Floodplain Regulations

Leon County participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a Federal program that offers flood insurance to property owners or renters to protect against losses from flooding. By joining the NFIP, Leon County agrees to enforce sound floodplain management standards to prevent increased flooding and minimize future flood damage. Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and are used as the basis for delineating the 100-year floodplain and identifying regulated land.

Leon County has adopted a Floodplain Management Ordinance (Section 10-8 of the Leon County Code of Laws) to fulfill the agreement with the NFIP to enforce floodplain management standards. Leon County also utilizes the Florida Building Code to regulate construction in unincorporated Leon County. All development activity in unincorporated Leon County, which includes building construction or alteration and topographic grade changes, requires a permit from Leon County Development Support & Environmental Management (DSEM) unless a specific exemption is granted. No development shall take place in the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) without a permit from Leon County DSEM. Complete floodplain permitting requirements can be found in the Floodplain Management Ordinance but the following is a summary of the requirements for new construction and substantial damage/improvement.

Leon County Code of Laws defines substantial damage as

damage of any origin sustained by a structure whereby the cost of restoring the structure to its before damaged condition would equal or exceed 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred. This term also includes "repetitive loss" structures.

Substantial improvement is defined by the Leon County Code of Laws as

any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement of a structure, the cumulative cost of which equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the "start of construction" of the improvement. This term includes structures that have incurred "substantial damage" regardless of the actual repair work performed. This term does not, however, include any repair or improvement of a structure to correct existing violations of State of Florida or local health, sanitary, or safety code specifications, which have been identified by the local code enforcement official prior to the application for permit for improvement, and which are the minimum necessary to assure safe living conditions. This term does not include any alteration of a historic structure, provided that the alteration will not preclude the structure's continued designation as a historic structure

All new construction and substantial improvements located within or in close proximity to the SFHA designated on the FIRMs or located within or in close proximity to other (i.e., non-designated) areas that are subject to flooding, shall be constructed by methods and practices that minimize flood damages. All new construction shall be designed and adequately anchored to prevent flotation, collapse and lateral movement of the structure resulting from hydrostatic loads, including the effects of buoyancy.

All new construction and substantial improvements of residential structures located within or in close proximity to SFHA designated on the FIRMs or located within or in close proximity to other (i.e., non-designated) areas that are subject to flooding, shall be designed to have the lowest floor (including basement) elevated to at least the flood protection elevation. An elevation certificate (EC) is required for all new construction and substantial improvements when any portion of a property is located below the flood protection elevation. The EC is part of the permit record and must be submitted before the building may be occupied. The flood protection elevation is generally 3 feet above the base flood elevation.

Non-substantial improvements to existing residential structures are allowed to maintain the lowest floor at the flood protection elevation level as originally permitted unless identified by FEMA as a repetitive loss structure, but in no case shall the non-substantial improvement be lower than the current base flood elevation. All manufactured homes to be placed or substantially improved within zones A1-30, AH, and AE shall be elevated on a permanent foundation such that the lowest floor of the manufactured home is at or above the flood protection elevation and is securely anchored to an adequately anchored foundation system.

New construction and substantial improvement of any commercial, industrial or other nonresidential structure shall have the lowest floor, including basement, elevated to at least the flood protection elevation or be floodproofed so that, below the flood protection elevation, the structure is watertight and with walls substantially impermeable to the passage of water and with structural components having the capability of resisting hydrostatic and hydrodynamic loads and effects of buoyancy.

For areas outside FIRM designated SFHAs, to prevent flood damage due to overland sheet flow, all newly constructed detached single family, duplex, triplex and quadraplex structures and substantial improvements of structures, regardless of their location in or outside of an area subject to flooding, shall have their lowest floor elevation a minimum of one foot higher than the finished grade elevation at a distance of five feet from the foundation.

All sites shall be graded to prevent overland sheetflow from entering into garages and basements. Adequate drainage paths around structures on slopes are required to guide floodwaters around and away from proposed structures.

Additional information on the requirements for floodplain development, the permitting process in unincorporated Leon County, and elevation certificates can be obtained by contacting Leon County Development Support and Environmental Management by phone at 606-1300 or visiting the DSEM office on the 2nd Floor of the Renaissance Center located at 435 North Macomb Street.