A floodplain is an area of land that is likely to flood after long, heavy rains due to the land’s proximity to lakes, rivers, streams, or other drainage ways.
Why the County Regulates Floodplains
The county regulates floodplains in order to:
- maximize public safety.
- assure that development occurs in a manner that does not increase off-site flooding.
- minimize negative environmental impacts on wetlands and buffer areas.
- comply with federal requirements, and
- enable county property owners to insure themselves against flood losses.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) creates and maintains the maps of all the floodplains that show the boundaries of the 100-year flood. The 100-year flood has a one percent (1%) chance of occurring during any given year. In some areas the 500-year flood is also mapped. The 500-year flood has a two-tenths of a percent (0.2%) chance of occurring during any given year. The County publishes these flood maps on our electronic mapping system, which can be viewed on the County’s website, and FEMA also makes their maps available for viewing online through their Map Service Center. Also, copies of FEMA’s maps can be viewed by the public in the Zoning & Development Services office. It is important to note, however, that while the flood maps are the best available data on flood risk, they are typically generalized, or approximate, in nature and may not always accurately reflect the limits of where flooding will occur.
Development Restrictions Within The Floodplain
In Fauquier County there are approximately 33,000 acres of mapped floodplain, constituting eight percent (8%) of the total land area within the county boundaries. With such a significant amount of land in the floodplain, the County first adopted floodplain regulations as part of its Zoning Ordinance in 1979. Section 4-400 of the current Zoning Ordinance establishes a Floodplain Overlay District that encompasses all the lands within the 100-year floodplain. The District limits the development that can occur within the floodplain and requires permitting for all uses and activities within the floodplain except for production agriculture. Even grading and construction of driveways is governed by the ordinance. Some very limited activities and uses can be approved administratively through a Zoning Permit process, while other uses and activities require Special Exception approval by the Board of Supervisors. No use or activity can be approved that increases flooding offsite. In no case is a dwelling unit or accessory residential structures such as garages and sheds permitted to be built within a floodplain and, in fact, all dwellings must provide a 25 foot setback from the floodplain boundary. The presence of floodplain on a property may also affect the ability to divide the property, as lots cannot be created that do not contain a buildable area and most divisions in rural areas require that divisions be designed to leave all floodplain within the non-common open space parcel. If you need formal confirmation of whether or not your property is within the 100 year floodplain, you may apply for a Floodplain Determination Letter.
Flood damage is not covered by standard property insurance policies or renter’s policies. FEMA offers flood insurance to homeowners through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). One of the reasons that the County has adopted floodplain regulations is so the property owners are eligible to participate in the NFIP. Some banks require a purchaser to buy flood insurance as a condition of a mortgage or other loan, but flood insurance can be purchased even if it is not required by the lender. Separate contents insurance for your personal property is also available. If your home or business is in the floodplain or in an area where stormwater collects, it is important to carefully consider buying flood insurance to protect your investment.
Changing a Floodplain Map
Because of limitations of scale and topographic detail of source maps used by FEMA to prepare a flood map, small areas may be inadvertently shown in the floodplain on a map. If a property owner thinks that their property/dwelling has been inadvertently mapped within the floodplain, there is a process to change the map. The overall process is called a Letter of Map Change (LOMC). An individual who owns property may utilize the Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) process to request that FEMA officially remove the property and/or the structure from the mapped floodplain. Certain survey data and flood elevation data are required to support a request for a LOMA. The LOMA process does not change the boundaries of the floodplain; instead it remove a single structure or property from the floodplain. To change the actual boundaries of the floodplain, the more involved Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) process is required. More information on the LOMC processes can be found on the LOMC Page and on the NFIP website.
Floodplain StudiesFor any proposed development in the County a detailed floodplain study must be performed for all drainage areas greater than 100 acres that do not currently have detailed FEMA Flood Insurance Study flood profiles or elevations. See Floodplain Studies for more detailed requirements.