Chapter 17.76
CONSTRUCTION IN FLOODPLAINS

Sections:

17.76.010    Definitions.

17.76.020    Lands to which this chapter applies.

17.76.030    Basis for establishing the areas of special flood hazard.

17.76.040    Penalties for noncompliance.

17.76.050    Abrogation and greater restrictions.

17.76.060    Interpretation.

17.76.070    Warning and disclaimer of liability.

17.76.080    Establishment of development permit.

17.76.090    Designation of public works director as administrator.

17.76.100    Duties and responsibilities of the public works director.

17.76.110    Flood hazard reduction – General standards.

17.76.120    Anchoring.

17.76.130    Construction materials and methods.

17.76.140    Utilities.

17.76.150    Subdivision proposals.

17.76.160    Encroachments.

17.76.170    Specific standards.

17.76.180    Residential construction.

17.76.190    Nonresidential construction.

17.76.200    Manufactured homes.

17.76.210    Floodways.

17.76.220    Appeals board.

17.76.230    Conditions for variances.

17.76.240    Recreational vehicle.

17.76.010 Definitions.

Unless specifically defined below, words or phrases used in this chapter shall be interpreted so as to give them the meaning they have in common usage and to give this chapter its most reasonable application:

“Area of special flood hazard” means the land in the floodplain within the city subject to a one percent or greater chance of flooding in any given year.

“Base flood” means the flood having a one percent chance of being equalled or exceeded in any given year.

“Basement” means any area of the building having its floor subgrade (below ground) on all sides.

“Development” means any manmade change to improved or unimproved real estate, including but not limited to buildings or other structures, mining, dredging, filling, paving, excavation or drilling operations, or storage of equipment or materials located within the area of special flood hazard.

“Flood” or “flooding” means a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of normally dry land areas from:

A. The overflow of inland or tidal waters; and/or

B. The unusual and rapid accumulation or run-off of surface waters from any source.

“Flood Hazard Boundary Map (FHBM)” means the official map issued by the Federal Insurance Administration where the areas of special flood hazard have been designated Zone A.

“Floodway” means the channel of a river or other watercourse and the adjacent land areas that must be reserved in order to discharge the base flood without cumulatively increasing the water surface elevation more than one foot.

“Lowest floor” means the lowest floor of the lowest enclosed area (including basement). An unfurnished or flood-resistant enclosure, usable solely for parking of vehicles, building access or storage, in an area other than a basement area, is not considered a building’s lowest floor; provided, that such enclosure is not built so as to render the structure in violation of the applicable nonelevation design requirements of BMC 17.76.180(B).

“Manufactured home” means a structure that is transportable in one or more sections, upon the public streets or highways on its own running gear, which when erected on site, is designed to be connected to required utilities and utilized as a dwelling, and which exceeds 32 feet in length and eight feet in width. It does not include recreational vehicles or travel trailers.

“Recreational vehicle” means a vehicle that is:

A. Built on a single chassis;

B. Four thousand square feet or less when measured at the largest horizontal projection;

C. Designed to be self-propelled or permanently towable by a light duty truck; and

D. Designed primarily not for use as a permanent dwelling but as temporary living quarters for recreational, camping, travel, or seasonal use.

“Structure” means a walled and roofed building, a manufactured home, or a gas or liquid storage tank, that is principally above ground.

“Substantial improvement” means any repair, reconstruction or improvement of a structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure either:

A. Before the improvement or repair is started; or

B. If the structure has been damaged and is being restored, before the damage occurred. For the purposes of this definition, substantial improvement is considered to occur when the first alteration of any wall, ceiling, floor, or other structural part of the building commences, whether or not that alteration affects the external dimensions of the structure. The term does not, however, include either:

1. Any project for improvement of a structure to comply with existing state or local health, sanitary, or safety code specifications which are solely necessary to assure safe living conditions; or

2. Any alteration of a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places. [Ord. 2003-08-055 § 1; Ord. 9740 § 1, 1987; Ord. 9136 § 1, 1982].

17.76.020 Lands to which this chapter applies.

This chapter shall apply to all areas of special flood hazards within the jurisdiction of the city of Bellingham. [Ord. 9136 § 2(A), 1982].

