Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Avoid Building In Floodplains

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Avoid Building In Floodplains

The owners of 8800 Richmond Highway want Fairfax County to amend its Comprehensive Plan to allow 43 townhomes on land that is almost entirely in the 100-year floodplain and the Chesapeake Bay Resource Protection Area. The 8 acres are part of the Dogue Creek Environmental Quality Corridor and currently protected by the county's Comprehensive Plan and several ordinances.

Developers propose to add 41,000 cubic feet of fill in the floodplain and build townhomes on top.  Raising homes out of the floodplain may protect them, but it displaces water during high-flow events.  

Floodplains absorb, store and dissipate water during floods. Permanently removing 2 acres of floodplain increases the risk of downstream flooding. The county has already spent our tax money to purchase private properties downstream on Dogue Creek to mitigate flooding.

This development is inconsistent with policies and laws that protect streams, improve water quality, reduce flood risk, and restore the Chesapeake Bay. Since the county tightened environmental protections in 1975, very few new residential lots have been created in floodplains.

Current county policy allows development in Environmental Quality Corridors only in “extraordinary circumstances.” Violating the county’s hard-won environmental protections weakens them. If the county allows this exception, it can’t deny it to other “similarly situated” projects.

Each floodplain development would have a cumulative effect, increasing flooding risk and adversely affecting water quality.   

Approving this development could raise flood insurance costs for everyone. Fairfax County has a very high rating (category 6) in the FEMA National Flood Insurance Community Rating System. This allows owners to obtain flood insurance at a discount. Loosening restrictions on floodplain development could lower the county’s rating and raise the cost of flood insurance.

Fairfax County had a long history of development in floodplains and is still living with the consequences. Look at the $30 million price tag to construct a levee to protect Huntington residents from the waters of Cameron Run.  That floodplain was developed long before Fairfax County had effective restrictions on floodplain development. Surely we know better now.

Responsible county officials should learn from the past and not repeat its mistakes. New homes do not belong in the floodplain. Please contact Supervisor Dan Storck (dan.storck@fairfaxcounty.gov) and Mount Vernon Planning Commissioner Walter Clarke (walter.clarke@fairfaxcounty.gov) to urge them not to support this project.

Betsy Martin