Chapter 17.12
ADMINISTRATION

Sections:

17.12.010    Establishment of floodplain development permit.

17.12.012    Requirements for floodplain development permit application within a SFHA.

17.12.020    Administrative department – Designated.

17.12.030    Administrative department – Duties and responsibilities.

17.12.040    Variances – Process.

17.12.050    Variances – Conditions for issuance.

17.12.060    Appeals.

17.12.070    Enforcement.

17.12.010 Establishment of floodplain development permit.

A floodplain development permit shall be obtained before construction or development begins within any area of special flood hazard established in WCC 17.10.010. The permit shall be for all development as set forth in WCC 17.08.060. In situations where another county permit is required for development, the floodplain development permit may be issued in the form of conditions within the other county permit. (Ord. 2017-056 Exh. A; Ord. 96-050 Exh. A; Ord. 87-25 (part)).

17.12.012 Requirements for floodplain development permit application within a SFHA.

Application for a floodplain development permit within a SFHA shall be made through the development application process administered by the department of planning and development services or on forms furnished by the department of public works if other local permits are not required, and may include, but not be limited to:

A. One or more site plans drawn to scale showing:

1. The nature, location, dimensions, and elevations of the property;

2. Names and locations of all water bodies, waterways, and drainage facilities within 200 feet of the site;

3. Existing and proposed structures, fill, pavement and other impervious surfaces, and sites for storage of materials;

4. Existing and proposed drainage facilities including, but not limited to, swales, storm sewers, overland flow paths, and detention facilities;

5. The elevation of the 100-year floods, where the data are available;

6. Existing and proposed contours at intervals sufficient to accurately determine the extent of proposed changes if the proposed project involves grading, excavation, or filling;

7. Existing vegetation and proposed vegetation removal and revegetation.

B. If the proposed project will be elevated, including a new structure, substantial improvement, or repairs to a substantially damaged structure, the application shall include the flood protection elevation for the building site and the proposed elevations of the following:

1. The top of lowest floor (including basement, crawlspace, or enclosure floor).

2. The top of the next higher floor.

3. The bottom of the lowest horizontal structural member (in V Zones only).

4. The top of the slab of an attached garage.

5. The lowest elevation of machinery or equipment servicing the structure.

6. The lowest adjacent (finished) grade next to structure.

7. The highest adjacent (finished) grade next to structure.

8. The lowest adjacent grade at the lowest elevation of a deck or stairs, including structural support.

C. If the proposed project will be wet or dry floodproofed, including a new structure, substantial improvement, or repairs to a substantially damaged nonresidential structure, the application shall include the flood protection elevation for the building site and the elevation in relation to the datum of the effective FIRM to which the structure will be floodproofed and a certification by a registered professional engineer or licensed architect that the floodproofing methods meet the floodproofing criteria in WCC 17.16.090 or 17.16.110.

D. The application shall include a description of the extent to which any watercourse will be altered or relocated as a result of proposed development, and shall also submit a request for a conditional letter of map revision (CLOMR), where required by FEMA. The project will not be approved unless FEMA issues the CLOMR and the provisions of the letter are made part of the permit requirements.

E. The applicant shall submit a finished construction elevation certificate completed and certified by a licensed professional surveyor prior to occupancy.

F. Compliance with FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, including the protection standards for critical habitats for listed species, shall be demonstrated through a habitat assessment, and, if necessary, a mitigation plan done in accordance with the FEMA Regional Guidance for the Puget Sound Basin. (Ord. 2017-056 Exh. A).

17.12.020 Administrative department – Designated.

The department of public works is appointed to administer and implement this title by granting or denying floodplain development permit applications in accordance with its provisions. (Ord. 2017-056 Exh. A; Ord. 96-050 Exh. A; Ord. 87-25 (part)).

17.12.030 Administrative department – Duties and responsibilities.

The duties of the department of public works shall include, but not be limited to:

A. Permit Review. The department of public works shall:

1. Review all floodplain development permit applications to determine that the permit requirements of this title have been satisfied;

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

3. Review all floodplain development permit applications to determine if the proposed development adversely affects the flood-carrying capacity of the area of special flood hazard, and prohibit those developments that are determined to adversely affect the flood-carrying capacity. For purposes of this section, “adversely affects flood-carrying capacity” means that the cumulative effect of the proposed development, when combined with all other existing and anticipated development, will increase the water surface elevation of the base flood more than one foot at any point;

4. Review and approve all elevation certificates, if in compliance with this title;

5. Review all development permit applications within the SFHA to ensure the proposed development is compliant with FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program protection standards for critical habitats of species listed under the Endangered Species Act;

6. Notify the department of planning and development services of the review and decision results of the above in a timely manner.

B. Use of Other Base Flood Data. When base flood elevation data has not been provided in accordance with Chapter 17.10 WCC, the department of public works shall obtain, review, and reasonably use any base flood elevation and floodway data available from a federal, state, or other source in order to administer Chapter 17.16 WCC.