17.76.030 Basis for establishing the areas of special flood hazard.

The areas of special flood hazards identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in its Flood Insurance Study dated March 2, 1982, and Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) dated September 2, 1982, are adopted by reference and declared to be a part of this chapter. An updated version of the existing Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) and Flood Insurance Study are adopted by reference and declared to be a part of this chapter with an effective date of January 16, 2004. The FIRM are on file at the City of Bellingham, Public Works Department, 210 Lottie Street, Bellingham, WA 98225. [Ord. 2003-08-055 § 2; Ord. 9969 § 1, 1989; Ord. 9136 § 2(B), 1982].

17.76.040 Penalties for noncompliance.

A. No structure or land shall hereafter be constructed, located, extended, converted, or altered without full compliance with the terms of this chapter and other applicable regulations. Violation of the provisions of this chapter by failure to comply with any of its requirements (including violations of conditions and safeguards established in connection with conditions) shall constitute a misdemeanor subject to a maximum fine of $1,000.

B. In addition to any other sanction or remedial injunctive procedure which may be available at law or equity, any person who violates this chapter or any conditions or orders issued pursuant thereto shall be subject to cumulative civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $100.00 per day from the date set for compliance until such order is complied with. Such civil penalty shall be collected by civil action brought in the name of the city. The affected body shall notify the city attorney in writing of the name of any person subject to such penalty in the amount thereof; such officer shall take appropriate action to collect the same. [Ord. 2013-09-073 § 27; Ord. 9136 § 2(C), 1982].

17.76.050 Abrogation and greater restrictions.

This chapter is not intended to repeal, abrogate, or impair any existing easements, covenants, or deed restrictions. However, where this chapter and another ordinance, easement, covenant, or deed restriction conflict or overlap, whichever imposes the more stringent restrictions shall prevail. [Ord. 9136 § 2(D), 1982].

17.76.060 Interpretation.

In the interpretation and application of this chapter, all provisions shall be:

A. Considered as minimum requirements;

B. Liberally construed in favor of the city; and

C. Deemed neither to limit nor repeal any other powers granted under state statutes. [Ord. 9136 § 2(E), 1982].

17.76.070 Warning and disclaimer of liability.

The degree of flood protection required by this chapter is considered reasonable for regulatory purposes and is based on scientific and engineering considerations. Larger floods can and will occur on rare occasions. Flood heights may be increased by manmade or natural causes. This chapter does not imply that land outside the areas of special flood hazards or uses permitted within such areas will be free from flooding or flood damages. This chapter shall not create liability on the part of the city of Bellingham, any officer or employee thereof, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for any flood damages that result from reliance on this chapter or any administrative decision lawfully made thereunder. [Ord. 9136 § 2(F), 1982].

17.76.080 Establishment of development permit.

A. A development permit shall be obtained before construction or development begins within any area of special flood hazard established in BMC 17.76.030. Application for a development permit shall be made on forms furnished by the public works department and may include, but not be limited to: plans in duplicate drawn to scale showing the nature, location, dimensions, and elevations of the area in question: existing or proposed structures, fill, storage of materials, drainage facilities; and the location of the foregoing.

B. Specifically, the following information is required:

1. Elevation in relation to mean sea level of the lowest floor (including basement) of all structures;

2. Elevation in relation to mean sea level to which any structure has been floodproofed;

3. Certification by a registered professional engineer or architect that the floodproofing methods for any nonresidential structure meet the floodproofing criteria in BMC 17.76.190; and

4. Description of the extent to which any watercourse will be altered or relocated as a result of proposed development. [Ord. 9136 § 3(A), 1982].

17.76.090 Designation of public works director as administrator.

The public works director is appointed to administer and implement this chapter by granting or denying development permit applications in accordance with its provisions. [Ord. 9136 § 3(B), 1982].

