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Floodplain Management

Administrative Procedures Regarding the Application of Flood Damage Prevention:

Application Forms:

Elevation Certificate Archives:


Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Proposed Floodplain Regulations:


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  • What is the County doing?


Since 1981 Orange County has had a flood damage prevention ordinance and flood map that restricts development in floodplains.  Recently the 1981 Flood Insurance Rate Map was updated in 2007.  Orange County is proposing to amend its Subdivision Regulations, Zoning Ordinance, and Zoning Atlas (maps) to incorporate the standards and procedures found in the existing Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance and Flood Insurance Rate Map.  This proposal to switch the flood regulations into the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations requires amendments to the County Subdivision Regulations, Zoning Ordinance text, and Zoning Atlas.  Instead of a standard flood map, the floodplains are proposed to be mapped as Special Flood Hazard Overlay Districts just for the limited area of the flood-prone areas of your land.


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  • Will this action affect all of my property?

No, just that part of your land that contains floodplains.  There are nearly 2,400 parcels in Orange County containing floodplains.  Of these nearly seventy have homes, barns, sheds, or garages in the floodplain.  The vast majority of buildings on properties with floodplains are built out of the floodplain. 

If you are a farmer, this change will not affect your farming operations, only the siting of new buildings in the floodplain.


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  • Why is the County doing this?

Our County Attorney has advised us that we must make amendments to our Flood Insurance Rate Map in a method similar to how we amend our Zoning Atlas.  This is the same suggestion in an October 2006 North Carolina Attorney General’s opinion.  Our Attorney further suggested that we incorporate the Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance standards and procedures and Flood Insurance Rate Map into our Zoning Ordinance.


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  • Why did I get a letter (or postcard)?

Section 20.6.3 of the Zoning Ordinance requires that when an amendment to the Zoning Atlas is proposed, all affected property owners (in this case properties with existing floodplains) must be noticed by certified mail.

Property owners within 500 feet of an affected property must also be notified by regular mail.  These other property owners will not be affected at all.



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  • Will my property be affected?

If you received a postcard, then your property will not be affected by this action.  If you received a certified letter, then a portion of your property already has a floodplain.  The Flood Insurance Rate Map that is now regulating the construction a building and structures in the floodplain will continue to do so as a special overlay district  -- the Special Flood Hazard Area.  The standards and processes will be identical to what they are today and have been for twenty years.


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  • What about the value of my property with all that floodplain?

Because the mapped floodplain areas have been known since at least February 2007, the impact of the transfer to the standards to the Zoning Ordinance should not have a measurable affect on your property values.


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  • Do I have to purchase flood insurance now because of this change?




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  • Will the regulations change?

No, except that they will now be in the Zoning Ordinance and not in the freestanding Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance.  A free-standing ordinance would be like a noise ordinance or health regulations in that they are not assoicatied directly with the Zoning Ordinance.



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  • Can I build on my property if it has floodplain on it?

Yes, but you would be well advised to consult with both with the Current Planning Division of the Planning and Inspections Department and the Environmental Health Department before you begin improvements on the portion of your land outside the floodplain.


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  •  How long have the floodplain regulations been in effect?

The Ordinance was first adopted on March 16, 1981 and has been amended several times since then.  The last time it was amended was on January 23, 2007 when the County adopted the new Flood Insurance Rate Maps, which became effective on February 2, 2007.


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  •  I have never seen that creek flood?  Why are you picking on me?

The floodplain areas were determined by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) using the US Army Corps of Engineers HEC-RAS hydrologic and hydraulic model.  It takes into account historic local rainfall patterns, land cover and topography within the watershed of each stream, and stream channel characteristics.  Detailed cross sectional data were developed using the latest LIDAR technology. 

If there are inconsistencies in the mapping, individual property owners may submit a Conditional Letter of Map Amendment (CLOMA) to FEMA for their consideration.  An elevation certificate, prepared by a licensed land surveyor or engineer must accompany the submittal.


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  •  What is a LOMA, a LOMR, and a SOMA?

From time to time FEMA and its Cooperating Technical State partner, the State of North Carolina Division of Emergency Management, approve Letters of Map Amendment (LOMA), Letters of Map Revision (LOMR), and Summaries of Map Action (SOMA).  Since the adoption of the new FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), which became effective on February 2, 2007, FEMA has approved five (5) LOMAs, four (4) LOMR, and one (1) Summary of Map Amendment. 

A LOMR alters the base flood elevation of the floodplain and the underlying Flood Insurance Study, by lowering or raising the elevation.  It is required for any stream crossing or dam removal involving a mapped special flood hazard area (floodplain).  LOMRs physically and legally alter FEMA flood maps.  The applicant must notify all surrounding property owners by mail and perform detailed hydrologic and hydraulic analyses to document the alterations.

A LOMA is an acknowledgement by FEMA that the mapped floodplain does not reflect the true base flood elevation, as applied to a specific house or accessory building.  They are applied for when a property owner believes his or her house, garage, barn, or other structure is inappropriately mapped within a floodplain.  An elevation certificate is required to verify the owner’s assertions.  The FIRM and the underlying Flood Insurance Study does not change, but the flood insurance status for the house or accessory structure does. 

FEMA issues a Summary of Map Actions (SOMA) when a number of corrections to the flood maps occur in a relatively short time.  Rather than processing them separately, FEMA groups them into one SOMA.  This recently happened in the Town of Chapel Hill, and it affected Orange County when the letter suffix to Map Panel 9890 changed from “K” to “L.”


Contact Glenn Bowles (919.245.2577) for further information on floodplain maps and procedures.

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