Category Archives: Floodplains

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.

Nelson BZA Public Hearing, February 12, 2018


The Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals will hold a public hearing on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s request to obtain variances for 11 floodplain crossings in Nelson County totaling 4.5 miles of floodplain, 3.5 for pipeline and one mile for access roads.  The public hearings will be February 12, 2018, 7 p.m., at the Nelson County High School.

Variances 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”.

The floodplain ordinance is available online.  It is Article 10 of the Nelson County Zoning Ordinance.

During their January 16 meeting, the BZA adopted procedures for the public hearing: speakers must sign up to speak during the hearings and will be limited to three minutes unless they are representing a group, in which case they have five minutes to speak. The BZA will take up and make decisions on the 11 floodplain crossing applications individually, because they want to provide a “clean record” for each application. Application hearings will be held in the same order as they appear in the application, from the westernmost crossing, S. Rockfish River up near Wintergreen, and ending with the Wingina crossing near the James River.

People who want to speak MUST SIGN UP BEFORE THE MEETING STARTS. If you cannot get there before the hearing starts, you may have someone else sign you up to speak. You (or the person signing up for you) must provide your name and address to ensure that the County has an accurate record of exactly who spoke.

People must sign up separately for each crossing they wish to comment on and will have 3 minutes to speak at each. (5 minutes if they represent a group). You may only sign up once for any one specific variance hearing.

If you have “general” comments that would apply to more than one crossing, you may specify during your comments that you want them to be applied to all eleven crossings (or to three of them or whatever). This will help avoid unnecessary repetition of the same testimony from a single speaker. You may request that your comments be entered into the other hearing records regardless of which hearing you choose to speak at. Or you may speak specifically about a particular variance, e.g. Muddy Creek or South Fork Rockfish River 1.

Nine of the eleven variances requested are in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA). Such zones are determined based on events (determined by the American Society of Civil Engineers) that may occur in them, and Nelson County has 6 of the 8 determining factors: mudslides, flash floods, high velocity flow, erosion, alluvial fans, and winter ice jams. Nelson County’s flood plain ordinance includes what are called Higher Standards prohibiting Critical Facilities & Hazardous Materials in floodplains (e.g. pipelines carrying natural gas at high pressure).

People may submit written comments and any supporting documents for the public record online by e-mailing them to: bza@nelsoncounty.org.  You can also submit larger files directly to a dropbox they have set up at
https://www.dropbox.com/request/qtVOeYvsfrUoWefgCvki

If the submissions are made by Tuesday or Wednesday (February 6 or 7) before the public hearing, they will be included in the BZA packet that is distributed and posted online before the meeting. However, since it is highly unlikely that the BZA will make its decision that night, written comments may be submitted after the meeting as well and still “count”. Submissions that are not included in the BZA packet will be made available to the general public, but it may take several days for the County to post them to the website for public access. We recommend that anyone speaking at the meeting also provide the BZA with a written copy of their comments.

The county will be making audio and video recordings of the meeting, but they will not be uploaded to a website. They will be made available to people on request, however. Attendees are also welcome to tape/videotape the hearing themselves, as long as the equipment is not disruptive (e.g. blocks access to the podium, etc.)

If the meeting goes on for too long (it has not been defined what “too long” means), the BZA will continue it at a later date to be announced.

Some suggestions for what to include in your comments (at the hearing or submitted in writing):

  • Why the existing ordinance is wise to prohibit the placement of infrastructure such as natural gas pipelines in the floodplain
  • Why the BZA is obligated to uphold the intent of the ordinance
  • How granting a Variance in this case runs counter to the description in the official Standard for BZA Review of Variances
  • What specific dangers exist at specific crossings

Learn more! Come to Rockfish Valley Community Center on February 5, 2018, between 6:00 and 8:30. Get educated about the importance of floodplains in our county and why we need to protect them from Dominion’s ACP. We’ll answer questions and provide “talking points” for the upcoming BZA meeting.

Most importantly, we urge everyone to attend the hearing, even if you do not plan to speak. Ask the BZA to PROTECT our floodplains and DENY DOMINION’S REQUEST to cross floodplains so that our safety as well as our water quality and water supplies are preserved!

Floodplain Information and Education Meeting

April 2011 flooding, Goodwin Creek

Friends of Nelson will hold an information and education meeting to help you learn about floodplains and Nelson County’s floodplain ordinance. Drop by any time between 6:30-8:00 pm on Monday February 5, 2018, at Rockfish Valley Community Center.

Dominion & Atlantic Coast Pipeline want to override Nelson County’s important FEMA Floodplain Management Ordinance protections. ACP needs approvals from Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals to cross 11 floodplains in Nelson County.

Come learn what’s at stake with the Board of Zoning Appeals Variance requests and how to participate in the upcoming public hearings at Nelson County High School at 7 pm on February 12th. We’ll have “talking points” handouts and answer any questions you may have about submitting public comments. We MUST urge the Board of Zoning Appeals to reject Dominion/ACPs request for ordinance protections to put their pipeline through our floodplains – our water is at stake!

The floodplain ordinance is available online.  It is Article 10 of the Nelson County Zoning Ordinance.

Nelson BZA to Hold Hearings on ACP Flood Plain Crossings


The Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals will hold public hearings on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s request to obtain variances for 11 floodplain crossings in Nelson County totaling 4.5 miles of floodplain, 3.5 for pipeline and one mile for access roads. Variances are required because, under Nelson’s floodplain ordinance, pipelines qualify as critical facilities whose construction is not normally allowed in floodplain. State law mandates decisions on variance requests within 90 days of the January 16, 2018, application date.

The BZA has retained David Shreve, former Campbell county attorney who has a private practice in Altavista, as legal counsel for the review, and has requested technical assistance from Draper Aden Associates, an engineering, environmental services and surveying firm with offices across the commonwealth and in parts of North Carolina.

The BZA’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be February 5, during which they will meet in closed session with Shreve and Draper Aden to go over application details. The public hearings on the variance applications will be February 12, 2018, 7 p.m.

During their January 16 meeting, the BZA adopted procedures for the public hearing: speakers must sign up to speak during the hearings and will be limited to three minutes unless they are representing a group, in which case they have five minutes to speak. At Shreve’s suggestion, the BZA will take up and make decisions on the 11 floodplain crossing applications individually, thus providing a “clean record” for each application.

The February 12 meeting is currently planned for the General District Courtroom in the Nelson County Courthouse, but because of anticipated large turnout may be moved to a different site. Announcement of meeting site will be included in public notices posted in the Nelson County Times and on the county website. Additionally, the BZA left open the possibility of extending the public hearings a day if there is not adequate time to hear all public comments.

A listing of the requested variances is posted on the BZA portion of the Nelson County Website.