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9/8/23  11:44 pm
Commenter: Virginia Department of Transportation

VDOT Comments/Draft Virginia Floodplain Management Standards for State-Owned Property

The following comments are submitted by the Virginia Department of Transportation in response to the Draft Virginia Floodplain Management Standards for State-Owned Property. This submission is the first of a multi-part submission and consists of comments numbered 1 through 13.


On April 12, 2023, Governor Youngkin signed Chapters 762 and 777 of the 2023 Acts of Assembly.  These chapters require that, no later than September 30, 2023, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), in cooperation with the Secretaries of Administration, Agriculture and Forestry, Commerce and Trade, Education, Health and Human Resources, Natural and Historic Resources, Public Safety and Homeland Security, and Transportation, or their designees, the Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection, or his designee, and any additional state officials designated by the Chief Resilience Officer, establish state standards for development in a flood plain for all state agencies and departments of the Commonwealth.


On August 25, 2023, a copy of Draft Virginia Floodplain Management Standards for State-Owned Property (the “State Standards”) was posted for public comment, for 15 days until September 9, 2023. This submission is provided to communicate comments and concerns of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) regarding the State Standards.  Comments are provided below, followed by rationale, and suggested revisions.


 Section 1.1­—Floodplain Development Standards for state-owned properties


  1. Section 1.1(A)(1) provides that "Virginia shall comply with the minimum floodplain management criteria set forth in 44 CFR §§ 60.3, 60.4, and 60.5." Section 1.2 and subsequent sections of the State Standard, however, are more stringent than federal law, specifically those sections addressing state-managed floodplains including the 0.2% flood zones and sea-level rise inundation areas. VDOT is seeking clarification in this regard.


  1. Section 1.1(B) provides that state development activity on state-owned property shall comply with the State Standards when located in a non-participating local community. VDOT requests that the Section 1.1(B) be amended as follows to clarify that the State Standards apply to such state development activity on state-owned property statewide, required when occurring in a non-participating local community and an option when occurring in a participating local community, since the Commonwealth is a legal community distinct from local political subdivisions under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP): “If any State-owned property is located in a non-participating local community, then the State shall comply with the requirements of the Virginia Floodplain Development Standards (the Standard). If any State-owned property is located in a participating local community, then the state agency with jurisdiction over the property may elect to comply with either the requirements of the participating local community or these Standards.


  1. In Section 1.1(C)—and throughout the State Standards—VDOT recommends replacing the term “variance permit” with the term “permit,” consistent with Va. Code § 10.1-603: “No state-owned buildings, or buildings constructed on state-owned property, shall be constructed, reconstructed, purchased, or acquired by the Commonwealth within state-managed floodplains in any community unless a variance permit is granted by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), as outlined in these Standards.”


  1. The Commonwealth routinely purchases structures or buildings in the acquisition of highway rights of way for the sole purpose of demolition to accommodate the construction of new linear transportation infrastructure.  These structures or buildings may be located within a floodplain as defined in Article IV (Glossary) of the Standards.  VDOT requests that Section 1.1 (C) also be amended to include the following language to ensure that permits would not be required for activities that reduce floodplain risks to life and property by the removal of manmade structures: No state-owned buildings, or buildings constructed on state-owned property, shall be constructed, reconstructed, purchased, or acquired by the Commonwealth within state-managed floodplains in any community unless a variance permit is granted by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), as outlined in these Standards provided, however, that the acquisition of buildings for the sole purpose of demolition shall not require a permit.”  

Section 1.2—Statutory Authorities

  1. The cited authorities, Va. Code § 10.1-658 (declaring the risks of recurrent flooding and supporting resilience through the Coastal Resilience Master Plan and the Virginia Flood Protection Master Plan) and 44 CFR § 59.22(a)(2) (requiring a State Standard that meets minimum NFIP requirements), do not grant DCR the authority to restrict or prohibit linear transportation infrastructure. VDOT requests that Section 1.2(B) be amended to provide: “Restricting or prohibiting certain uses, activities, and development from locating within the state-managed floodplains, where practicable[.]


  1. Also in Section 1.2(B), the term "state-managed floodplains" should be replaced with "special flood hazard areas” in alignment with NFIP terminology. State Standards that restrict or prohibit linear transportation infrastructure development outside of special flood hazard areas and beyond the minimum NFIP standards could impose significant regulatory and financial burdens on state- and federally-funded linear transportation projects. Accordingly, VDOT recommends that Section 1.2(B) also be amended to provide: “Restricting or prohibiting certain uses, activities, and development from locating within the state-managed floodplains special flood hazard areas, where practicable[.]


