Requests for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) approvals are on the rise with a higher than average number of requests coming in over the last six to eight months. There doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation for the increase in inquiries except for the fact that residential dwelling construction starts and renovations continue to climb.
The LOMA application process is a mechanism used by homeowners and developers to reduce the highly restrictive development regulations associated with 100 year floodplain from an otherwise buildable property. The process starts with the identification of a regulated floodplain on the subject property. This can be done several ways including referencing County GIS data, performing a topographic survey of a particular property or referencing the FEMA Maps directly. The next step involves performing hydraulic modeling of the stream segment in question. If the modeling shows a reduction in the floodplain area (i.e. flood flows exist closer to the main stream than shown on maps and published data), then the areas shown to now be high and dry can be identified on a plan and submitted to FEMA for review and approval. With FEMA’s approval, those areas previously shown as floodplain and once regulated by the Municipal Flood Hazard District Regulations (translation: can’t be built upon) are now buildable.
Besides de-regulating land for development, another reason for preparing and submitting a LOMA application to FEMA is to eliminate the need for flood insurance. About every 5 years FEMA issues an updated set of FEMA Floodplain Maps or as they refer to them, Map Panels. Each Panel covers a specific part of the community showing the extent of the 100 year floodplain and specifies categories of floodplain – for example: Zone A Estimated, Zone AE Studied, Zone X – Not Regulated. The “zone” indicates how the floodplain lines where derived. For instance, areas designated Zone A are “Estimated” by USGS topo maps, historical evidence of flooding and interviews with local residents. Areas designated Zone AE are the result of actual hydraulic modeling. What is important to note here is that if your property is located within an “A” zone, you’ve got a pretty good shot at reducing the impact on your property through the modeling process.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t run from a development opportunity or back-burner your plans for a new pool just because the floodplain map says your property is in a floodplain. Take the time to research what can be done to eliminate the restriction. More often than not, the floodplain issue becomes a non-issue.
Bentley Homes’ Pemberton Townhouse Development breaks ground
on Phase II. With the southern half of the New Garden Township site built
out, Bentley is pushing forward with construction North of the existing stream
segment bisecting the property. DL Howell continues to stay involved by
assisting the well known Chester County based custom home builder with post
construction field changes to further enhance the site aesthetics. At
present, those field changes include the design of an extensive landscape berm
to be installed along the northern property line creating a private, secluded
enclave for residents making their home on the northern portion of the
development site. DLH is working closely with the project Landscape
Architect and Chester County Conservation District on re-review of the proposed
plan changes which are minor but will contribute greatly to the livability of
Minor changes to approved Land Development plans is a common
occurrence in our industry and when required, need to happen very quickly to
keep the overall buildout program moving. Engineers, Designers, Landscape
Architects and site contractors need to be quick on their feet if they want to
stay in the game and keep their Clients smiling. Communication is the key
and although the younger generation may opt to correspond via email, often
times picking up the phone and speaking to a regulator “live” is the quickest
way from A to B.
Bobbing and weaving to keep up with the constantly changing apartment market in Chester County is not an easy task. Sometimes, in an effort to meet what the market demands, architectural changes are necessary. With that, an Amended Conditional Use Plan approval was just granted for a plan proposing three individual high-end apartment buildings as opposed to the previously approved single structure. The parcel of ground sits just to the West of the Excellon Headquarters in Kennett Square, PA. The site plan still proposes 175 apartments, just in three buildings as opposed to one.
DLHowell assisted the Developer in situating the newly created three building layout so that the anticipated cuts and fills would balance. Due to the sloping nature of the site and Developer’s desire to have a consistently finished floor elevation around the entire perimeter of each building, grading was a challenge. However, a grading solution was achieved and at the end of the day, the separation of one building into three allowed the structures to “step down” the slope and more effectively merge with the lay of the land.
Next step: Amended Final Land Development Plans will be prepared and submitted to the Township for review. Those plans depict revised grades, erosion controls and stormwater facilities to accommodate the new layout. Additionally, lighting and landscape designs will be modified to meet code requirements associated with the revised improvements. DLHowell will assist the Developer in securing a Major Modification approval associated with the current NPDES Approval after which, construction can begin!
