The main purpose of floodplain rules is to provide a safe place for rising flood waters. Preserving natural floodplains reduces flooding in developed areas. This prevents expensive damage to buildings and roads. It also helps protect the quality of the water that we drink and conserves plant and wildlife habitat. Along with other measures, these rules are also required to make federally subsidized flood insurance available to Durham residents.
In Durham, floodplain development is regulated through the Floodplain and Flood Damage Protection Standards in the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). Any activity that will disturb land in a FEMA mapped floodplain requires a floodplain development permit. This means permits may be required not only for buildings but also construction of things like fences, signposts, and trails. It is important to keep floodplains clear of items that could float downstream in a flood and cause damage. This means that items such as above-ground swimming pools, sheds, and picnic tables also require permits to make sure they are properly anchored in place. The location and the extent of the proposed floodplain disturbance will determine what requirements apply.
If you have questions about Durham’s floodplain development standards and permitting, contact us at [email protected].
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) defines a floodplain as any land area susceptible to being inundated by floodwaters from any source. This can include coastal areas impacted by storm surge, land along a river or bayou that is flooded when that waterway rises out of its banks, or low-lying land that fills with water when it rains. Flooding occurs in a wide range of landscapes due to rainfall or storm surge.
In addition to being a natural phenomenon, a floodplain is a legally defined concept. FEMA designates floodplains nationwide, which are used for several purposes:
- The designated floodplains are used to set rates for flood insurance.
- Mortgage issuers usually require flood insurance for any property in the designated floodplain.
- Cities set special building regulations for properties inside the designated floodplain.
- Models based on designated floodplains can be used to warn residents of impending flooding and to issue evacuation orders.
2. Additional Resources
- Calculations and Notes
- Durham Unified Development Ordinance (UDO)
3. Federal Resources
KNOW THE FACTS
Is my property within a Floodplain?
For more information about floodplain determinations for your property, or site development, please contact our City-County Planning Department at [email protected]. Please provide your telephone number, your address, site inquiry address, and a complete description of your request.
Can I build or renovate in the Floodplain?
Whether you can build or renovate in the floodplain depends on:
Building codes are different in the floodplain than outside of the floodplain. A Floodplain permit is required before any floodplain construction takes place to make sure it complies with the additional regulations. Floodplain development restrictions apply to grading, new construction, and some renovations on property with floodplain on it.
For determination and next steps email [email protected].
Am I required to have flood insurance?
If you own or rent property in Durham, you can obtain flood insurance at NFIP rates. For buildings not mapped in Special Flood Hazard Areas, Preferred Risk Policies can be obtained at a fraction of full risk rates. Your current insurance agent can help you get flood insurance. Most insurance companies can write a NFIP flood insurance policy for you. Click the link to find a provider https://www.floodsmart.gov/flood-insurance-provider.
Flood Safety Tips
Myth: The “100 Year Flood” should only happen once every 100 years.
Fact: The “100 Year Flood” actually has a 1% chance of happening in any given year. These floods can occur far more often than once every hundred years. Homes in these areas have a 26% chance of such a flood occurring during a 30 year mortgage period.