  1. Similarly, Section 1.2(C) should be amended by deleting the term “flood-risk areas,” which is not defined in either Article IV (Glossary) or in federal law and extends beyond the minimum requirements of the NFIP: “Requiring all those uses, activities, and developments that do occur in the floodplain and identified flood-risk areas (1% flood zones, 0.2% flood zones and sea level rise inundation areas) to be protected and/or floodproofed against flooding and flood damage”


Section 1.3—Applicability


  1. It is unclear which provisions of the State Standards would be applicable to linear transportation infrastructure. All sections of the standard, such as those referencing sea level rise inundation areas, 0.2% flood zones, and freeboard requirements, may potentially have a considerable impact on the Commonwealth’s capacity to build, operate, and maintain the systems of state highways. Consistent with Va. Code § 10.1-603 (F), VDOT recommends adding language to the State Standards affirming the programmatic flexibility provided by the General Assembly in Section 1.3 (A): “These Standards shall apply to all  All linear transportation infrastructure development activity constructed by or on behalf of the Virginia Department of Transportation on state-owned or leased property, including those lands underlying the secondary state highway system, within the Commonwealth of Virginia and identified as floodplain by DCR shall be administered pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding executed under the authority of Va. Code § 10.1-603(F).”


This recommendation is further supported by VDOT’s additional federal regulatory oversight by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) pursuant to 23 CFR 650, Subpart A, Location and Hydraulic Design of Encroachments on Flood Plains, which embodies the longstanding agreement between FHWA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regarding operating procedures for the implementation of the NFIP for linear transportation infrastructure (see ). VDOT is concerned that a complex and varying array of regulations would negatively and unduly impact the effective construction, operation, and maintenance of the state systems of highways without the expected corresponding benefit to resilience.

Section 1.6—Abrogation and Greater Restrictions

  1. Section 1.6 is premised on the authority of 44 CFR § 60.1(b), which provides that “regulations must be legally-enforceable, applied uniformly throughout the community to all privately and publicly owned land within flood-prone, mudslide (i.e., mudflow) or flood-related erosion areas, and the community must provide that the regulations take precedence over any less restrictive conflicting local laws, ordinances or codes.” (Emphasis added.) This provision of federal law expressly does not require that local laws, ordinances, or codes take precedence over state laws and standards.


Under the NFIP, the state is a community that is jurisdictionally separate from its local governments as the term, pursuant to 44 CFR § 59.1, “means any State or area or political subdivision thereof . . . which has authority to adopt and enforce flood plain management regulations for the areas within its jurisdiction.” (Emphasis added.) VDOT recommends that Section 1.6 be clarified to ensure the ongoing sovereignty of the Commonwealth over its political subdivisions: “In the event of a conflict between these Standards and any other statutory or regulatory requirements of the Commonwealth, the more restrictive State standard or regulatory requirement shall govern.”


Section 2.1—Designation of the Floodplain Administrator

  1. While VDOT supports the flexibility provided by federal and state law and as embodied by Section 2.1(C) regarding the Floodplain Administrator’s authority to delegate to sister state agencies and private sector floodplain professionals, the inherent authority of the state over its political subdivisions would be undermined if localities were to enforce the State Standards on a state agency with statewide, cross-jurisdictional responsibility. Consequently, VDOT would recommend striking the term community: “Enter into a written agreement or written contract with another community, state agency or private sector entity to administer specific provisions of these regulations. Administration of any part of these regulations by another entity shall not relieve the community of its responsibilities pursuant to the participation requirements of the NFIP as set forth in 44 CFR § 59.22.”


Section 2.2—Duties and Responsibilities of the Floodplain Administrator

  1. VDOT is gravely concerned about the cost and efficiency impacts of a new regulatory permit, to be sought on the vast majority of construction and maintenance activities, that does not issue until all other necessary permits have been obtained. Functionally, this sequence would require obtaining permit modifications for the previously issued permits should the Floodplain Administrator require any substantive redesign or operational changes. This section also recites the misunderstanding that localities issue permits to the state for state activities. VDOT recommends amending Section 2.2 (D) to provide that the “duties and responsibilities of the Floodplain Administrator shall include [the review of floodplain permit] applications to determine (i) whether all necessary permits have been obtained from the Federal, or State, or local agencies from which prior or concurrent approval is required or (ii) for linear transportation infrastructure development activities, whether all necessary permits from Federal or State agencies are reasonably expected to be obtained[.]”