IN THIS SEGMENT, WE TAKE YOU ON A PHOTOGRAPHIC “RIDE ALONG” OF A TYPICAL DAY HERE AT DL HOWELL WHERE THE FIELD AND OFFICE BECOME ONE.. 3, 2, 1….go!
4 SITE VISITS
22 PHONE CALLS
2 ZONING EMERGENCIES
2 WAWA STOPS
Happens every time…the week right before a holiday is ALWAYS crazy. Not sure why, but it just is. More importantly, how did I allow my company newsletter obligation to fall on one of those weeks? Can’t answer that but I assure you it won’t happen again! With that said, and paper still flying here in the office, I’ve decided to just photo-document a recent day at DL Howell. Hmmm…how about Thursday – enjoy the photos!
SITE VISIT 1: STORMWATER OVERSIGHT BAILEY STATION
Historic…..oversee one of the last remaining on-lot seepage beds being constructed at the Bailey Station Subdivision.
Aside: The Bailey Station Subdivision started the approvals process in 2003. Located in Thorndale, PA, it consists of over 400 single family homes and townhouses, has taken over a decade and a half to complete and throughout this subdivision’s “Construction life” it has survived one Great Recession and a multitude of PADEP regulation changes mostly associated with the Federal NPDES Program.
SITE VISIT 2: STORMWATER OVERSIGHT DOWLIN FORGE STATION
Oversee construction of underground seepage bed at Dowlin Forge Station Subdivision. Dowlin Forge Station is located in East Brandywine Township and consists of 200+ townhouse and single-family homes. D.L. Howell is responsible for providing the required stormwater management facility oversight as mandated by the Federal NPDES Permit requirements. No oversight, no NPDES Permit termination…
More Check Subgrade… More Check Stone… More Check Pipe… Ahh…you get the picture…
RETURN MORE EMAILS, PHONE CALLS, ETC…
ZONING EMERGENCY 1:
From field and in between site inspections, work with Client and other land use consultants to save a Chester County Micro-Brewery (that will remain nameless) from dying a slow, painful zoning death… In our business, timing is everything. Sometimes, coordination with and responses to Municipal officials need to happen quickly no matter where you are to keep a project alive. Frankly, this pace is the part I love most about this job….
SITE VISIT 3: SIGHT DISTANCE CHECK SINCLAIR SPRINGS
Sinclair Springs is a 26-acre site located just south of the Borough of Kennett Square. The project is currently under construction and proposes 79 townhouse units. With the construction of the two main entrances to the development complete, DL Howell was asked to confirm that site distance and site triangle calculations meet code. Mission accomplished, the site is code compliant with the removal and relocation of two small bushes…
WAWA STOP NUMBER TWO… COFFEE AGAIN
ZONING EMERGENCY 2:
Coordinate with Municipal zoning officials to, hopefully, keep plans for a community pool moving forward. This one involves a local sports facility and their plans to implement a new pool to be used a part of their 2018 summer recreation program. How quickly can a pool be built?? Facing several zoning hurdles, this one needs immediate attention…Step 1, get a meeting with the Municipality to discuss…
SITE VISIT 4: POOR SOIL ISSUES – PEMBERTON
The “Pemberton” development consists of 82 planned townhouse units and is located in northern New Garden Township. DL Howell was asked to advise on the possibility of changing drainage patterns in light of a small area of poorly draining soils on site….
RETURN THE LAST OF EMAILS, PHONE CALLS FOR THE DAY…
D.L. Howell & Associates assisted Henkels & McCoy in securing approvals for the expansion of their operations facility in Cliffwood (Aberdeen Township), NJ. The project entailed a roughly 2000 SF office expansion to their current office building and 12 new parking spaces to support the new office space. The approvals were complicated by decades-old zoning relief and the need to confirm whether conditions associated with that relief were adequately complied with. DLH submitted plans to the Township and Freehold, NJ Soils Conservation District for approval. In late January, DLH attended a Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting where site plan, variance, and waiver approvals were all granted. Final plan revisions will be made to comply with the conditions of approval and the project should be on track for construction this Spring.