Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Planning Commission


December 14, 2006

Staff Lead:


W. Todd Benson, Assistant Zoning Administrator


Community Development



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; 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, adds and eliminates certain uses allowed by special exception, and eliminates the current language concerning existing structures in the floodway. Finally, it eliminates the distinction between floodway and floodplain, making all regulations applicable to the floodplain.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

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


Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted.


Summary Staff Report: 

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 with 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.

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.

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