The Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) update is administered by FEMA. FEMA is responsible for drawing and revising the maps and will adjudicate all appeals. Inquiries seeking technical guidance regarding appeals are directed to the FEMA Map Information eXchange (FMIX), toll free, at 1-877-FEMA-MAP. Stafford County has participated in the review of the flood hazard data collected to prepare the updated maps and reviewed and commented on the preliminary maps once released. Stafford County is responsible for public outreach and will serve as a point of contact for citizens with questions regarding the process.
The flood insurance federal mandate only applies to structures being mapped into the high-risk flood zone with federally-backed loans and mortgages. If you have a federally-backed mortgage on your home or business, and the new maps identify your home is within the high-risk flood zone, the lender will require flood insurance. However, other mortgage lender requirements may be more stringent and could still require flood insurance in low-risk areas if it is a part of the loan agreement. Your lender should be able to provide that information to you. If a portion of your property is being mapped into the floodplain but your house is not, your mortgage company may still require flood insurance. Please note Stafford County does not regulate, require, administer, or provide flood insurance.
Even if you’re not required to have it, it’s still a good idea to consider purchasing flood insurance protection. About 25% of flood insurance claims come from areas with low-to-moderate flood risk. Homeowners and renter’s insurance do not typically cover flood damage. Flood insurance will pay claims regardless of whether or not there is a Presidential Disaster Declaration.
If your insurance agent sells flood insurance, please contact them for a quote. If they do not provide it, other providers can be found in your state here: www.floodsmart.gov/flood-insurance-provider
All of the NFIP insurance providers will use the same set of pricing parameters to determine the cost.
Land Disturbance Questions
In accordance with the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, land disturbance that exceeds 2,500 square feet requires a grading permit in Stafford County.
Land disturbance is defined as any man-made change to the land surface that may result in soil erosion including, but not limited to, clearing, grading, excavating, transporting, and filling of land.
Some degrees of land disturbance are regulated and various permits may be required.
In accordance with the Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Law, Stormwater Management Act, and Stafford County Ordinance land disturbance that exceeds 2,500 square feet requires the submission and approval of a grading plan before land disturbance commences.
Grading plans must be developed by a licensed surveyor or engineer, as they have the knowledge, expertise, and equipment to draft them properly.
Visit the Community Development Service Center (CDSC) at 1300 Courthouse Road, Stafford, VA 22554 (2nd floor) to apply for a grading permit.
Visit the Community Development Service Center (CDSC) at 1300 Courthouse Road, Stafford, VA 22554 (2nd floor) to submit grading plans for review.
Yes, performing land disturbance without an approved plan and permit is a violation of the Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Law, Stormwater Management Act, and Stafford County Ordinance. The civil penalty for commencement of land-disturbing activities without an approved plan/permit shall be $1,000. Each day during which the violation is found to have existed shall constitute a separate offense. A series of violations arising from the commencement of land-disturbing activities without an approved plan for any site shall not result in civil penalties which exceed a total of $10,000.
Resource Protected Area (RPA) Questions
RPAs are regulated environmentally sensitive land that lie alongside or near the shorelines of streams, rivers and other waterways which eventually drain to the Chesapeake Bay. These areas in their natural condition reduce runoff and filter pollutants, providing an essential function to restoring the health of the Bay. In Stafford County, RPAs include any land characterized by one or more of the following features:
- Tidal wetland;
- Tidal shore;
- Waterbody with perennial flow;
- Nontidal wetland connected by surface flow and contiguous to a tidal wetland or waterbody with perennial flow;
- Buffer area that includes any land within a major floodplain and any land within 100 feet of a feature listed in 1-4.
Development within RPAs must comply with the County’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (CBPO), Chapter 27B of Stafford County Code.
The County has prepared guidance maps showing the estimated locations of the RPAs, however, development projects require site-specific delineations of water bodies, wetlands, and RPAs.
The County GIS is the simplest way to view the watershed and RPA boundaries by entering the property address.
The mapping tool depicts the general presence and location of regulated areas. However, the determination of the exact width and location of the RPA boundary may be required by a site-specific study before the County can grant approval to start land-disturbing activities on properties in or near RPAs.
Any development, land disturbing activity or other use within an RPA generally requires prior approval from the County. The specific type of application and procedure for obtaining the approval depends on the nature and extent of the encroachment.
Existing structures and uses in the RPA including lawns, gardens, and other maintained landscaping, may remain and be maintained as they existed when the RPA was designated on the property (e.g., May 21, 1991) but may not be expanded upon unless a waiver or exception is granted.
Subject to County approval, and to maintain the functional value of the buffer area, vegetation may be removed from the 100-foot buffer for the following reasons:
- To provide reasonable sightlines, general wood lot management and habitat management. Any vegetation removed must be replaced with vegetation that provides equivalent water quality benefits and environmental protection. Form to request approval.
- To create access paths. Such paths cannot cause erosion.
- To remove dead, dying or diseased trees and shrubs, and to remove noxious weeds or invasive exotic plants. Any vegetation removed requires replacement vegetation equally effective in providing water quality benefits and environmental protection.
- To provide for shoreline erosion control. Buffer must be re-established with native, woody vegetation.
Development is not permitted when there is a sufficient buildable area outside the 100-foot buffer. For more information, see the “What are the loss of buildable area provisions?” FAQ.
