Community Planning & Permitting staff is working on a proposed Land Use Code update related to floodplain regulations, found in Articles 4-400 and 4-802 of the Land Use Code. On Nov. 15, 2022, the Board of County Commissioners authorized staff to pursue these text amendments.
The Boulder County Land Use Code applies to the unincorporated portions of Boulder County, not in incorporated cities and towns.
The purpose of the Code amendment is to:
- Comply with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) recent clarifications to National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policy regarding agricultural structures;
- Conform to updated Mile High Flood District (MHFD) regulations regarding occupancy in floodplains;
- Clarify when Site Plan Review (SPR) is required for projects needing an individual Floodplain Development Permit;
- Simplify flood protection requirements for manufactured homes;
- Revise the conditions under which an Elevation Certificate is required;
- Streamline existing processes, requirements, and definitions; and
- Make clarifications that reflect the current implementation of the code.
Boulder County has participated in the NFIP since 1979. The NFIP provides a means for county residents to purchase flood insurance and receive federal assistance for flood recovery. In exchange, the county must adopt and enforce floodplain regulations that meet or exceed FEMA and Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) minimum standards for development in the regulatory floodplain. In Boulder County, the regulatory floodplain is known as the Floodplain Overlay District, a zoning district defined by the modeled extent of the predicted 1% annual-chance (100-year) floodplain. County floodplain regulations, set forth in Land Use Code Article 4-400, define allowable and prohibited land uses, establish the basis for floodplain development permitting, and require flood protection measures for development in the Floodplain Overlay District. No changes to the map of the Floodplain Overlay District are proposed at this time.
The last substantial text amendments to Article 4-400 were approved in 2016 (Resolution 2016-111). In 2020, FEMA published new direction on flood protection requirements for agricultural structures under the NFIP (FEMA Policy #104-008-03), and the Mile High Flood District approved an amendment to their floodplain regulations prohibiting all tents and makeshift structures used for human habitation in the regulatory floodplain (Resolution 57). Land Use Code Article 4-400 must be revised to incorporate these changes to ensure the county remains compliant with FEMA and MHFD standards and county residents have continued access to flood insurance and federal flood recovery assistance. The county anticipates a review under the NFIP Community Rating System in 2023 and intends to have the code changes completed prior to that evaluation.
Staff also recommends additional revisions and clarifications based on six years of experience with the last revisions to Article 4-400. These revisions include simplifying flood protection requirements for Manufactured Homes, clarifying the types of buildings that require Elevation Certificates, and other minor clarifications the reflect the current implementation of the code.
Article 4-800 was revised in 2019 to provide an option to exempt or waive SPR when a project requires an individual Floodplain Development Permit, so long as the Community Planning & Permitting Director finds that the project does not conflict with the SPR review standards. Since 2019, the Director has typically only required full SPR when other SPR triggers (besides an individual Floodplain Development Permit) are present. Therefore, staff would like to investigate whether there is a better way to tailor the level of Land Use review to the types of projects that require an individual Floodplain Development Permit.
Staff will conduct a public informational meeting for property owners and the agricultural community on the proposed revisions in February 2023.