Borough of Chester Heights, PA
Delaware County
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As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
ALLUVIAL SOILS
An azonal great group of soils, developed from transported and relatively recently deposited material (alluvium) characterized by a weak modification (or none) of the original materials by soil-forming processes.
FLOODWAY
The channel of a river or other watercourse and the adjacent land areas that must be reserved in order to discharge the waters of a one-hundred-year flood without cumulatively increasing the water surface elevation more than one foot at any point.
FLOODWAY FRINGE
The area of the floodplain not lying within a floodway which may hereafter be covered by flood waters up to the one-hundred-year flood.
ONE-HUNDRED-YEAR FLOOD
The highest level of flooding that, on the average, is likely to occur once every 100 years (i.e., that has a 1% chance of occurring each year).
RUNOFF (Hydraulics)
That portion of the precipitation of a drainage area or water shed that is discharged from the area in stream channels. Types include surface runoff, groundwater runoff, or seepage.
SUBSTANTIAL IMPROVEMENT
Any repair, reconstruction or improvement of a structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure either before the improvement or repair is started, or, if the structure has been damaged and is being restored, before the damage occurred. 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 either any project for improvement of a structure to comply with existing state or local health, sanitary or safety code specifications which are solely necessary to assure safe living conditions, or any alteration of a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places or a State Inventory of Historic Places.
A. 
The floodplain areas of the Borough of Chester Heights are subject to periodic inundation which has resulted in the loss of property, damage to structures, disruption of public and private activities and services, burdensome public expenditures for flood protection and relief, and impairment of the tax base and may result in loss of life, all of which adversely affect the public health, safety and welfare.
B. 
The general causes of these flood losses are the cumulative effect of impervious cover and obstructions in the floodplain causing increases in flood heights and velocities, and the occupancy of floodplains by uses vulnerable to floods.
It is the purpose of this article to promote the public health, safety and general welfare and to minimize those losses described in § 185-87, by provisions designed to:
A. 
Restrict or prohibit uses which are dangerous to health, safety or property in times of flood and/or cause increased flood height or velocities.
B. 
Protect the quality and quantity of surface and subsurface water supplies adjacent to and/or underlying the floodplain.
C. 
Provide areas for the deposition of floodborne sediment.
D. 
Require that all uses vulnerable to floods (including public facilities), where they are permitted by special exception or variance, be so constructed as to be protected against flood damage.
E. 
Require that, where uses are permitted by special exception or variance, written notice be given to prospective purchasers and/or lessees that the land under consideration for agreement of sale or lease is designated as lying either partially or totally within the floodplain as it is defined by this article and/or the Borough Zoning Map.
F. 
Protect the natural drainage ways in order to provide areas for flood water transport with the least possible perturbance to life and property.
A. 
The Flood Plain Conservation District of Chester Heights is defined and established to be the low areas adjoining and including a watercourse or other body of water (such as a pond, marsh, or lake) which are subject to the one-hundred-year flood level as delineated in the National Flood Insurance Study and including the areas defined as floodway, floodway fringe and approximate floodplain; the low areas adjoining and including any water or drainage course or body of water subject to periodic flooding or overflow and delineated as alluvial soils by the Soil Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture in the Soil Survey of Chester and Delaware Counties Series 1959, No. 19, issued May 1963; and the areas subject to the Standard Project Flood as outlined and delineated in Flood Plain Information Report on Chester Creek, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, prepared for Delaware County Planning Commission by U.S. Army Engineer District, Philadelphia, Corps of Engineers, December 1966. Where discrepancies between the three reports exist, the wider area will be considered the floodplain.
(1) 
The Flood Plain Conservation District as hereinabove defined will be shown on a map available to the public upon request to the Borough Secretary. Additional copies are on file in the Department of Environmental Protection, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and in the office of the Prothonotary, Delaware County Court House, Media, Pennsylvania.
(2) 
For the purposes of defining the application of the ordinance and its map to any specific areas, the maps, the data and other sources of material for the above report shall be available and shall be proof of the intended limits of the Flood Plain Conservation District. Any changes which are officially adopted will be recorded on the above map.
B. 
For the purposes of defining the application of this article and its map to any specific area, the Chester Heights Borough Zoning Map, data and other sources of material specified in § 185-89 shall be available and shall be proof of the intended limits of the Flood Plain Conservation District. No reductions in the Flood Plain Conservation District shall be made without prior consultation with and approval of the Federal Insurance Administrator. Any changes which are officially adopted will be recorded on the Borough Zoning Map.
(1) 
In case of any dispute concerning the boundaries of the Flood Plain Conservation District, an initial determination shall be made by the Borough Engineer and a report made to Borough Council in writing.
(2) 
Any party aggrieved by any determination of the Borough Engineer which has been approved by Borough Council as to the boundaries of the Flood Plain Conservation District or other decision or determination under this article may appeal to the Zoning Hearing Board. The burden of proof in such appeal shall be on the applicant.
