[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Meeting of the Town of Bethlehem 3-26-1987. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The Legislature of the State of Connecticut has in C.G.S. § 7-148(c)(7) delegated the responsibility to local governmental units to adopt regulations designed to promote the public health, safety and general welfare of its citizenry. Therefore, the Town Meeting of the Town of Bethlehem, Connecticut, does ordain as follows.
The flood hazard areas of the Town of Bethlehem, Connecticut, are subject to periodic inundation which results in loss of life and property, health and safety hazards, disruption of commerce and governmental services, extraordinary public expenditures for flood protection and relief and impairment of the tax base, all of which adversely affect the public health, safety and general welfare.
These flood losses are caused by the cumulative effect of obstructions in floodplains causing increases in flood heights and velocities, and by the occupancy in flood hazard areas by uses vulnerable to floods or hazardous to other lands which are inadequately elevated, floodproofed or otherwise unprotected from flood damages.
It is the purpose of this chapter to promote the public health, safety and general welfare and to minimize public and private losses due to flood conditions in specific areas by provisions designed to:
Restrict or prohibit uses which are dangerous to health, safety and property due to water or erosion hazards, or which result in damaging increases in erosion or in flood heights or velocities.
Require that uses vulnerable to floods, including facilities which serve such uses, be protected against flood damage at the time of initial construction.
Control the alteration of natural floodplains, stream channels and natural protective barriers which are involved in the accommodation of floodwaters.
Control filling, grading, dredging and other development which may increase erosion or flood damage.
Prevent or regulate the construction of flood barriers which will unnaturally divert floodwaters or which may increase flood hazards to other lands.
The objectives of this chapter are:
To protect human life and health.
To minimize expenditure of public money for costly flood-control projects.
To minimize the need for rescue and relief efforts associated with flooding and generally undertaken at the expense of the general public.
To minimize prolonged business interruptions.
To minimize damage to public facilities and utilities, such as electric and telephone lines, streets and bridges located in floodplains.
To help maintain a stable tax base by providing for the sound use and development of flood-prone areas in such a manner as to minimize flood-blight areas.
To ensure that potential home buyers are notified that property is in a flood area.
Unless specifically defined below, words or phrases used in this chapter shall be interpreted so as to give them the meanings they have in common usage and to give this chapter its most reasonable application.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ADDITION (TO AN EXISTING BUILDING)
- Any walled and roofed expansion to the perimeter of a building in which the addition is connected by a common load-bearing wall other than a fire wall. Any walled and roofed addition which is connected by a fire wall or is separated by independent perimeter load-bearing walls is new construction.
- A request for a review of the Building Official's interpretation of any provision of this chapter or a request for a variance.
- AREA OF SHALLOW FLOODING
- A designated AO or VO Zone on a community's Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) with base flood depths from one to three feet where a clearly defined channel does not exist, where the path of flooding is unpredictable and indeterminate and where velocity flow may be evident.
- AREA OF SPECIAL FLOOD HAZARD
- The land in the floodplain within a community subject to a one-percent or greater chance of flooding in any given year.
- BASE FLOOD
- The flood having a one-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.
- That portion of a building having its floor subgrade (below ground level) on all sides.
- BREAKAWAY WALL
- A wall that is not part of the structural support of the building and is intended through its design and construction to collapse under specific lateral loading forces without causing damage to the elevated portion of the building or the supporting foundation system.
- Any structure built for support, shelter or enclosure for any occupancy or storage.
- Any man-made change to improved or unimproved real estate, including but not limited to buildings or other structures, mining, dredging, filling, grading, paving, excavating, drilling operations or permanent storage of materials.
- ELEVATED BUILDING
- A nonbasement building built to have the lowest floor elevated above the ground level by means of fill, solid foundation perimeter walls, pilings, columns (posts and piers), shear walls or breakaway walls.
- FLOOD HAZARD BOUNDARY MAP (FHBM)
- An official map of a community, issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where the boundaries of the areas of special flood hazard have been defined as "Zone A."
- FLOOD INSURANCE RATE MAP (FIRM)
- An official map of a community, on which the Federal Emergency Management Agency has delineated both the areas of special flood hazard and the risk premium zones applicable to the community.
- FLOOD INSURANCE STUDY
- The official report by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The report contains flood profiles, as well as the Flood Boundary Floodway Map and the water surface elevation of the base flood.
- FLOOD or FLOODING
- A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of normally dry land areas from:
- The channel of a river or other watercourse and the adjacent land areas that must be reserved in order to discharge the base flood without cumulatively increasing the water surface elevation more than one foot.
