Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Planning Commission


October 11, 2007

Staff Lead:


Kimberley Johnson, Zoning Administrator


Community Development



A Work Session to Discuss a Proposed Text Amendment to Article 4, Part 4 and Section 5-904 of the Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance and Sections 15-300, and 3-323 Pertaining to Floodplain Overlay Districts


Topic Description: 

The main purpose of the proposed amendment is to update this twenty-year old section of the Zoning Ordinance.  Many of the proposed changes are not substantive in nature, but rather seek to provide clarification to existing regulations based on longstanding administrative practices.  The substantive changes are detailed in the summary staff report below; among other things, these amendments provide a mechanism for requiring new floodplain delineations when the FEMA defined floodplain does not conform with readily available and acceptable topography of a subject site, adds and eliminates certain uses by right in Floodplain Overlay Districts, and adds and eliminates certain uses allowed by special exception.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

Conduct a work session.


Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted.


Summary Staff Report:

This proposed text amendment was initiated by the Planning Commission on July 27, 2006. On August 31, 2006, the Planning Commission conducted a public hearing, closed the public hearing, and continued this matter until the next meeting of the Planning Commission. In order to deal with issues concerning use of lead shot at skeet and trap ranges, a new section, 5-904, was added.  Accordingly, the Planning Commission re-initiated this text amendment on September 28, 2006. On October 28, 2006, after conducting a public hearing, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended adoption to the Board of Supervisors.  On December 14, 2006, the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on the proposed text amendment and, after closing the public hearing, voted to delay action on the amendment for up to 120 days.  The deferral was made in response to requests by representatives of the Airlie Foundation and Center for additional time to study the impacts of the ordinance on their future plans.  The Airlie representatives have subsequently indicated to staff that they have no objection to the amendment now moving forward.   Because so much time has passed since the public hearing, staff is bringing the text amendment back to the Board in a work session so that we can review the proposed changes again with the Board.

The proposed changes to the floodplain regulations are shown in the attached proposed ordinance, with additions highlighted in bold-underline and deletions struck through.  These changes are listed and discussed below, by code section. In addition, after Planning Commission action, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation suggested changes.  These changes are shown in bold italics.


Section 4-401 is amended to include in the purpose that the regulations, among other things, are designed to prevent compromise of the hydraulic and flood carrying capacities of the floodplains.

Section 4-402 makes no substantive change, but incorporates language intended to more clearly denote that the basis for the floodplain delineation is the FEMA maps, rather than referring to a definition in another part of the ordinance.

Section 4-403 authorizes the Zoning Administrator, in consultation with the County Engineer, to make necessary interpretations as to the exact location of the boundaries of floodplains if there appears to be a conflict between the mapped floodplain boundary, elevations and actual physical conditions.   The existing ordinance states that the FEMA maps shall be the basis for delineation of the location of the floodplain boundaries but also states that the Zoning Administrator may make the decision as to the exact location of boundaries based on best available data.  The revised language seeks to reconcile these two divergent regulations, clarifying that the FEMA maps provide the general boundaries, but that these can be adjusted by the Zoning Administrator.   The purpose of this change and the change to Section 4-403 is to return the Zoning Administrator to making minor field adjustments, as appropriate. Section 4-404 is a significant change.  It authorizes the Administrator to request floodplain studies in cases where the FEMA defined floodplain does not conform to readily available and acceptable topography of a subject site. These studies can be time consuming and expensive.  On the other hand, individuals sometimes proceed with existing floodplain boundaries even where it is clear that such boundaries are meaningless, as our ordinance allows this.  The purpose of this change is to secure more accurate data on which to base development review, in cases where there seems to be a significant potential issue.

Section 4-405 sets forth permitted uses in the floodplain. It authorizes the existing practice of allowing open fences and underground utilities within the floodplain. It also allows improvements to existing roads. It also allows for the creation of constructed wetlands and other similar mitigation projects. Accessory commercial and industrial uses are moved from the permitted uses to special exception uses.  The changes also clarify that some of these permitted uses may involve structures (such as culverts for driveways or fences), provided that in any case where such a structure is built, an assessment is done as part of the zoning permit to demonstrate that the floodplain is not negatively impacted.

Section 4-406 sets forth uses requiring a special exception in the floodplain; the changes are minor except for changing accessory industrial and commercial uses to a special exception use.

Section 4-407 delineates certain limitations on uses in the floodplain.  Subsection three provides:  “Under no circumstances shall any use, activity, and/or development adversely affect the capacity or configuration of the channels or floodways floodplains of any watercourse, drainage ditch or any other drainage facility or system which would increase flood heights and/or velocities on other parcels or alter the configuration of the stream channel in upstream or downstream locations.It is inherent in the floodplain regulatory program that floodplain regulations are designed to protect downstream parcels.  For unknown reasons, Fauquier County Engineering has not looked to downstream impact when assessing the impact of floodplain projects.  This amended language remedies this deficiency.