Section 2.4—Use and Interpretation of FIRMS

  1. Section 2.4(A)(2) appears to undermine the purpose of the State Standards to be applicable to state activities on state-owned or managed property and conflicts internally with Section 3.1(C)(3). VDOT recommends deleting the following language in Section 2.4(A)(2): “Where field surveyed topography indicates that adjacent ground elevations . . . [a] re above the base flood elevation and the area is labelled as the floodplain on the FIRM, the area shall be regulated as the floodplain unless the applicant obtains a Letter of Map Change that removes the area from the floodplain. Local freeboard requirements would apply in lieu of these Standards.


  1. VDOT seeks clarification that subsections (C) and (D) of Section 2.4 would require any model showing a higher base flood elevation (BFE) and/or reduced floodway widths would take precedence over any other models. VDOT is concerned that older hydraulic models with a higher BFE and/or larger floodway width may not accurately reflect present conditions, given natural processes like stream migration that alter cross sections from their original mapping. Improved survey data and larger bridge/culvert hydraulic openings often result in more precise hydraulic models, potentially leading to reduced floodway widths and base flood elevations. As a result, if disparities arise between FEMA data and VDOT, the more accurate VDOT data would take precedence. These discrepancies would be noted and documented for future reference, but a CLOMR (Conditional Letter of Map Revision) submission would not be necessary. VDOT recommends that subsections (C) and (D) of Section 2.4 be modified as follows:

“C. Design flood elevations and designated boundaries in the floodplain based on the most accurate hydraulic and hydrologic inputs shall take precedence over base flood elevations and floodway boundaries by any other sources if such sources show reduced floodway widths and/or lower base flood elevations.

D. Other sources of data shall be reasonably used if such sources show increased base flood elevations and/or larger floodway areas are based on more accurate hydraulic and hydrologic inputs than are shown on FIRMs and in FISs.”

Comments numbered 14 through 39 will be submitted via separate submission(s).

CommentID: 220187

9/9/23  10:47 am
Commenter: Anonymous

Floodplain Management Comment

Including leased properties seems unreasonable and not practical.

including 500 year areas is overly restrictive and will require unnecessary and arduous variance requests.

proceed remains unclear, especially for appeals.

process is asynchronous with other state building processes and will create confusion and add time to projects.

”reconstruction” should be defined better and more clearly 



CommentID: 220189

9/9/23  3:01 pm
Commenter: VDOT

VDOT comments--Draft Virginia Floodplain Management Standards for State-Owned Property

The Virginia Department of Transportation has submitted 13 of the Department's 39 comments in response to the Draft Virginia Floodplain Management Standards for State-Owned Property via this comment forum.  However, because of technical difficulties in posting the remaining comments, the entire set of 39 comments has been submitted directly to DCR's regulatory coordinator.

A complete set of VDOT's comments may be obtained by emailing Emmett Heltzel, VDOT's State Location and Design Engineer at or Holly Jones, VDOT's FOIA Coordinator at

Thank you



CommentID: 220190

9/9/23  3:18 pm
Commenter: Mary-Carson Stiff, Wetlands Watch

Joint Comment Letter: VA Floodplain Management Regulations

September 9, 2023

Ms. Angela Davis
Acting Division Director Floodplain Management
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
Division of Dam Safety and Floodplain Management
600 East Main Street, 24th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219

Re: Draft Virginia Floodplain Management Standards for State-Owned Property

Dear Ms. Davis:

On behalf of Wetlands Watch, Southern Environmental Law Center, Environmental Defense Fund, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Virginia Conservation Network, and the Virginia Floodplain Management Association, we appreciate the opportunity to submit comments on the general notice posted on the Virginia Town Hall by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Dam Safety and Floodplain Management and entitled “Draft Virginia Floodplain Management Standards for State-Owned Property.” These standards are required to be developed as a result of Code of Virginia §10.1-603 which Governor Youngkin signed on April 12, 2023.