- The top surface of an enclosed area in a building (including basement), i.e., top of slab in concrete slab construction or top of wood flooring in wood frame construction. The term does not include the floor of a garage used solely for parking vehicles.
- FUNCTIONALLY DEPENDENT FACILITY
- A facility which cannot be used for its intended purpose unless it is located in close proximity to water, such as a docking or port facility necessary for the loading and unloading of cargo or passengers, shipbuilding, ship repair or seafood processing facilities. The term does not include long-term storage, manufacture, sales or service facilities.
- HIGHEST ADJACENT GRADE
- The highest natural elevation of the ground surface, prior to construction, next to the proposed walls of a structure.
- LOWEST FLOOR
- The lowest floor of the lowest enclosed area (including basement). An unfinished or flood-resistant enclosure, usable solely for parking of vehicles, building access or storage, in an area other than a basement area is not considered a building's lowest floor.
- MANUFACTURED HOME
- A structure, transportable in one or more sections, which is built on a permanent chassis and designed to be used with or without a permanent foundation when connected to the required utilities. The term also includes park trailers, travel trailers and similar transportable structures placed on a site for 180 consecutive days or longer and intended to be improved property.
- MANUFACTURED HOME PARK OR SUBDIVISION
- A parcel, or contiguous parcels, of land divided into two or more manufactured home lots for rent or sale.
- MEAN SEA LEVEL
- For purposes of the National Flood Insurance Program, the National Geodetic Vertical Datum (NGVD) of 1929 or other datum to which base flood elevations shown on a community's Flood Insurance Rate Map are referenced.
- NATIONAL GEODETIC VERTICAL DATUM (NGVD)
- As corrected in 1929, a vertical control used as a reference for establishing varying elevations within the floodplain.
- NEW CONSTRUCTION
- Structures for which the start of construction commenced on or after the effective date of this chapter (not the revision date).
- START OF CONSTRUCTION
- Includes substantial improvement and means the date the building permit was issued, provided that the actual start of construction, repair, reconstruction or improvement was within 180 days of the permit date. The "actual start" means the first placement of permanent construction of a structure (including a manufactured home) on a site, such as the pouring of slabs or footings, installation of piles, construction of columns or any work beyond the stage of excavation or placement of a manufactured home on a foundation. Permanent construction does not include land preparation, such as clearing, grading and filling; nor does it include the installation of streets and/or walkways; nor does it include excavation for a basement, footings, piers or foundations or the erection of temporary forms; nor does it include the installation on the property of accessory buildings, such as garages or sheds not occupied as dwelling units or not part of the main structure.
- A walled and roofed building that is principally above ground, a manufactured home, a gas or liquid storage tank or other man-made facilities or infrastructures.
- SUBSTANTIAL IMPROVEMENT
- Any combination of repairs, reconstruction, alteration or improvements to a structure, taking place during the life of a structure, in which the cumulative cost equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure. The market value of the structure should be the appraised value of the structure prior to the start of the initial repair or improvement or, in the case of damage, the value of the structure prior to the damage occurring. For the purposes of this definition, substantial improvement is considered to occur when the first alteration of any wall, ceiling, floor or other structural part of the building commences, whether or not that alteration affects the external dimensions of the structure. The term does not, however, include any project for improvement of a structure required to comply with existing health, sanitary or safety code specifications which are solely necessary to assure safe living conditions.
- A grant of relief from the requirements of this chapter which permits construction in a manner otherwise prohibited by this chapter where specific enforcement would result in unnecessary hardship.
- WATER SURFACE ELEVATION
- The height, in relation to the National Geodetic Vertical Datum (NGVD) of 1929 (or other datum, where specified), of floods of various magnitudes and frequencies in the floodplains of coastal or riverine areas.
This chapter shall apply to all areas of special flood hazard within the jurisdiction of the Town of Bethlehem, Connecticut.
The areas of special flood hazard identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in its Flood Hazard Boundary Map, dated June 4, 1990, with accompanying floodway maps and other supporting data, and any revision thereto, are adopted by reference and declared to be a part of this chapter.
A development permit shall be required in conformance with the provisions of this chapter prior to the commencement of any development activities.
No structure or land shall hereafter be located, extended, converted or structurally altered without full compliance with the terms of this chapter and other applicable regulations.
This chapter is not intended to repeal, abrogate or impair any existing easements, covenants or deed restrictions. However, where this chapter and another conflict or overlap, whichever imposes the more stringent restrictions shall prevail.