- Accessory structures like sheds, gazebos, pools, or detached garages may not be located within the 100-foot buffer without the approval of an exception via a public hearing with associated fees.
- Clear-cutting of vegetation is not permitted nor is the removal of native vegetation to create lawns.
- The application of pesticides and fertilizer is strongly discouraged.
The construction of sheds in the RPA may be allowed but are subject to an exception process requiring a public hearing and associated fees. Sheds should only be located within an RPA when there is no reasonable alternative for locating the shed outside of the RPA boundary. For more information, see the “What are the requirements for the construction of accessory structures?” FAQ.
Fences are allowed in the RPA without an exception or waiver and subject to the following design requirements which collectively maintain the functional value of the buffer:
- Fences should be designed so that they do not inhibit or alter surface flow (i.e., water must be able to flow under and through the fence unimpeded).
- Vegetation may only be removed to provide for the actual placement of the fence.
- Where vegetation is removed, it must be replaced with other native vegetation that is equally effective in retarding runoff, preventing erosion and filtering stormwater runoff.
- Fences should be located to avoid the removal of trees.
- If the fence is to be placed in an area that is an existing (pre-RPA establishment) maintained lawn, the revegetation requirement would not be applicable.
Decks are treated as minor additions to the primary structure under the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (CBPO) and therefore allowed, subject to the approval of an administrative waiver. The administrative waiver process is available only for minor additions to homes constructed prior to the effective date of the RPA map amendment (e.g., October 1st, 1989 or December 2, 2003). An administrative waiver can be requested using the Waivers, Appeals, Exceptions, Departures and Alternative Compliance form, during the building permit review process for construction of the deck. For more information, see the “What are the requirements for the construction of minor residential additions?” FAQ.
The construction of patios in the RPA may be allowed but are subject to an exception process requiring a public hearing and associated fees. Patios are considered accessory structures and are subject to specific criteria under the Ordinance (27B-14 (d)). For more information, see the “What are the requirements for the construction of accessory structures?” FAQ.
A minor addition is an addition that has a footprint of 1,000 square feet or less or does not comprise more than 2 percent of the lot area up to a maximum of 2,500 square feet, whichever amount is greater. The eligibility for such encroachments depends on when the home was built. In determining eligibility, the date that the property was last subdivided is used.
- To add a minor addition that encroaches into a 1993 RPA mapping designation, the property must have been subdivided prior to October 1st 1989 (effective date of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance).
Yes. Non-compliance with the RPA restrictions is a violation of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (CBPO) and can result in penalties. At a minimum, violators will be required to restore the RPA in accordance with the CBPO. An appropriate restoration plan must be developed and submitted to the Environmental Division for review and approval. The objective of the plan is to restore the RPA’s primary functions so it can effectively remove pollutants from stormwater runoff, which is achieved via the planting of trees, shrubs and ground cover. Planting densities are prescribed by DCR’s Riparian Buffers Modification and Mitigation Guidance Manual.
In addition to preparing a restoration plan, any person who violates any provision of the CBPO may be subject to civil penalties up to $5,000 per day of violation.
Generally, if a commercial or residential property (i.e., lot) existed prior to the effective date of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (CBPO) amendments, December 2nd 2003, and consequently the buildable area of the lot was so impacted by the delineation of an RPA to a degree that the property could not be reasonably developed, then it may qualify for the provisions of the loss of buildable area under the CBPO.
For a project to qualify for administrative approval the allowed encroachment must be the minimum necessary to afford relief and may only extend 50 feet into the RPA. Mitigation of the encroachment will be required. The construction of new homes in the RPA not meeting the above requirements may still be possible but would be subject to an exception process requiring a public hearing.
The Chesapeake Bay Board is comprised of seven (7) members who are focused on preserving and preventing the destruction of Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) in the County while accommodating necessary economic development in a manner that is consistent with the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance. The Chesapeake Bay Board reviews and approves projects with proposed impacts to RPAs.
The County’s Wetlands Board is focused on preserving and preventing the despoliation and destruction of wetlands while accommodating necessary economic development in a manner consistent with the County’s Wetlands Ordinance. The Wetlands Board reviews and approves permits that impact lands contiguous to a tidal body of water and lying between mean low water and mean high water, and are subject to flooding by normal tides and wind tides.
The construction of accessory structures, such as detached garages, patios and sheds, in the RPA may be possible, but are subject to an exception process and require a public hearing and associated fees.
A Water Quality Impact Assessment (WQIA) is an analysis of the impacts on water quality when a project is proposed within an RPA. The purpose of the WQIA is to ensure the proposed project is consistent with the goals, objectives and requirements of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (CBPO). The objective of the WQIA is to:
- Identify the impacts of the proposed project on water quality.
- Ensure that the proposed land disturbance will occur in a manner that will be least disruptive to the natural function of RPAs.
- Propose mitigation that will address water quality protection through preserving or restoring all buffer functions including stormwater pollutant removal, erosion and sediment and runoff control.
WQIA’s are required for any land disturbance, development or redevelopment within an RPA unless exempt under 27B-12.
Boat docking structures, living shorelines and seawalls (bulkheads) are water-dependent structures, and are allowed in the RPA, per the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, but only with a County-approved Water Quality Impact Assessment. Before any construction on the shoreline or water’s edge begins, permits and approvals from the respective federal, state or local agencies will likely be required. The number and type of necessary permits and approvals will vary depending on the type, size and location of the project.