Based on full review of the general notice and the associated floodplain management standards, the following are compiled comments for your consideration:

It would seem given the magnitude and importance of these standards for state-owned facilities, that a 15-day only review period for this general notice is not enough time to properly review all the proposed material and assess its consistency with federal regulation and the Commonwealth’s Executive Orders 45 (November 2018) and 24 (November 2018).

The posting of this general notice for public comment on Virginia Town Hall was a surprise to many and was not disclosed as an item that was forthcoming in floodplain program discussions/meetings with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, including the recent annual Virginia floodplain coordination meeting of July 28, 2023.

Development of the standards seems to have been performed by using the state floodplain ordinance template. This ordinance is intended for locality use to administrate a floodplain program. It is unclear how this will transform to a state regulation, instead of a local ordinance.

It is unclear how the logistics of performing the plan review and permit issuances needed (procedurally) to meet the requirements of this draft standard will be achieved. In essence, one state agency will be tasked to perform plan review and issue a permit for all other state agency projects. Staffing and workload associated with such a program element could be enormous and there should be information available to the public to know how the plan review and permit intake and processing system will work.

In relation to the above comment, the number of submittals from projects for all other Commonwealth agencies could be astronomical if you consider developments/improvements that occur throughout the state (VDOT, State Parks, Universities and Colleges, Jails and other state institutions, etc.).

In relation to the above comment, it is unclear what qualifications state agency plan review and permit issuance staff would need in order to fulfill the requirements of these standards (planners, engineers, certified floodplain manager, registered professional engineer, etc.) and/or if any of these services would be performed by consultants under contract with the Commonwealth.

In the Article I General Provisions, Section 1.1 (Floodplain Development Standards), Part B of the standards addresses if the site/project is in a non-participating National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) community. It is unclear what the process is if the site/project is located in a participating NFIP community that has a floodplain management program and floodplain administrator and who would have authority to make required determinations and perform the requirements of the program.

We recommend that the Article I General Provisions, Section 1.2 (Statutory Authorities) include an additional purpose of “preserving and enhancing the natural and beneficial functions of properly-managed floodplains.” This addition will acknowledge references to the value of natural and beneficial functions included in Executive Order 45, which states “[t]he floodplain management policies identified in this Order are intended to avoid unnecessary costs from flooding, to reduce risks to human health, safety, and welfare, and to protect, preserve, and enhance the natural and beneficial uses of properly-managed floodplains to property and development under state ownership.”

Article I, Section 1.3 (Applicability), Part A is the only section which vaguely addresses how VDOT projects will be handled. State-owned facility terminology in the standards could be interpreted to not include those roadway linear projects which are just situated in a right-of-way or easement. It is unclear how new or expansion road projects that are in road rights-of-way or easements, rather than on state-owned land, will be handled. Many road projects are of a linear nature with bridges and culverts and other types of waterway enclosures that intersect with FEMA designated Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs).

In relation to the above comment, if VDOT linear projects in rights-of-way or easements are subject to plan review and permit issuance requirements associated with these standards, the amount of submittals necessary could be significant from a staffing and workload aspect and as mentioned before. There should be information available to the public to know how the plan review and permit intake and processing system would work.

In several instances of the standards, it is indicated that the Commonwealth’s Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) serves to intercede as backup or to settle disputes or appeals to variances, even down to the level of interpreting the boundary of a floodplain. This does not seem prudent. Further, it is unclear whether the CRO would have proper certifications and expertise to perform these tasks or make these types of decisions under the requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

The standards indicate that determinations and variances are made/issued by the floodplain administrator or CRO. It is also indicated that appeals from such determinations/variances are made to those same individuals. This is not common as usually appeals are made to an established board or commission in a public meeting format. Examples of this are the Commonwealth’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area (CBPA) and Virginia Stormwater Management (VSMP) programs. In addition, it is unclear whether the CRO would have property certifications and expertise to determine whether an appeal should be granted.

In regards to Article III, Section 3.1 (Variance Permits and Exemptions), Code of Virginia §10.1-603(C) indicates that a permit may be issued by the Department only if no feasible alternative to development in a floodplain exists. This important precondition to a permit approval should be clearly reflected within the standards; however, it is not clear whether/where it has been incorporated.

In regards to Article III, Section 3.1 (Variance Permits and Exemptions), Part C(2), it is not clear whether all of the numbered considerations/factors listed within this subsection C apply in any particular case. Clarification is necessary. In addition, section C(2) uses the subjective word “unacceptable.” It is unclear who is going to make that determination and what standards they are to use in determining whether the outcomes listed within this section reach a level making them “unacceptable.”