In the interpretation and application of this chapter, all provisions shall be:
The degree of flood protection required by this chapter is considered reasonable for regulatory purposes and is based on scientific and engineering consideration. Larger floods can and will occur on rare occasions. Flood heights may be increased by man-made or natural causes. This chapter does not imply that land outside the areas of special flood hazard or uses permitted within such areas will be free from flooding or flood damages. This chapter shall not create liability on the part of the Town of Bethlehem or by any officer or employee thereof for any flood damages that result from reliance on this chapter or any administrative decision lawfully made thereunder.
The Town of Bethlehem Building Official is hereby appointed to administer and implement the provisions of this chapter.
Application for a development permit shall be made to the Building Official on forms furnished by him or her prior to any development activities and may include, but not be limited to, the following plans, in duplicate, drawn to scale, showing the nature, location, dimensions and elevations of the area in question, existing or proposed structures, fill, storage of materials, drainage facilities and the location of the foregoing. Specifically, the following information is required:
Elevation in relation to mean sea level of the proposed lowest floor (including basement) of all structures [§ 84-18A(1)].
Elevation in relation to mean sea level to which any nonresidential structure will be floodproofed [§ 84-18A(2)(b)].
Description of the extent to which any watercourse will be altered or relocated as a result of proposed development.
A statement as to whether or not the proposed alterations to an existing structure meet the criteria of the "substantial improvement" definition in § 84-5.
A statement as to whether there will be dry access to the structure during the one-hundred-year storm event.
Where applicable, the following certifications by a registered engineer or architect are required and must be provided to the Building Official. The design and methods of construction must be certified to be in accordance with accepted standards of practice and with the provisions of § 84-18.
Upon completion of the applicable portion of construction, the applicant shall provide verification to the Building Official of the following as is applicable: lowest floor elevation. The elevation to be verified for:
Deficiencies detected by the review of the above listed shall be corrected by the permit holder immediately and prior to further progressive work being permitted to proceed. Failure to submit the survey or failure to make said corrections required hereby shall be cause to issue a stop-work order for the project.
Duties of the Building Official shall include but not be limited to:
Review all permit applications to determine whether proposed building sites will be reasonably safe from flooding.
Review all development permits to assure that the permit requirements of this chapter have been satisfied.
Advise the permittee that additional federal or state permits may be required, and if specific federal or state permit requirements are known, require that copies of such permits be provided and maintained on file with the development permit, possibly including but not limited to the Water Diversion, Dam Safety, Corps of Engineers 404.
Notify the regional planning agency and the affected municipality at least 35 days prior to the public hearing if any change of regulation or use of a flood zone will affect an area within 500 feet of another municipality.
Notify adjacent communities and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Inland Water Resources Division, prior to any alteration or relocation of a watercourse, and submit evidence of such notification to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Assure that maintenance is provided within the altered or relocated portion of said watercourse so that the flood-carrying capacity is not diminished.
Record the elevation (in relation to mean sea level) of the lowest floor (including basement) of all new or substantially improved structures, in accordance with § 84-18A(1).
Record the elevation (in relation to mean sea level) to which the new or substantially improved structures have been floodproofed, in accordance with § 84-18A(2).
When floodproofing is utilized for a particular structure, obtain certification from a registered professional engineer or architect, in accordance with § 84-18A(2).
Where interpretation is needed as to the exact location of boundaries of the areas of special flood hazard (for example, where there appears to be a conflict between a mapped boundary and actual field conditions), make the necessary interpretation. The person contesting the location of the boundary shall be given a reasonable opportunity to appeal the interpretation as provided in this article.
Maintain in his or her office all records pertaining to the provisions of this chapter.
In all areas of special flood hazard, the following provisions are required:
New construction and substantial improvements shall be anchored to prevent flotation, collapse or lateral movement of the structure.
New construction and substantial improvements shall be constructed with materials and utility equipment resistant to flood damage.
New construction or substantial improvements shall be constructed by methods and practices that minimize flood damage.
Electrical, heating, ventilation, plumbing, air-conditioning equipment and other service facilities shall be designed and/or located so as to prevent water from entering or accumulating within the components during conditions of flooding.
New and replacement water supply systems shall be designed to minimize or eliminate infiltration of floodwaters into the system.
New and replacement sanitary sewage systems shall be designed to minimize or eliminate infiltration of floodwaters into the systems and discharges from the system into floodwaters.
On-site waste disposal systems shall be located and constructed to avoid impairment to them or contamination from them during flooding.
