Floodplain Ordinance Variances

Published 11:44 am Thursday, February 22, 2018


The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) applied for Floodplain Ordinance (FPO) Variances in Buckingham County Aug. 11, 2017. This topic was on the board of supervisor’s Feb. 12 agenda.

During public comments, I asked the board of supervisors (BOS) to take Zoning and Planning Administrator Rebecca Snoddy Cobb’s advice to the BOS, to consider getting technical and/or legal advice on how to best proceed with processing the Floodplain Variances due to the magnitude of the project, her stated lack of experience reviewing Floodplain Variances and her minimal floodplain experience in general. We applaud the board’s decision Feb. 12 to look into the costs of expert advice.

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I also requested the BOS send the ACP FPO Variance request to the planning commission for further study and recommendations. Cobb informed me that, to date, affected and adjacent landowners have yet to be informed by Buckingham County that Floodplain Variances are being applied for on their properties and/or adjacent properties and therefore had no knowledge that the ACP’s application would be presented for consideration Monday night. The ACP has also not informed property owners. The ACP application is not on the Buckingham County website for the public to view.

Nelson County recently dismissed seven out of 11 Floodplain Variance requests due to lack of standing. To date, ACP has no easement agreements with these seven landowners. The other four variances were deferred to a later time when Nelson will have been able to review more information that they have requested.

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. 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.

I asked the BOS to request the FEMA Region III office to conduct a Risk Analysis for the ACP Project in Buckingham County. Flooding accounts for 73 percent of our natural disasters. Hurricanes Irma and Harvey alone cost taxpayers $300 billion in 2017, and FEMA is already in debt for $50 billion. This trend in debt accumulation will continue until changes in floodplain development and management is reformed. We have heard the heartbreaking stories of how FEMA has pulled out of Puerto Rico, Texas, etc., leaving the localities to fend for themselves. A Risk Analysis is the only way to determine the true risks the ACP in Buckingham will have on Floodplain Insurance premiums and the health, safety and welfare of Buckingham Residents.

Heidi Dhivya Berthoud