In Article III, Section 3.2 (Activities Exempted), first paragraph it is indicated that “projects that have been determined to have an insignificant effect on flooding characteristics and water conveyances may be exempt from the variance permitting requirement.” First, permit and variance issuances are two different procedures, so use of the term “variance permitting” is confusing. In addition, it is unclear who is going to make the determination as to the above - administrative personnel, technical staff, CFM’s, professional engineer’s, floodplain administrator, CRO, etc.

In Article III, Section 3.2 (Activities Exempted), Part B (Small Projects), it seems that the term “farming” with landscaping and gardening as a minor soil disturbing project is going to be problematic. Farming or agricultural activities, if done by an agency of the Commonwealth or its agent as a project (or its designee by contract), should be its own exemption and not put under the small or minor project category.

There are two Parts D’s and two Part E’s in Article III, Section 3.2 (Activities Exempted).

Consistent with the Commonwealth’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Program (CBPA), Article III, Section 3.2 (Activities Exempted), Part D (Improvements with Location-Specific Functionally Dependent Uses) should probably cite the term “water-dependent” somewhere.

For Article III, Section 3.2 (Activities Exempted), Part E (Placement of Buildings, Structures or Accessory Structures), some of the potentially exempt uses in this list (Items 1 through 8) seem like things that generally should not be located in a floodplain. We recommend reconsidering whether certain uses, such as gas storage tanks, dormitories, museums, and libraries should be included in this list of potentially exempt uses.

In Article III, Section 3.2, Part E (Ground Disturbing Activities), it is understandable why certain ground or land-disturbing activities could be considered exempt, especially if the activity does not include a building or structure on a state-owned land. However, it is confusing as ground or land-disturbing activities are usually necessary as part of site, building and utility construction activities. Clarifications would be helpful in this section. For example, example #3 states “clearing, grading, filling, drilling and mining activities.” Site work for building construction normally would include clearing, grading and filling; therefore some clarification is necessary.

Language in Article III, Section 3.2 (Activities Exempted), Part H is a bit confusing in that if issuance of a variance would increase the risk to life and property, then other provisions of these standards - such as Section 3.1(C)(2) and Section 3.1(F)(2) - would seem to indicate that such a variance shall not be issued. Also it is unclear if the notification as required in this section H is associated with a denial of a variance. If so, we recommend clarifying the provision to read “The Floodplain Administrator shall notify the applicant of a variance permit, Director of DGS and Director of DCR, in writing that a variance application has been denied because the issuance of a variance to construct a building with the lowest floor elevated below the one percent (1%) annual chance flood height would increase the risks to life and property.”

In Article IV, Section 4.1 (Procedure), we recommend that evidence of wetland or stream impact permits from applicable agencies (US Army Corp. of Engineers, Virginia DEQ, VMRC, etc.) should be required within the list.

There is a fragmented sentence in the last sentence in the second to last paragraph in Article IV, Section 4.1 (Procedure). It says “Upon receipt of a completed variance permit application…”

In Article IV, Section 4.3 (General Floodplain Development Standards), Part G, it is unclear how the provision requiring onsite sewage/septic disposal systems to be located and constructed to avoid impairment and contamination during flooding will be determined and ensured. Clarification may be necessary. In addition, in this section it is stated “In addition to provisions A through H above…”. This should read “A through G” above.

In Article IV, Section 4.4 (Freeboard Standards for New State-Owned Buildings), Part B(3) indicates a freeboard of five (5) feet whereas in Executive Order No. 45 the comparable standard was eight (8) feet. It is unclear what the justification was to propose a lower standard compared to the applicable section in the Executive Order.

In Article IV, Section 4.4 (Freeboard Standards for New State-Owned Buildings), Part B(4) indicates a freeboard of three (3) feet whereas in Executive Order No. 45 the comparable standard was five (5) feet. It is unclear what the justification was to propose a lower standard compared to the applicable section in the Executive Order.

In Article IV, Section 4.4 (Freeboard Standards for New State-Owned Buildings), Sea Level Rise Planning Standards Part A, it is recommended that the NOAA Intermediate-High Scenario curve for Year 2100 be used as the Commonwealth standard for predicting sea level rise as proposed in this section. In this section, it is also unclear how determinations will be made to select or use an alternative “best available data” that could be used to replace the reputable NOAA standard. It is recommended that use of an alternative or best available data be explained or clarified in this section of the standards. Further, it should be clarified that 2017, or most recent release, NOAA Intermediate-High Scenario curve should be used.