17.76.100 Duties and responsibilities of the public works director.

Duties of the public works director shall include, but not be limited to:

A. Permit Review.

1. Review all development permits to determine that the permit requirements of this chapter have been satisfied.

2. Review all development permits to determine if the proposed development adversely affects the flood carrying capacity of the area of special flood hazard. For the purposes of this chapter, “adversely affects” means damage to adjacent properties because of rises in flood stages attributed to physical changes of the channel and the adjacent overbank areas.

a. If it is determined that there is no adverse effect, then the permit shall be granted consistent with the provisions of this chapter.

b. If it is determined that there is adverse effect, then flood damage mitigation measures shall be made a condition of the permit.

3. Review all development permits to determine that all necessary permits have been obtained from those federal, state or local governmental agencies from which prior approval is required.

B. Use of Other Base Flood Data. When base flood elevation data has not been provided in accordance with BMC 17.76.030, the public works director shall obtain, review and reasonably utilize any base flood elevation data and floodway data available from a federal, state or other source, in order to administer BMC 17.76.120 through 17.76.210.

C. Information to Be Obtained and Maintained.

1. Obtain and record the actual elevation (in relation to mean sea level) of the lowest floor (including basement) of all new or substantially improved structures, and whether or not the structure contains a basement.

2. For all new or substantially improved floodproofed structures:

a. Obtain and record the actual elevation (in relation to mean sea level) to which the structure has been floodproofed;

b. Maintain the floodproofing certifications required in BMC 17.76.080(B)(3).

3. Maintain for public inspection all records pertaining to the provisions of this chapter.

D. Alteration of Watercourses.

1. Notify adjacent communities and the State Department of Ecology prior to any alteration or relocation of a watercourse, and submit evidence of such notification to the Federal Insurance Administration.

2. Require that maintenance is provided within the altered or relocated portion of said watercourse so that the flood-carrying capacity is not diminished.

E. Interpretation of FIRM Boundaries. Make interpretations where needed, as to the exact location of the boundaries of the areas of special flood hazards (for example, where there appears to be a conflict between a mapped boundary and actual field conditions). [Ord. 2003-08-055 § 3; Ord. 9969 § 2, 1989; Ord. 9136 § 3(C), 1982].

17.76.110 Flood hazard reduction – General standards.

In all areas of special flood hazards, the standards set out in BMC 17.76.120 through 17.76.160 are required. [Ord. 9136 § 4(A), 1982].

17.76.120 Anchoring.

A. All new construction and substantial improvement shall be anchored to prevent flotation, collapse, or lateral movement of the structure.

B. All manufactured homes must likewise be anchored to prevent flotation, collapse, or lateral movement, and shall be installed using methods and practices that minimize flooding damage. Anchoring methods may include, but are not limited to, use of over-the-top or frame ties to ground anchors.

C. An alternative method of anchoring may utilize a system designed to withstand a wind force of 90 miles per hour or greater. Certification must be provided to the public works director that this standard has been met. [Ord. 2003-08-055 § 4; Ord. 9136 § 4(A)(1), 1982].

17.76.130 Construction materials and methods.

A. All new construction and substantial improvements shall be constructed with materials and utility equipment resistant to flood damage.

B. All new construction and substantial improvements shall be constructed using methods and practices that minimize flood damage.

C. Electrical, heating, ventilation, plumbing and air conditioning equipment and other service facilities shall be designed and/or otherwise elevated or located so as to prevent water from entering or accumulating within the components during conditions of flooding. [Ord. 9740 § 2, 1987; Ord. 9136 § 4(A)(2), 1982].

17.76.140 Utilities.

A. All new and replacement water supply systems shall be designed to minimize or eliminate infiltration of floodwaters into the system.

B. New and replacement sanitary sewage systems shall be designed to minimize or eliminate infiltration of floodwaters into the systems and discharge from the systems into floodwaters.

C. On-site waste disposal systems shall be located to avoid impairment to them or contamination from them during flooding. [Ord. 9136 § 4(A)(3), 1982].

17.76.150 Subdivision proposals.

A. All subdivision proposals shall be consistent with the need to minimize flood damage.

B. All subdivision proposals shall have public utilities and facilities such as sewer, gas, electrical and water systems located and constructed to minimize flood damage.