The following uses and no others (unless by special exception or variance granted by the Zoning Hearing Board) are permitted in the Flood Plain Conservation District:
A. 
Cultivation and harvesting of crops in accordance with recognized soil conservation practices, as defined and determined by the U.S. Soils Conservation Service.
B. 
Pasture and grazing.
C. 
Outdoor plant nursery, orchard, tree farm.
D. 
Fish hatchery, hunting and fishing preserve.
E. 
Wildlife sanctuary, woodland preserve, and arboretums.
F. 
Permeable parking areas and driveways when permitted by the regulations for the contiguous zoning district otherwise applicable to the lot.
G. 
Closed sanitary sewer line systems, when constructed on the floodway fringe of the Flood Plain Conservation District, but in no case running along or directly within the floodway, except when such required course must cross a floodway junction.
H. 
A maximum of 3/4 of any setback required for the development of any lot or tract in any district contiguous to the Flood Plain Conservation District, provided that such setback shall not be used for any on-site sewage disposal system or a well.
The following uses may be allowed when granted by the Zoning Hearing Board:
A. 
Sewage treatment plants and piping stations, water pumping stations and water treatment plants, and storm sewer systems, subject to approval of the Department of Environmental Protection of the Commonwealth and the Borough Engineer, when constructed on the floodway fringe of the Flood Plain Conservation District, but in no case within the floodway. These systems shall be designed and constructed to eliminate infiltration of flood waters into the systems and discharges from the systems into the waters of the Commonwealth.
B. 
Dams, culverts and bridges when approved by the Department of Environmental Protection of the Commonwealth and the Borough Engineer.
C. 
Recreational uses, both public and private, such as parks, day camps, athletic fields, excluding permanent structures.
D. 
Grading and/or fill provided that the effect is not adversely to affect either the cross-sectional profile of the stream, watercourse and Flood Plain Conservation District, or increase the ten-year flood level of the floodway or the velocity of the water in the floodway at the point of such grading or fill. All requests for change of grade shall be accompanied by a detailed engineering report, including maps showing all existing contours and all proposed contours. In no case shall fill be used which should in any way contaminate or pollute the stream, pond, lake or other body of water.
E. 
Factors to be considered by the Zoning Hearing Board in passing upon each application for a special exception are as follows:
(1) 
The danger to life and property due to increased flood levels or velocities caused by encroachments.
(2) 
The danger that materials may be swept on to other lands or downstream to the possible injury of others.
(3) 
The ability of any proposed water supply and/or sanitation systems to avoid, causing disease, contamination and unsanitary conditions.
(4) 
The susceptibility of the proposed use to flood damage and the effect of such damage on the owner and the community.
(5) 
The requirements of the use for a floodway or floodway fringe location.
(6) 
The availability of alternative locations, not subject to flooding, for the proposed use.
(7) 
The compatibility of the proposed use with existing and foreseeable nearby uses.
(8) 
The relationship of the proposed use to the Comprehensive Plan and Flood Plain Conservation Management Program for the area.
(9) 
The safety of access to the property in times of flood for ordinary and emergency vehicles.
(10) 
The expected levels, velocity, duration, rate of rise, and sediment transport of the flood waters in the Flood Plain Conservation District expected at the site, resulting from a study by a registered professional engineer qualified in hydrology in the commonwealth.
(11) 
Such other factors which may be considered relevant to the purposes of the article.
A. 
Standards. In any instance where the Zoning Hearing Board is required to consider a request for a variance from the provisions of this article, the Board shall first determine that the standards and criteria enumerated in Section 912 of the Municipalities Planning Code, Act 247,[1] are met before granting the request. In considering whether the proposed use would be injurious to the public health, welfare and safety, the Board shall give special and particular consideration to the following factors:
(1) 
The danger to life and property due to increased flood levels or velocities caused by encroachments.
(2) 
The danger that materials may be swept on to other lands or down stream to the possible injury of others.
(3) 
The ability of any proposed water supply and/or sanitation system to avoid the causing of disease, contamination and unsanitary conditions.
(4) 
The susceptibility of the proposed use to flood damage and the effect of such damage on the owner or occupant and the community.
[1]
Editor's Note: Section 912 of the Municipalities Planning Code was repealed 12-21-1998 by P.L. 1329, No. 170. See now 53 P.S. § 10912.1.
Upon consideration of the purposes of this article, the Board may attach such conditions to the granting of a special exception or variance as it deems necessary to further the purposes of this article including, without limitation because of specific enumeration, the following:
A. 