In Article IV, Section 4.4 (Freeboard Standards for New State-Owned Buildings), Sea Level Rise Planning Standards Part B, the cited four (4) feet of sea level rise is low for the NOAA Intermediate-High scenario projections for the year 2100 at various points across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Six (6) feet is a more appropriate estimate given the NOAA Intermediate-High scenario.

On the last page, Article V (Enactment) shows “to be determined” and is therefore incomplete. This is after the Article IV (Glossary).

We thank you for your work to advance proper floodplain management activities within the Commonwealth of Virginia and for this opportunity to comment on the posted general notice.



Morgan Butler
Senior Attorney
Southern Environmental Law Center

Patrick Calvert
Director of Policy and Campaigns:
Clean Water & Land Conservation
Virginia Conservation Network

Jay Ford
Virginia Policy and Grassroots Advisor
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Chris Leyen
Policy Director
Virginia League of Conservation Voters

Kristin Owen
Virginia Floodplain Management Association

Emily Steinhilber
Virginia Director: Climate Resilient Coasts & Watersheds
Environmental Defense Fund

Mary-Carson S. Stiff
Executive Director
Wetlands Watch

CommentID: 220192

9/9/23  5:00 pm
Commenter: Jean Kennedy Sleeman, Old Dominion University

Virginia Floodplain Management Standards

September 9, 2023

Ms. Angela Davis
Acting Division Director Floodplain Management
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
Division of Dam Safety and Floodplain Management
600 East Main Street, 24th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219