All manufactured homes (including mobile homes placed on a site for 180 consecutive days or longer) to be placed or substantially improved shall be elevated so that the lowest floor is above the base flood elevation.
It shall be placed on a permanent foundation which itself is securely anchored and to which the structure is securely anchored so that it will resist flotation, lateral movement and hydrostatic and hydrodynamic pressures. Anchoring may include but not be limited to the use of over-the-top or frame ties to ground anchors.
It shall be installed using methods and practices which minimize flood damage.
In any portion of a watercourse which is altered or relocated, the flood-carrying capacity shall be maintained.
A structure already in compliance with the provisions of this chapter shall not be made noncompliant by any alteration, repair, reconstruction or improvement to the structure.
The Building Official shall obtain, review and reasonably utilize any base flood elevation and floodway data available from a federal, state or other source, including data developed pursuant to § 84-18A(1) of this chapter, as criteria for requiring that new construction, substantial improvements or other development in Zone A on the community's FIRM meets the standards in §§ 84-18A(1), B and C and 84-20.
In all areas of special flood hazard (A1-30, AE, AH) where base flood elevation data has been provided as set forth in § 84-7 or 84-15K, the following provisions are required:
Residential construction. New construction or substantial improvement of any residential structure shall have the lowest floor, including basement, elevated at least one foot above the base flood elevation.
New construction or substantial improvement of any commercial, industrial or nonresidential structure located in Zones A1-30, AE and AH shall have the lowest floor, including basement, elevated at least to one foot above the level of the base flood elevation; or
Nonresidential structures located in all A Zones may be floodproofed in lieu of being elevated, provided that, together with all attendant utilities and sanitary facilities, the areas of the structure below the required elevation are watertight with walls substantially impermeable to the passage of water and use structural components having the capability of resisting hydrostatic and hydrodynamic loads and the effects of buoyancy. A registered professional engineer or architect shall review and/or develop structural design, specifications and plans for the construction and shall certify that the design and methods of construction are in accordance with acceptable standards of practice for meeting the provisions of this subsection. Such certification shall be provided to the Building Official.
Elevated buildings. New construction or substantial improvements of elevated buildings that include fully enclosed areas formed by foundation and other exterior walls below the base flood elevation shall be designed to preclude finished living space and designed to allow for the entry and exit of floodwaters to automatically equalize hydrostatic flood forces on exterior walls.
Designs for complying with this requirement must either be certified by a professional engineer or architect or meet the following minimum criteria:
Provide a minimum of two openings having a total net area of not less than one square inch for every square foot of enclosed area subject to flooding;
The bottom of all openings shall be no higher than one foot above grade; and
Openings may be equipped with screens, louvers, valves or other coverings or devices, provided that they permit the automatic flow of floodwaters in both directions.
Electrical, plumbing and other utility connections are prohibited below the base flood elevation.
Access to the enclosed area shall be the minimum necessary to allow for parking of vehicles (garage door) or limited storage of maintenance equipment used in connection with the premises (standard exterior door) or entry to the living area (stairway or elevator).
Floodways. Located within areas of special flood hazard established in § 84-7 are areas designated as floodways on the community's Flood Boundary and Floodway Map. Since the floodway is an extremely hazardous area due to the velocity of floodwaters which carry debris, potential projectiles and has erosion potential, the following provisions shall apply:
Encroachments are prohibited, including fill, new construction, substantial improvements and other developments, unless certification (with supporting technical data) by a registered professional engineer is provided demonstrating that encroachments shall not result in any (0.00) increase in flood levels during occurrence of the base flood discharge.
Located within the areas of special flood hazard established in § 84-7 are areas designated as shallow flooding areas (Zones AO and AH). These areas have special flood hazards associated with base flood depths of one to three feet where a clearly defined channel does not exist and where the path of flooding is unpredictable and indeterminate.
In AO Zones, the following provisions apply:
All new construction and substantial improvements of residential structures shall have the lowest floor, including basement, elevated to the depth number specified on the Flood Insurance Rate Map, in feet, above the highest adjacent grade. If no depth number is specified, the lowest floor, including basement, shall be elevated at least two feet above the highest adjacent grade.
All new construction and substantial improvements of nonresidential structures shall:
Have the lowest floor, including basement, elevated to the depth number specified on the Flood Insurance Rate Map, in feet, above the highest adjacent grade. If no depth number is specified, the lowest floor, including basement, shall be elevated at least two feet above the highest adjacent grade; or
Together with attendant utility and sanitary facilities, be completely floodproofed to or above that level so that any space below that level is watertight 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.