C. All subdivision proposals shall have adequate drainage provided to reduce exposure to flood damage.

D. Base flood elevation data shall be provided for subdivision proposals and other proposed development which contain at least 50 lots or five acres (whichever is less). [Ord. 9136 § 4(A)(4), 1982].

17.76.160 Encroachments.

Any proposed development shall be analyzed to determine effects on the flood carrying capacity of the area of special flood hazard as set forth in BMC 17.76.100(A). [Ord. 9136 § 4(A)(5), 1982].

17.76.170 Specific standards.

In all areas of special flood hazards where base flood elevation data has been provided as set forth in BMC 17.76.030 or 17.76.100(B), the standards set out in BMC 17.76.180 through 17.76.210 are required. [Ord. 9136 § 4(B), 1982].

17.76.180 Residential construction.

A. New construction and substantial improvement of any residential structure shall have the lowest floor, including basement, elevated to at least one foot above the base flood elevation. The long axis of the foundation must be aligned with the flood flow.

B. Fully enclosed areas below the lowest floor that are subject to flooding are prohibited, or shall be designed to automatically equalize hydrostatic flood forces on exterior walls by allowing for the entry and exit of floodwaters. Designs for meeting this requirement must either be certified by a registered professional engineer or architect or must meet or exceed the following minimum criteria:

1. A minimum of two openings having a total net area of not less than one square inch for every square foot of enclosed area subject to flooding shall be provided.

2. The bottom of all openings shall be no higher than one foot above grade.

3. Openings may be equipped with screens, louvers, or other coverings or devices; provided, that they permit the automatic entry and exit of floodwaters. [Ord. 9740 § 3, 1987; Ord. 9136 § 4(B)(1), 1982].

17.76.190 Nonresidential construction.

A. New construction and substantial improvement of any commercial, industrial or other nonresidential structure shall either have the lowest floor, including basement, elevated to at least one foot above the base flood elevation, or, together with attendant utility and sanitary facilities, shall:

1. Have the long axis of the foundation aligned with the flood flow;

2. Be floodproofed so that below one foot above the base flood level the structure is watertight with walls substantially impermeable to the passage of water;

3. Have structural components capable of resisting hydrostatic and hydrodynamic loads and effects of buoyancy; and

4. Be certified by a registered professional engineer or architect that the design and methods of construction are in accordance with accepted standards of practice for meeting provisions of this subsection based on their development and/or review of the structural design, specifications, and plans. Such certifications shall be provided to the official as set forth in BMC 17.76.100(C)(2).

5. Nonresidential structures that are elevated, not floodproofed, must meet the same standards for space below the lowest floor as described in BMC 17.76.180(B).

B. Applicants floodproofing nonresidential buildings shall be notified that flood insurance premiums will be based on rates that are one foot below the floodproofed level (e.g., a building floodproofed to one foot above the base flood level will be rated as at the base flood level). [Ord. 2003-08-055 § 5; Ord. 9969 § 4, 1989; Ord. 9740 § 4, 1987; Ord. 9136 § 4(B)(2), 1982].

17.76.200 Manufactured homes.

A. Manufactured homes shall be anchored in accordance with BMC 17.76.120.

B. All manufactured homes shall be elevated on a permanent foundation such that the lowest floor of the manufactured home is elevated one foot or more above the base flood elevation. [Ord. 2003-08-055 § 6; Ord. 9136 § 4(B)(3), 1982].

17.76.210 Floodways.

Located within areas of special flood hazard established in BMC 17.76.030 are areas designated as floodways. Since the floodway is an extremely hazardous area due to the velocity of floodwaters which carry debris, potential projectiles, and erosion potential, the following provisions apply:

A. Encroachments are prohibited, including fill, new construction, substantial improvements, and other development unless certification by a registered professional engineer or architect is provided demonstrating through hydrologic and hydraulic analyses performed in accordance with standard engineering practice that encroachments shall not result in any increase in flood levels during the occurrence of the base flood discharge.

B. If BMC 17.76.120 is satisfied, all new construction and substantial improvements shall comply with all applicable flood hazard reduction provisions of BMC 17.76.110 through 17.76.200.

