further mandates that localities draw their Ordinances with an eye toward preventing loss of life and property due to floods.


On August 26, 2004, the Planning Commission voted to initiate the text amendment and schedule a public hearing.  On December 8, 2004, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on the proposed text amendment and unanimously voted to forward the text amendment to the Board of Supervisors with the recommendation that it be adopted. On January 13, 2005, the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing.  With few exceptions, there was wide public support for the proposal. Nevertheless, the Board remanded this matter to the Planning Commission for more investigation and community planning.  On January 27, 2005, the Planning Commission again initiated a text amendment process and scheduled the public hearing for March 31, 2005.    Again, the Planning Commission forwarded it to the Board of Supervisors with a unanimous vote for adoption.  The Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on May 12, 2005.  The public hearing was closed but no action has been taken.


Various issues have been raised and considered during the many months that this proposal has been under consideration.  Most recently, the issue was raised about the impact of the proposed ordinance on the sale of or tax benefits derived from conservation easements.  There is no question that the ordinance will have an effect of the paper value of land since potential lots from the floodplain will be lost.  However, the proposed ordinance only affects floodplain density in residential districts.  Traditionally, this is not where easements are established.


For purposes of discussion, maps of various floodplain properties are attached to this report.


The staff notes that a grandfather provision has been inserted as follows: “[T]his Ordinance shall not apply to: 1) unexpired preliminary plats which were approved prior to the adoption of this Ordinance; 2) previously approved rezonings for which a specific density was proffered; 3) pending preliminary plat applications; and, 4) property which, on the date of approval of this Ordinance, is the subject of a pending request to the Zoning Administrator to determine the credit afforded by floodplain.”


Staff is unclear to what the fourth clause refers.  At present, there is not a process for processing “request to the Zoning Administrator to determine the credit afforded by floodplain.”  Floodplain credit and non-buildable areas are considered during site plan review; a process covered by the third grandfather clause.  Nor does staff make such determinations when responding to requests for subdivision potential.  When subdivision potentials are done, staff does not take deductions for steep slopes or water bodies or roads or the 50% for floodplains today.  Staff opines on the maximum potential lots without these deductions, and tells people this number may be reduced by the required deductions.  Staff envisions no change in the way it does subdivision potential analysis after this ordinance is adopted. Someone today with 5 acres of R-1 zoned land, with 50% of their lot in floodplain, would be told that the maximum potential density is 4 lots, but that this number may be reduced by a number of factors, including whether there is floodplain on the property.  Someone after the ordinance change asking the same question would get the same answer.


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


Department of Community Development

Development Community

Property Owners




  1. Proposed Text Amendment
  2. Parcel Maps