On-site drainage for all proposed structures in Zones AO and AH located on slopes shall provide adequate drainage paths to guide floodwaters around and away from such structures.
In all special flood hazard areas, the following requirements shall apply:
All subdivision proposals shall be consistent with the need to minimize flood damage.
All subdivision proposals shall have public utilities and facilities, such as electrical systems, located and constructed to minimize flood damage.
All subdivision proposals shall have adequate drainage provided to reduce exposure to flood hazards.
In Zone A, base flood elevation and floodway data shall be provided for subdivision proposals and other proposed development (including manufactured home parks and subdivisions) which are five acres or 50 lots, whichever occurs first.
The Building Board of Appeals as established by the Town of Bethlehem shall hear and decide appeals and requests for variances from the requirements of this chapter.
The Building Board of Appeals shall hear and decide appeals when it is alleged there is an error in any requirement, decision or determination made by the Building Official in the enforcement or administration of this chapter.
Any person aggrieved by the decision of the Building Board of Appeals or any person owning land which abuts or is within a radius of 100 feet of the land in question may appeal within 15 days after such decision to the State Superior Court of the judicial district of Litchfield, as provided in C.G.S. § 8-8.
Variances may be issued for the reconstruction, rehabilitation or restoration of structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places or the State Inventory of Historic Places without regard to the procedures set forth in §§ 84-23 and 84-24, except for § 84-25C, and provided the proposed reconstruction, rehabilitation or restoration will not result in the structure losing its historical character.
Variances may be issued for new construction and substantial improvement and other development necessary for the conduct of a functionally dependent use, provided the structure or other development is protected by methods that minimize flood damage, create no additional threat to public safety and meet the requirements of § 84-25C.
Variances shall not be issued within any designated floodway if any increase in flood levels during the base flood discharge would result.
In passing upon such applications, the Building Board of Appeals shall consider all technical evaluations, all relevant factors, all standards specified in other sections of this chapter and:
The danger that materials may be swept onto other lands to the injury of others.
The danger of life and property due to flooding or erosion damage.
The susceptibility of the proposed facility and its contents to flood damage and the effect of such damage on the individual owner.
The importance of the services provided by the proposed facility to the community.
The necessity of the facility to have a waterfront location, in the case of a functionally dependent facility.
The availability of alternative locations, not subject to flooding or erosion damage, for the proposed use.
The compatibility of the proposed use with existing and anticipated development.
The relationship of the proposed use to the Comprehensive Plan and floodplain management for that area.
The safety of access to the property in times of flood for ordinary and emergency vehicles.
The expected heights, velocity, duration, rate of rise and sediment transport of the floodwaters and the effects of wave action, if applicable, expected at the site.
The costs of providing governmental services during and after flood conditions, including maintenance and repair of public utilities and facilities, such as electrical systems and streets and bridges.
Upon consideration of the factors listed above and the purposes of this chapter, the Building Board of Appeals may attach such conditions to the granting of variances as it deems necessary to further the purposes of this chapter.
Conditions for variances.
Variances shall only be issued upon a determination that the variance is the minimum necessary, considering the flood hazard, to afford relief; and in the instance of an historical building, a determination that the variance is the minimum necessary so as not to destroy the historic character and design of the building.
Variances shall only be issued upon a showing of good and sufficient cause, a determination that failure to grant the variance would result in exceptional hardship and a determination that the granting of a variance will not result in increased flood heights, additional threats to public safety, extraordinary public expense, create nuisances, cause fraud on or victimization of the public or conflict with existing local laws or ordinances.
Any applicant to whom a variance is granted shall be given written notice specifying the difference between the base flood elevation and the elevation to which the structure is to be built and stating that the cost of flood insurance will be commensurate with the increased risk resulting from the reduced lowest floor elevation.
The Building Official shall maintain the records of all appeal actions and report any variances to the Federal Emergency Management Agency upon request.
Violation of the provisions of this chapter or failure to comply with any of its requirements, including violation of conditions and safeguards established in connection with grants of variances or special exceptions, shall constitute a misdemeanor. Any person who violates this chapter or fails to comply with any of its requirements shall, upon conviction thereof, be fined not more than $250 per day if proven done willfully and $100 per day if not or imprisoned for not more than 10 days for each day of violation, or both, and, in addition, shall pay all costs and reasonable legal fees involved in the case. Nothing herein contained shall prevent the Town of Bethlehem from taking such other lawful action as is necessary to prevent or remedy any violation.