Also in Section 4-607, a new subsection five establishes that certified, engineered plans are required for wetland mitigation projects. Such plans historically have been requested by County Engineering; this proposed section makes this requirement explicit.

Section 4-408, which allows existing structures to be repaired, reconstructed or improved in the floodplain has been deleted because this issue is now addressed in Section 4-405(9).   This change also eliminates the only reference to “floodway” in the provisions; the title of this existing section referred to “existing structures in the floodway” whereas the text itself seems to address structures in the broader floodplain.   Relative to how this section has been applied historically, the proposed language creates no substantive change.

Section 4-409 has been deleted.  The procedure for computing maximum allowable density in the floodplain is detailed in Section 2-308 and does not need to be repeated here. 

Section 4-410 has been deleted.  Such information may already be required by the Code official under the building code, where necessary.

The definitions section is also proposed to be amended to clarify and add definitions, where appropriate.

Redevelopment In the Floodplain

As part of the work session, staff will be bringing forward one new issue related to the flood plain regulations for consideration by the Board.  Staff has had an inquiry earlier this summer regarding redevelopment of commercial properties owned by the Chakalos family on Route 29 in New Baltimore.  These properties are located almost entirely within the FEMA mapped floodplain, and under the current regulations very limited improvements are allowed to the existing structures in the floodplain.  The current regulations allow repair, reconstruction or improvement of existing structures in the floodplain so long as the footprint of such structure is not increased, and provided further that the cost of such work does not exceed 50 percent of the market value of the structure.  These existing provisions complement the Board’s longstanding policy of preserving the floodplain. 

Supervisor Downey has asked staff to look at the issue of whether or not it may be appropriate under certain circumstances, to allow redevelopment of commercial properties located in the floodplain, subject to certain standards and limitations. The goal would be to allow commercial properties within the floodplain that were already developed prior to floodplain regulations to improve the economic viability and character of the uses without increasing the impacts on the floodplain, or ideally, decreasing the impacts. Depending on the site, the particular floodplain, and the use, staff believes it might be possible for redevelopment to occur with benefits to the floodplain achieved by relocating, raising or cantilevering buildings on such parcels.  In cases where a significant portion of the site is already impervious, it might also be possible to effect improvements to water quality by the addition of pervious surfaces and control and treatment of run-off.   

Staff has done an initial assessment based on GIS data of commercial properties in the floodplain, identifying 67 commercially zoned properties (C-1, C-2, C-3 and CV) partially or completely in the floodplain (Attachment).   The total area with commercial zoning located in the floodplain is 114 acres.   Staff believes that some of these lots have probably been removed from the floodplain through the map amendment process with FEMA, but these changes are not currently mapped on the official floodplain map.  Staff is currently going through the parcels on a case-by-case basis to evaluate the map updates and expects that the total number of commercial parcels and acreage in the floodplain will decrease, but this assessment uses the currently available data.

Supervisor Downey asked staff to focus on reviewing C-2 zoned property.  There are 77.38 C-2 zoned acres in the floodplain, comprising all or part of 46 different lots.  Ten of the C-2 lots are currently undeveloped, leaving 36 lots that would potentially benefit from an amendment allowing redevelopment in the floodplain.    About two-thirds of these lots are almost entirely within the floodplain.   A review of the aerial photography for the lots shows that most of these lots are not 100 percent developed, with significant portions remaining unbuilt and unpaved.   In other cases, the portion of the lot within the floodplain is minor, but that portion is almost entirely developed.

The broad range of characteristics of potential redevelopment sites confirms that any potential redevelopment allowed would best be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  The existing floodplain ordinance utilizes the special exception process to allow certain uses and construction within the floodplain, and staff would recommend that the Board utilize the special exception process for any redevelopment authorized in order to allow circumstances to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the Board. 

If the Board wishes to pursue an amendment to allow redevelopment in the floodplain, staff would recommend that this text amendment be sent back to the Planning Commission for reconsideration to include this major issue.  Staff can work with the Planning Commission to develop standards for a redevelopment special exception to assure that any redevelopment does not infringe any further on the floodplain that existing development and that such redevelopment is either neutral in terms of impacts or improves flooding conditions and/or water quality.  Additional review is also necessary to assure that any revisions to allow redevelopment in the floodplain will comply with FEMA.


1.                  Proposed Amendment

2.                  List of Commercial Floodplain Properties

3.                  Proposed Resolution

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