C. Information to Be Obtained and Maintained. The department of public works shall:

1. When base flood elevation data is provided through the flood insurance study or required as in subsection B of this section, obtain and record the actual elevation (in relation to mean sea level) of the lowest habitable floor (including basement) of all new or substantially improved structures;

2. For all new or substantially improved floodproofed structures:

a. Verify and record the actual elevation to which the structure has been floodproofed (in relation to datum specified on the FIRM), and

b. Maintain certification by a registered professional engineer that the floodproofing methods for any structure meet the criteria as provided in WCC 17.16.090;

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

4. Submit reports as required by FEMA for the National Flood Insurance Program.

D. Alteration of Watercourse.

1. Prior to any alteration or relocation of a watercourse, the department of planning and development services shall provide notification to adjacent communities and the Washington State Department of Ecology in accordance with Chapter 16.08 WCC.

2. The department of public works shall:

a. Provide evidence of such notification to FEMA if requested;

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

E. Required Submission of Additional Information. The administrator shall have authority to require the applicant to submit information certified by licensed professional land surveyors, architects, or engineers as may be reasonably necessary to assure conformance with the standards of this title. (Ord. 2017-056 Exh. A; Ord. 96-050 Exh. A; Ord. 87-25 (part)).

17.12.040 Variances – Process.

A. The hearing examiner as established by Whatcom County shall hear and decide requests for variances from the requirements of this title.

B. In deciding variance requests, the hearing examiner shall consider WCC 17.12.050; all technical evaluations, relevant factors, and standards specified in other sections of this title; and:

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

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

3. The susceptibility of the proposed facility and its contents to 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, the sediment transport of the flood waters, and the effects of wave action, if applicable, expected at the site;

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, water systems, and streets and bridges; and

12. The potential of the proposed development to adversely affect endangered species and proposed mitigation measures to ensure compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

C. Upon consideration of the factors of subsection B of this section and the purposes of this title, the hearing examiner may attach such conditions to the granting of variances as deemed necessary to further the purposes of this title.

D. The hearing examiner shall maintain the records of all actions and report any variances to the Federal Insurance Administration upon request. (Ord. 2017-056 Exh. A; Ord. 96-050 Exh. A; Ord. 87-25 (part)).

17.12.050 Variances – Conditions for issuance.

A. Generally, the only condition under which a variance from the elevation standard may be issued is 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, provided items 1 through 12 in WCC 17.12.040(B) have been fully considered. As the lot size increases the technical justification required for issuing the variance increases.

B. Variances may be issued for the reconstruction, rehabilitation, or restoration of historic structures without regard to the procedures set forth in the remainder of this section.

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

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

E. 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;

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 WCC 17.12.040(B), or conflict with existing local laws or ordinances; and

4. A determination that the proposed development is compliant with the Endangered Species Act.

F. Variances as interpreted in the National Flood Insurance Program are based on the general zoning law principle that they pertain to a physical piece of property; they are not personal in nature and do not pertain to the structure, its inhabitants, economic or financial circumstances. They primarily address small lots in densely populated residential neighborhoods. As such, variances from the flood elevations should be quite rare.

G. Variances may be issued for nonresidential buildings in very limited circumstances to allow a lesser degree of floodproofing than watertight or dry floodproofing, where it can be determined that such action will have low damage potential, complies with all other variance criteria except subsection A of this section, and otherwise complies with WCC 17.16.020 and 17.16.030.

H. Any applicant to whom a variance is granted shall be given written notice that the structure will be permitted to be built with a lowest floor elevation below the base flood elevation and that the cost of flood insurance will be commensurate with the increased risk resulting from the reduced lowest floor elevation. (Ord. 2017-056 Exh. A; Ord. 96-050 Exh. A; Ord. 87-25 (part)).

17.12.060 Appeals.

A. Any aggrieved party may appeal any order, variance, condition of approval, or alleged error made by the administrator in the administration or enforcement of this chapter to the hearing examiner, who shall have the authority to hear and decide such appeals.

B. An appeal shall be filed within 14 days of the issuance of a final permit decision. For decisions associated with a project permit, as defined in Chapter 20.97 WCC, the final permit decision is when the project permit is issued. For decisions not associated with a project permit, the final permit decision is when the floodplain development permit is issued by the administrator.

C. Appeals shall be processed in accordance with Chapter 20.92 WCC and accompanied by a fee as specified in the unified fee schedule.

D. The applicant, any party of record, or any county department may appeal any final decision of the hearing examiner to superior court within 10 business days of the final decision of the hearing examiner. (Ord. 2017-056 Exh. A).

17.12.070 Enforcement.

A. Any person, firm, or corporation violating any of the provisions of this title may be subject to enforcement actions and penalties allowed by county code, as amended, for the applicable development permit, approval, or license required for the floodplain development or action. The administrator is hereby authorized to enforce the provisions of this chapter.

B. The enforcement process and penalties contained in Chapter 20.94 WCC are hereby adopted in full for enforcement of this chapter, except for WCC 20.94.010 (Purpose) and WCC 20.94.060 (Appeals); provided, that each occurrence of the term “zoning administrator” shall be substituted with “administrator.” (Ord. 2017-056 Exh. A).