Re: Draft Virginia Floodplain Management Standards for State-Owned Property

Dear Ms. Davis:
Old Dominion University is an R1 research institution serving a diverse population in the state of Virginia. The campus lies in the tidewater area of southeastern Virginia and we have been addressing stormwater and resiliency on our campus for decades. We have over 50 BMP’s on campus – I expect that would be the largest number of any state university. We have developed standards for permeable paver systems for all new surface lots. We locate all major building systems including generators on our roofs. The concern with these standards is that they will grind all activity to improve quality of education and research at ODU to a halt.
My comments have tried to tie to specific sections while some of these apply to a number of sections, not all listed.
It was with great surprise that we even found out that the standard was open for public comment. ODU has been tracking the discussion and had previously commented on a draft from 2022. It was only because I reached out to your department inquiring about the standards that I was notified of the published draft and comments due in just days of my inquiry. As an institution greatly impacted by these standards, a heads up would have been considerate. With limited time to comment and collect our input, this is not going to be as clear and concise as desired.
2.2.B As a state agency significantly impacted by these standards, we have been advancing stormwater mapping using techniques that go beyond FEMA historical maps. There should be a provision allowing advance mapping techniques to be submitted for project specifics, without waiting a year or more for a LOMA. (applies to 2.3 as well) 2.5A – does this allow that a qualified agency be the universities civil engineering firm who has used advanced modeling techniques of the entire campus (Such as a PCSWMM Model).
3.1A The variance permit process is completely out of sync with established state processes for project approvals. The process should align with the process outlined in the CPSM as required to be met by each state agency. Requiring that all materials be completed prior to receiving a variance will cost the taxpayer undue expense. For example a planning study for a new capital project would address the issue of the need for a floodplain variance. To be clear, for ODU that will be EVERY project since the development area is used as the basis, not the building footprint and because the standard has chosen to include the 500 year or shaded X zone. The requirements outlined in section 4.1 put the level of design advancement equivalent to preliminary design and further, item 4.1L, is at the level of working drawings. For a large capital project MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars will have been expended without consideration or ANY preliminary discussion as to whether a variance would be considered. The process should allow for a phased approach, where projects can be discussed with DCR, similar to the pre-project conferences encouraged by DEB. Furthermore, this process does not align with capital request for funding. Long after a project might be legislatively approved, DCR could, per these standards, determine that the project should not be granted a variance. We must have the ability to discuss consideration for future new construction and/or renovations at the earliest stages of design with follow up submittals at schematics, preliminaries and working drawings. Yes that put more effort on both sides (requiring higher A/E fees) but without a phased approach the all or nothing situation these standards require, will create undue delays increasing construction costs through escalation.
3.2 A Routine Maintenance and B Small Projects. We manage and maintain building across our campus 365 days year with projects running the gamut. We do not have the luxury to wait to compile submissions for repairs and maintenance. For example we have a temporary chiller sitting in a parking lot adjacent to a 2015 building whose chiller failed and we will have to wait a year or more for a replacement. We have elevator repairs and replacements that are ongoing as providing accessibility to our facilities is critical. Research facilities that cannot be without proper infrastructure at all times so valuable research is not lost. We maintain our campus grounds and do annual beautification projects that should not be subject to the flood standard. We have parking garage structural repairs that are ongoing, an important life safety measure. The standard is inordinately restrictive and does not consider what it take to run a university of existing buildings on a daily basis with buildings dating back to 1935.
ODU is undertaking state funded multi-million dollar stormwater specific projects to assist in addressing flooding issues, but would now have to be given a variance to even exist.
We had a project last year for a patio replacement (patio was built in the 1970’s), relocation of some bike racks, repairs to sidewalks and the construction of a Kayak storage shed. During DEB review, the project was flagged by DEQ because the project was in the 500 year floodplain with a small portion of a repaired sidewalk in the 100 year floodplain. Triggering comments regarding the kayak storage shed – and open unoccupied structure with walls on three sides which did not go to the ground. That this standard should apply to a structure that was an unoccupied 600 square foot structure is reaching too far. This is an example of extreme oversight. There should be allowances for structures that are unoccupied enhancements to the campus without onerous requirements. Would having to build the kayak storage shed above grade by 2 to 3 feet necessitating building a larger raised platform and ramping increasing the impervious area unnecessarily – be logical?
4.4B ODU has areas of the campus that are in the A/E zone and sea level rise inundation areas. This section does not clearly address the A/E zone (as shown on VFRIS) and freeboard requirements. The standards talks about the line of moderate wave action, but our A/E zone is adjacent to two rivers, NOT the ocean. We do not have any shaded X zones that are also in the sea level rise inundation area. The freeboard requirements noted here are unclear. Additionally section 4.7 is too restrictive without consideration of designing new, or in our case, replacement buildings to accommodate flood conditions.
4.6 ODU has a number of structures that are in the floodplain which will need renovation now and in the future. For example, many of the older building built in the 1960’s were built on crawlspace and whose finished floor is at or more than 3’ above BFE. These same buildings may have a small portion that falls below the elevated finished floor elevation such as a sloped lecture hall. The restrictive nature of these standards would say we would need to abandon this structure, use state taxpayer money to build a new structure elsewhere and then demolish the existing instead of renovating. We should be using these buildings of examples of how to renovate reasonably within the floodplain. When I used this example previously, I was told to “abandon the first floor” of a two story building.
4.7 V Zones. For many years we have been building structures whose finished floor is at 11’ or higher which is 3 feet above BFE of 8’. The existing grade around these buildings is on average at elevation 9 or 10. Paragraph a does not apply, as written, in these cases. The lowest horizontal structural member could be considered the slab on grade, although it does not support the structure above. ALL of our new buildings and the vast majority of our existing buildings are on piles with grade beams. Buildings that are steel or concrete frame, four and five stories in height, should not be subject to break away walls etc. In relation to the slab on grade condition noted above, item 7 is unsupportable.
Overall the standards do not consider the need to provide accessibility to all public buildings. Due to the flat nature of our campus, we are able to minimally grade sites to meet the 3 feet above BFE limiting the use of ramps. If required to change this approach and elevate finished floors without grading the site, the FFE will increase the depth of structure (typically around 3 to 4 feet) adding to the finished floor elevation – thus exasperating accessibility to all facilities as 60% of all exists/entrances are to be accessible for life safety. I can only imagine having to raise buildings on platforms with numerous ramps to gain access to the platform resulting in an INCREASE in impervious area negatively impacting stormwater mitigation.
Overall, ODU considers flooding in every project, but these standards reach too far and will restrict the ability of ODU to manage, maintain and replace facilities on campus.
Of significant concern is the process which does not align with previously established state processes for all work on state property from funding approval through permitting. The all or nothing approach will be impossible to meet, along with the established requirements. I have attempted to provide examples that we have already experienced to illustrate our concerns and the conflicts unduly arise.
Jean Kennedy Sleeman, AIA AUA LEED AP
University Architect
Old Dominion University

CommentID: 220194