At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 21, 2015, Loudoun County Planning Commission will hold a Public Hearing on the Floodplain Overlay District (FOD) amendments. We need as many people as possible to come out to speak against the changes that the Zoning Ordinance Action Group (ZOAG) is recommending and the Loudoun County Staff is strongly opposing.
If you cannot attend, please email all Planning Commission members that you support the opposition of the County Professional Staff. Specific proposed changes to current rules that citizens should oppose:
1. Proposed: Storm water management facilities associated with uses not permitted in the FOD be permitted with performance standards. Objections: This would add another potential pollution sink in the floodplain area, with potential for water quality damage. These facilities are handed off to the county to maintain once the building project is completed. Taxpayers will pay the costs for repairing damaged facilities due to flooding.
2. Proposed: Parking areas that are accessory to uses not permitted in the FOD be permitted with performance standards. Objections: Parking areas increase the amount of impervious surface in a floodplain, reducing the ability of flood waters to be absorbed. They can increase the area of “rise” (potential area a flood would extend across). Also, paved areas collect contaminants from vehicles that can wash into water supplies in a flood. Further, flash floods and parking areas are simply a bad combination. A provision allowing more pervious areas (gravel or grass) for parking could result in removal of riparian buffers or forested areas.
3. Proposed: Outdoor storage be permitted in the FOD with performance standards. Objections: Stored materials can contaminate water supplies in a flood; potential for damage and loss of materials (especially with owners unaware of flood plain area) is poor land management.
4. Proposed: Off-site increases in water surface elevation be permitted for roads shown on an approved Concept Development Plan or Preliminary Subdivision. Objection: This also could increase the flood rise area off site (on other property owners’ land).
5. Proposed: That Minor Special Exceptions (cheaper, shorter time for staff review and one public hearing at the Board of Supervisor level) be allowed in place of full Special Exceptions (longer time for staff review and public hearing and review at the Planning Commission level as well as at the Board). Objection: this removes a level of public input, and prevents staff from carefully examining the effects of a change.
6. Proposed: The relocation of the natural stream channel on streams that drain more than 640 acres be permitted with a Minor Special Exception. (Currently relocations are permitted only for stream rehabilitation; the change would allow them for any use.) Objections: This would curtail the opportunity for public input–for changes that may affect nearby and distant property owners. Such changes are often destructive to wild habitats and create new opportunities for pollutants to enter waterways.
7. Proposed: Swimming pools should be allowed in the FOD. Objections: Once again, this change would create another opportunity for contaminants to enter the waterways in case of flooding. The costs to unwary property owners or homeowners associations from flood damage could be large and unexpected.
8. Proposed: The new rules would be taken from the zoning ordinance and placed in the codified ordinance. Objections: These are zoning issues, and properly should be enforced by the zoning department. If the rules become part of the codified ordinance, the only enforcement tool is a legal one, which would allow County Attorney to pursue, or not, with all the records legal ones. This change removes a level of public oversight.
None of the above are presently permitted within the Floodplain Overlay District Regulations.
Floodplains should be viewed as environmental assets of Loudoun County, that also provide a vital buffer between developed areas and the watershed. These areas should be recognized for their unique habitats, home to many plants and animals. Floodplain areas can be a source of passive recreation for our citizens, and offer a breathing place within suburban development.
The proposed changes pushed by the Zoning Ordinance Action Group will require the destruction of the natural condition of the floodplain wherever implemented and contribute significantly to the degrading of the streams themselves.
The proposals will potentially raise the risk of increasing flood damage through the cumulative effect of individual development projects within the watershed. This in turn could increase the cost of flood insurance and increase taxpayer liability for repairing public facilities and services.
The Board of Supervisor public hearing is tentatively scheduled for October 14, 2015, and the County is under a directive by the Federal Emergency Managment Administration (FEMA) to pass certain text they require before December 31, 2015.
Please speak out on this important issue on Tuesday, July 21 at the County Office Building.
And, please pass notice of this important meeting to your contacts and other interested parties.
Al Van Huyck
Chair, Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition