Chapter 4 Appendix
Appendix 4-1: Notice of Intent for Proposed Development on State Owned or Operated Property Within Floodplains
Appendix 4-2: Development Permit Application for Proposed Development on Lands Located in a Community with Floodplain Areas
GENERALAll hydraulic analyses must be prepared by a Registered Professional Engineer.
There shall be zero increase in the water surface profile for the entire length of the floodway.
The applicant's engineer will verify his/her findings with a seal and signature.
INFORMATION REQUIREDThe applicant shall supplement the existing data with additional cross sections across the entire floodplain, prepared from field survey measurements. The number of additional cross sections required shall be determined by the community representative, and the minimum shall include one additional cross section at the site.
The applicant shall prepare and submit for review a 100-year flood water surface profile analysis of the entire length of the floodway within the community. The analysis shall utilize the original FEMA Flood Insurance Study (FIS) data and analysis method, for the community. The analysis shall be developed without the imposition of any development that has occurred since the original study and also with floodway development which has occurred, or which has been approved but not constructed, since the original FIS. If a Step Backwater Model (HEC-2) was used to determine the floodway, the same model must be used for any revision analysis. The applicant can use community-furnished data for the proposed development in addition to data from the original study.
There shall be zero increase in the water surface profile for the entire length of the floodway when compared to the existing conditions.
In the event the applicant's project is in close proximity to the corporate boundary or unincorporated boundary, the analysis shall extend into the adjoining political entity a sufficient distance, as determined by the analysis results, to demonstrate there are no impacts beyond the analysis limits.
Below is part of the 44 CFR that provides the main variance regulation. Then following that regulation is a discussion on variances. It is intended to provide community floodplain administrators and elected officials who must in granting a variance comply with CFR 44 Part 59-60, Section 60.6, with information upon which the local decision to grant or not to grant a variance should be based.
Title 44—Emergency Management and Assistance
§60.6 Variances and exceptions.
(1) Variances shall not be issued by a community within any designated regulatory floodway if any increase in flood levels during the base flood discharge would result:
(2) Variances may be issued by a community for new construction and substantial improvements to be erected on a lot of one-half acre or less in size contiguous to and surrounded by lots with existing structures constructed below the base flood level, in conformance with the procedures of paragraphs (a) (3), (4), (5) and (6) of this section;
(3) Variances shall only be issued by a community upon ( i ) a showing of good and sufficient cause, (ii) a determination that failure to grant the variance would result in exceptional hardship to the applicant, and (iii) a determination that the granting of a variance will not result in increased flood heights, additional threats to public safety, extraordinary public expense, create nuisances, cause fraud on or victimization of the public, or conflict with existing local laws or ordinances;
(4) Variances shall only be issued upon a determination that the variance is the minimum necessary, considering the flood hazard, to afford relief;
(5) A community shall notify the applicant in writing over the signature of a community official that (i) the issuance of a variance to construct a structure below the base flood level will result in increased premium rates for flood insurance up to amounts as high as $25 for $100 of insurance coverage and (ii) such construction below the base flood level increases risks to life and property. Such notification shall be maintained with a record of all variance actions as required in paragraph (a)(6) of this section; and
(6) A community shall (i) maintain a record of all variance actions, including justification for their issuance, and (ii) report such variances issued in its annual report submitted to the Associate Director.
Nature of Variances
The NFIP variance criteria are based on the general principle of zoning law that variances pertain to a piece of property, and are not personal in nature. Though standards vary from state to state, in general, a properly issued variance is granted for a parcel of property with physical characteristics so unusual that complying with the ordinance would create an exceptional hardship to the applicant or the surrounding property owners. Those characteristics must be unique to that property and not be shared by adjacent parcels. The unique characteristic must pertain to the land itself, not to the structure, its inhabitants, or the property owners.
Examples of the kinds of characteristics that might give rise to a hardship that might justify a variance to certain other building or zoning ordinances would include an irregularly shaped lot, a parcel with unstable soils, or a parcel with an unusual geologic condition below the ground surface. It is difficult, however, to imagine any physical characteristic that would give rise to a hardship sufficient to justify a variance to a flood elevation requirement. A frequently encountered example is the case of a very small undeveloped lot completely surrounded by lots on which buildings have been constructed at grade, and an ordinance that requires that new buildings be constructed at a level several feet above grade. If the owner were to elevate the house on fill the lot might drain onto the neighbors' property. In this case, the size of the lot and its status as the only undeveloped one in the vicinity are the characteristics that could result in a hardship. However, this situation still probably would not warrant a variance because, as discussed below, the owner does not face an exceptional hardship, since there are many other ways to alleviate the drainage problem (elevation on pilings or a crawl space, grading the fill to drain away from adjoining properties, etc.).
Individual Hardship vs. Community Goals
In determining whether or not an applicant has established an exceptional hardship
sufficient to justify a variance, the applicant's hardship must be weighed against
the purpose of the ordinance. In the case of variances from a flood elevation
requirement, this would mean asking which is more serious: the hardship that
this individual applicant would face or the community's need for strictly enforced
regulations that protect its citizens from the dangers and damages of flooding?
Only a truly exceptional, unique hardship on the part of an individual would
persuade local officials to set aside provisions of an ordinance designed with
the whole community's safety in mind. The hardship might not have to be so severe
if the applicant were seeking a variance to a setback ordinance, for instance,
which was intended merely to simplify street repair and modifications. In the
course of considering variances to flood protection ordinances, however, communities
continually must face the more difficult task of frequently having to deny requests
from applicants whose personal circumstances evoke compassion, but whose hardships
are simply not sufficient to justify deviation from community-wide flood damage
The hardship that would result from failure to grant a requested variance must be exceptional, unusual, and peculiar to the property involved. Mere economic or financial hardship alone is not exceptional. Inconvenience, aesthetic considerations, physical handicaps, personal preferences, or the disapproval of one's neighbors likewise cannot, as a rule, qualify as exceptional hardships. All of these problems can be resolved through other means, without granting a variance. This is so even if the alternative means are more expensive or complicated than building with a variance, or if they require the property owner to put the parcel to a different use than originally intended, or to build his or her home elsewhere.
For example, a situation in which it would cost a property owner several thousand dollars more to elevate a house to comply with the ordinance and an additional several thousand to build a wheelchair ramp or an elevator to provide access to that house for a handicapped member of the family might at first glance seem like the sort of problem that could be relieved by a variance. However, while financial considerations are always important to property owners and the needs of the handicapped person certainly must be accommodated, these difficulties do not put this situation in the category of exceptional hardships as they relate to variances. This is because, first, the characteristics that result in the hardship are personal (the physical condition and financial situation of the people who propose to live on the property) rather than pertaining to the property itself. Second, the problem of day-to-day access to the building can be alleviated in any one of a number of ways (going to the additional expense of building a ramp or an elevator), without granting a variance. Third, the situation of handicapped persons occupying flood-prone housing raises a critical public safety concern. If a variance is granted and the building is constructed at grade, it will be absolutely critical that the handicapped or infirm person evacuate when flood waters begin to rise, yet this individual may be helpless to do so alone. Not only does this pose an unnecessary danger to handicapped persons but also it places an extra demand on the community's emergency services personnel who may be called upon during the early stages of the flood to rescue them. In contrast, if the building is properly elevated, the handicapped person can still be evacuated if there is sufficient warning and assistance available but if there is not, that person can, in all likelihood, survive the flood simply by remaining at home safely above the level of the flood waters.
More simply, the property owner's difficulties would not really be relieved by the variance, but likely only postponed and perhaps ultimately increased. It would be more prudent over the long run both for the property owner and the community if the variance were denied and the home built at the proper elevation, with handicapped access. This will ensure the safety of all family members when flood waters rise and also protect individual and community investment in the property, as discussed below.
Public safety and nuisances (§60.6(a)(3)(iii))
Variances must not result in additional threats to public safety or create nuisances. As mentioned above, local flood damage prevention ordinances (including elevation requirements) are intended to help protect the health, safety, well-being and property of the local citizens. This is a long-range community effort usually made up of a combination of approaches such as adequate drainage systems, warning and evacuation plans, keeping new property — especially homes — above the flood levels, and participating in an insurance program. These long-term goals can only be met if exceptions to the laws are kept to an absolute minimum.
Fraud and victimization (§60.6(a)(3)(iii)
Properly granted variances must not cause fraud on or victimization of the public. In examining this requirement, local boards should consider the fact that every newly constructed building adds to local government responsibilities and remains a part of the community for fifty to one-hundred years. Buildings that are permitted to be constructed below the base flood elevation are subject to increased risk of damage from floods during all those years, while future owners of the property and the community as a whole are subject to all the costs, inconvenience, danger and suffering that those increased flood damages bring. In addition, future owners may purchase the property unaware that it is subject to potential flood damages and can be insured only at very high flood insurance rates.
Minimum necessary to afford relief (§60.6(a)(4))
The variance that is granted should be for the minimum deviation from the local requirements that will still alleviate the hardship. In the case of variances to an elevation requirement this means the board need not grant permission for the applicant to build at grade, for example, or even to whatever elevation the applicant proposes, but only to that level that the board believes will both provide relief and preserve the integrity of the local ordinance.
While the building standards in a local ordinance may be altered by means of a variance, the flood insurance purchase requirement, which must be enforced by lending institutions, cannot be waived and thus may create severe financial consequences for the property owners. Insurance rates for structures built below BFE can be substantially higher than those for elevated structures. In many instances the rates will be so high as to make the structure essentially uninsurable because the owners cannot afford the premium. This may not matter to the original owner who applied for the variance in the first place, but it may matter a great deal to subsequent potential owners who cannot find buyers because of the high insurance rates, or to the community that finds itself with large numbers of unsalable houses. In addition, if the property is not insured and cannot be insured due to high actuarial rates, there may be no funds available to build the structure or to repair the structure if it is seriously damaged by a flood. Even disaster loans may not be obtainable if the flood insurance coverage required as a condition of the loan was available only at very high rates. The result may be that the present owner or a future owner may choose to abandon the damaged house rather than repair it since the damages may exceed the equity in the house. The local government and/or the holder of the mortgage are left with the problem of one or more vacant, flood-damaged, and essentially uninsurable houses.
Because the duty and need of local governments to help protect their citizens from flooding is so compelling, and the implications of the cost of insuring a structure built below flood level are so serious, variances from the flood elevation or from other requirements in the flood ordinance should be quite rare. This is why the NFIP variance guidelines at Section 60.6 are so detailed and contain multiple provisions that must be met before a variance can be properly granted. The criteria are designed to screen out those situations in which alternatives other than a variance are more appropriate. It is not surprising that, when these guidelines are followed, very few situations qualify for a variance.
The comments presented above reflect the principles and ideas upon which the NFIP variance criteria are based. These concepts are also kept in mind when the Federal Emergency Management Agency conducts routine monitoring of a community's compliance with NFIP requirements. A community that grants variances in accordance with these standards generally can maintain good standing with the NFIP. In addition, these are only general guidelines and states and/or local communities may have more restrictive standards.
A FIRMette is a paper copy of a user-defined portion of a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) created from your computer. Viewing and creating FIRMettes are free of charge to all customers. Follow the steps below to create a FIRMette:
Step 1: Click the “Catalog.”
Step 2: Select the product you wish to view.
Step 3: Sequentially select the State, County or Parish, and Community name. Click on “Find FEMA issued Flood Maps!”
Step 4: Choose the panel that you wish to view, and click on the green button next to it. (If there is no green button, the FIRM is not available for viewing.)
Step 5: A new window will appear displaying the image. Click on the “Make a FIRMette!” button*
Step 6: Choose your paper size. (The default size is 8.5” X 11”.)
Step 7: Move the pink box to cover the area you want included in your FIRMette.
Step 8: If you wish to reposition the title block or north arrow, click the appropriate button to the left and then drag the pink box to cover the area you want included. (They will be centered by default.)
Step 9: Choose either Adobe PDF or TIFF.
Step 10: You will see your FIRMette on the screen. Click the “Save Your FIRMette” button to save to your computer. (Saving allows you to go back any time and print more copies without going through all of the steps again.)
Step 11: Once saved to your PC you can double click on the file name of the FIRMette to open it in your local viewer. Print your FIRMette!
* Note: If you have used the Zoom In feature, then click the MAX Zoom Out button before you click “Make a FIRMette” button.
(Remember to set the layout of your printer to landscape.)
If you are having trouble creating your FIRMette, click the help button.
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Page last updated: December 20, 2017