C. Prohibit the placement of any manufactured homes, except in an existing manufactured home subdivision.

D. Construction or reconstruction of residential structures is prohibited within designated floodways, except for (1) repairs, reconstruction or improvements to a structure which do not increase the ground floor area; and (2) repairs, reconstruction or improvements to a structure, the cost of which does not exceed 50 percent of the market value of the structure either (a) before the repair, reconstruction or repair is started, or (b) if the structure has been damaged and is being restored, before the damage occurred. Work done on structures identified as historic places shall not be included in the 50 percent determination. [Ord. 2003-08-055 § 7; Ord. 9969 § 5, 1989; Ord. 9136 § 4(C), 1982].

17.76.220 Appeals board.

A. The municipal appeals and code review board (“appeals board”) shall hear and decide appeals and requests for variances from the requirements of this chapter.

B. The appeals board shall hear and decide appeals when it is alleged there is an error in any requirement, decision, or determination made by the public works director. Such appeal shall be made in writing within 20 days of the date of the action appealed from in the enforcement or administration of this chapter.

C. Those aggrieved by the decision of the appeals board, or any taxpayer, may appeal such decision to the Whatcom County superior court by writ of certiorari brought within 30 days of the final board decision.

D. In passing upon such applications, the appeals board shall consider all technical evaluations, all relevant factors, standards specified in other sections of this chapter; and:

1. The danger that materials may be swept onto other lands to the injury of others;

2. The danger to life and property due to flooding or erosion damage;

3. The susceptibility of the proposed facility and its contents of flood damage and the effect of such damage on the individual owner;

4. The importance of the services provided by the proposed facility to the community;

5. The necessity to the facility of a waterfront location, where applicable;

6. The availability of alternative locations for the proposed use which are not subject to flooding or erosion damage;

7. The compatibility of the proposed use with existing and anticipated development;

8. The relationship of the proposed use to the comprehensive plan and floodplain management program for that area;

9. The safety of access to the property in times of flood for ordinary and emergency vehicles;

10. The expected heights, velocity, duration, rate of rise, and sediment transport of the floodwaters and the effects of wave action, if applicable, expected at the site; and

11. The costs of providing governmental services during and after flood conditions, including maintenance and repair of public utilities and facilities such as sewer, gas, electrical, and water systems, and streets and bridges.

E. Generally, variances may be issued 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, providing subsections (D)(1) through (11) of this section have been fully considered. As the lot size increases beyond the one-half acre, the technical justification required for issuing the variance increases.

F. Upon consideration of the factors of subsection (D) of this section and the purposes of this chapter, the appeals board may attach such conditions to the granting of variances as it deems necessary to further the purposes of this chapter.

G. The public works director shall maintain the records of all appeal actions and report any variances to the Federal Emergency Management Agency upon request. [Ord. 9136 § 5(A), 1982].

17.76.230 Conditions for variances.

A. Variances may be issued for the reconstruction, rehabilitation or restoration of structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places without regard to the procedures set forth in the remainder of this section.

B. Variances shall not be issued within any designated floodway if any increase in flood levels during the base flood discharge would result.

C. Variances shall only be issued upon a determination that the variance is the minimum necessary, considering the flood hazard, to afford relief.

D. Variances shall only be issued upon:

1. A showing of good and sufficient cause;

2. A determination that failure to grant the variance would result in exceptional hardship to the applicant; and

3. 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 as identified in BMC 17.76.220(D), or conflict with existing local laws or ordinances.

E. Any applicant to whom a variance is granted shall be given written notice that the structure will be commensurate with the increased risk resulting from the reduced lowest floor elevation. [Ord. 9136 § 5(B), 1982].

17.76.240 Recreational vehicle.

Recreational vehicles placed on sites are required to either:

A. Be on the site for fewer than 180 consecutive days;

B. Be fully licensed and ready for highway use, on its wheels or jacking system, is attached to the site only by quick disconnect type utilities and security devices, and has no permanent attached additions; or

C. Meet the requirements of BMC 17.76.200 and the elevation and anchoring requirements for manufactured homes. [Ord. 2003-08-055 § 8].