Any new construction and/or substantial improvement to an existing structure shall have the lowest floor (including basement) elevated to 1 1/2 feet above the water surface elevation for a one-hundred-year flood at the place of construction. In any area for which the said elevation is not designated in the Flood Insurance Study or Flood Insurance Rate Map for the Borough, the required elevation shall be determined by selecting the point on the boundary of the floodplain nearest to the site in question and elevating the lowest floor (including basement) of the structure to 1 1/2 feet above such elevation. All such structures shall be securely anchored to prevent flotation, collapse and lateral movement; all such structures shall employ construction materials and techniques to minimize flood damage. Adequate drainage shall be provided. The elevation of the proposed lowest floor shall be indicated on the application for a building permit. The provisions of all other state and federal rules and regulations are applicable to such construction.
B. 
That such uses shall be designed so that the floodway shall carry the waters of the one-hundred-year flood without increasing the water surface elevation of that flood at any point in the Flood Plain Conservation District.
A. 
Procedure. Upon receiving an application for a special exception or a variance, the Zoning Hearing Board shall, prior to hearing, require the applicant to furnish such of the following materials as are deemed necessary by the Board under the existing use conditions and as it would exist if the proposed use were approved, as appropriate.
(1) 
Five copies of plans drawn to scale showing the nature, location, dimensions and elevation of the lot; photographs showing existing uses and vegetation; soil types and other pertinent information.
(2) 
A series of cross sections at twenty-foot intervals along the lot shoreline showing the stream channel, or the lake or pond bottom, and elevation of adjoining land areas to be occupied by the proposed uses, and high water information.
(3) 
Profile showing the existing slope of the bottom of the channel, lake or pond and calculations as to the effect of the proposed use upon the bottom and banks of the channel, lake or pond.
(4) 
Specifications for building materials and construction, floodproofing, filling, dredging, grading, storage water supply, and sanitary facilities.
(5) 
Computation of the change, if any, in the level and velocity of the water which would be attributable to any proposed uses.
(6) 
Specific elevations of the lowest point of the nearest building line to the floodplain boundary and point at which building leaves Flood Plain Conservation District.
B. 
In considering any application for a special exception or variance, the Zoning Hearing Board may request before the hearing, the written advice of Borough Council, the Planning Commission, the Borough Engineer, and other technical experts, concerning the extent to which the proposed use would:
(1) 
Diminish the capacity of the Flood Plain Conservation District to store and absorb floodwaters, increase flood velocities, and to increase sediment;
(2) 
Be subject to flood damage;
(3) 
Cause erosion and impair the amenity to the Flood Plain Conservation District; and
(4) 
Adversely affect the area contiguous to the Flood Plain Conservation District as well as the areas downstream.
In addition to and without limitation of the uses specifically permitted in the Flood Plain Conservation District by the provisions of this article, the following activities are specifically prohibited in the Flood Plain Conservation District:
A. 
The clearing of vegetation except for weeds and the removal of diseased shrubs or trees, or trees or portions thereof, which might cause hazard to life or property; and except where such clearing is necessary for construction permitted as a result of action by the Zoning Hearing Board.
B. 
Sod farming.
C. 
Storage of any material which, if inundated, would float.
D. 
Storage of flammable or toxic material or any other material which, if inundated, would degrade or pollute the stream, or cause damage if swept downstream.
E. 
Installation or maintenance of on-site sewage disposal systems and wells.
F. 
Placement or maintenance of a structure, including a mobile home.
G. 
Alteration or relocation of any watercourse, unless and until the applicant has notified the governing bodies of adjacent municipalities and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, with copies of such notices being sent to the Federal Insurance Administrator, and demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Borough Engineer that the flood-carrying capacity of the watercourse as altered or relocated is maintained at a level equal to or better than the existing flood carrying capacity. This requirement shall be in addition to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection pertaining to such alteration or relocation.
H. 
Any hospital, nursing home, jail or prison, mobile home park or mobile home subdivision or any "Development Which May Endanger Human Life" as defined in Section 38.7 of the Department of Community and Economic Development Flood Plain Management regulations is not permitted anywhere within the Flood Plain Management District.
The degree of flood protection required by this article is considered reasonable for regulatory purposes and is based on scientific study. Larger floods may occur or the flood height may be increased by man-made or natural causes. In such instances, areas within or without the Flood Plain Conservation District may be subject to flooding or flood damage. This article shall not create liability on the part of the Borough of Chester Heights or any officer or employee thereof for any flood damage that results from reliance on this article or any administrative decision made thereunder.
This article is designed to reduce flood losses and shall take precedence over any conflicting laws, ordinances, or codes; and where the provisions of this article and all standards and specifications adopted under it impose greater restrictions than those of any other ordinance or regulation, the provisions of this article and its standards and specifications shall be controlling.
In addition to penalties as are set forth for violations of this chapter, any development performed in violation of the provisions hereof shall be restored to its previous condition, including the destruction of illegally constructed buildings, replacement of excavated earth, removal of illegally placed fill, and restoration of grades and plantings to the original conditions.