Category Archives: Floodplains

Floodplain Info

Floodplains – what they are, how they help us, what our floodplain ordinances say, Dominion’s requests for variances to allow permanent changes to them by building through them, the role of the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals in upholding our ordinances – all this and more on our new Floodplain Ordinance Information page. It is a central place to find all the past and future floodplain news, issues, explanations and links. There’s a link from the sidebar on the right, or you can find a link on the dropdown menu under the Info & Resources tab above.

BZA Dismisses 7, Defers 4 Floodplain Variance Requests

At its evening meeting on February 5, 2018, the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals dismissed seven of Dominion’s eleven requests for variance to Nelson’s floodplain ordinance for lack of standing, and granted deferrals for a hearing on the remaining four. “Lack of standing” means that Dominion requested variances on properties it does not own or for which it has no legal right or easements; Virginia law does not permit such requests.

Dominion had requested deferment of the public hearing on all 11 properties through which they propose to route the ACP.  The BZA voted unanimously for both the seven dismissals and the four deferments.

Read Dominion’s January 31, 2018, request to defer the public hearing to a later date. (Note that the letter is addressed to Nelson County’s former Director of Planning, who left the position in spring 2017, not to Sandy Shackelford, the county’s Director of Planning for the past eight months. But we all know that Dominion documents are error-prone.)

There will be no public hearing on February 12, 2018, and at this time no future hearing has been scheduled.

Also at the February 5 meeting, Draper Aden, the engineering firm hired several weeks ago by the BZA to advise them on floodplain matters, admitted it had a conflict of interest after working with Dominion in the past.  At Draper Aden’s suggestion, the BZA retained Maryland-based engineering, consultation, and construction firm KCI Technologies for further engineering and technical review of the variance applications.

Floodplains: Unsung Heroes in Our Communities

Floodplains are unsung heroes in our communities. They are important systems that we need to help our landscapes deal with water, organic matter, filtration, and erosion control. The ACP is asking the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals for variances so they can put their 42″ pipeline through our floodplains.

What does #4 on the graphic say?
“When we develop in floodplains we reduce the floodplain’s storage capacity, causing the next flood of equal intensity to crest even higher than the last.”

For further information on the purposes and values of floodplains, see these information sheets from Nature Conservancy and Pennsylvania.

Update on February 5th Meetings

As reported in the Nelson County Times, the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals will meet in open session tomorrow evening, February 5, 2018. (See article below.) This meeting is open to the public and those interested in the upcoming Public Hearing currently scheduled for February 12th may wish to attend.

Friends of Nelson will also hold a Floodplain Variance information session on Monday February 5th at the Rockfish Valley Community Center. Feel free to drop by any time between 6pm and 8:30pm. We will have floodplain maps and information for review.

The Nelson Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) February 12, 2018, public hearing on ACP requests for variances to the Flood Plain Ordinance (FPO) will probably be postponed. Stay tuned for a decision on rescheduling.

FPO Hearings May Be Postponed

The Nelson Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) February 12, 2018, public hearing on ACP requests for variances to the Flood Plain Ordinance (FPO) will probably be postponed. Late on February 2, 2018, the Lynchburg News & Advance reported, “In a letter to the county’s planning and zoning department dated Jan. 31, Dominion’s Vice President for Pipeline Construction Leslie Hartz, on behalf of the ACP, requested a deferral of public hearings on variance applications for 11 floodplain crossings in Nelson, currently scheduled for Feb. 12. The deferral request from ACP essentially would put a pause on the Nelson variance process.”

The request must be formally accepted by the BZA, which will address it during their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday February 5. Stay tuned for a decision on rescheduling.

The variances, for 11 floodplain crossings in Nelson County totaling 4.5 miles of floodplain, 3.5 for pipeline and one mile for access roads, are required because, under Nelson’s floodplain ordinance, pipelines qualify as “critical facilities” whose construction is not normally allowed in floodplains. “Critical facilities” are prohibited because even a slight chance of flooding poses too great a threat to public health, safety, and welfare. Critical facilities include “structures that store or transport highly volatile, flammable, explosive, toxic, and/or water-reactive materials,” as well as nursing homes, police stations, and public utilities. The ordinance also lists hazardous materials, including natural gas, which may not be stored in Special Flood Hazard Areas for longer than 30 days because they “would pose an unacceptable risk…during flooding”.

Where It Rains, It Floods

Two recent posts by for the Pew Charitable Trusts’ flood-prepared communities initiative underscore the need for pro-active planning to prevent or mitigate future flood disruption and damage and the need for costly repairs. The authors note that:

  • flooding is our nation’s most common natural disaster: the majority of natural disasters over the last 10 years involved flooding, and
  • major flooding in landlocked area (like Nelson County) has been more common than along the coasts.

“In too many instances, structures and infrastructure are built without serious thought given to risk and potential damage from future storms. This leads to a costly cycle of damage and repair following repeat flooding. This cycle can be broken without jeopardizing or slowing down recovery. Multiple states and thousands of localities have already strengthened their building requirements in vulnerable areas.”

Read Where It Rains, It Floods (January 25, 2018)
Read Modern, Flood-Ready Approach Needed for Building and Rebuilding (January 30, 2018)

Nelson County has a strong flood plain ordinance. We need to be sure the Board of Zoning Appeals upholds that ordinance, refusing Dominion’s request to route the ACP through designated flood plains. Make your voice heard – attend the February 12, 2018, BZA public hearing, speak out at the hearing, and send your written comments to Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals, 80 Front St., Lovingston VA 22949.