Floodplain Regulation

Protected Floodplain Areas


James City County (JCC) protects floodplain areas from activities that would disrupt the important functions they perform. The primary way this is accomplished is through the County’s floodplain management regulations contained in the Zoning Ordinance. These regulations, administered by the Community Development Department, establish the criteria by which development is either permitted or prohibited in the floodplain.

The Comprehensive Plan also provides guidance in land use decisions, establishing development and growth patterns and has several components that protect areas with environmentally sensitive features. During review of the Comprehensive Plan Land Use Map, designation decisions are made to ensure future land use corresponds to the land’s potential for flooding. Those parcels with sensitive environmental features such as floodplain would be given a designation that reflects a need for development with mitigation techniques employed.

Protected Conservation Areas


Parcels with the following are typically designated as a Conservation Area:
  • Critical Plant and Wildlife Habitats
  • Flood Hazard Areas
  • Marshes
  • Steep Slopes
  • Stream Banks
  • Wetlands
This designation is found on sites where ordinary development practices would likely cause significant environmental damage. To read more on Conservation Areas and Land Use Designations go here. Lands designated for conservation are intended to remain in their natural state. The Comprehensive Plan also serves to develop goals, strategies and actions which serve as initiatives for all County agencies to work towards. To read more on these initiatives, please go to the Environment section of the Comprehensive Plan.

Beyond the intent to preserve natural resources, floodplain regulations are in place to prevent the loss of life and property, the creation of health and safety hazards and the disruption of commerce and governmental services. It is in the interest of all citizens to prevent the extraordinary and unnecessary expenditure of public funds for flood protection and relief, and the impairment of the tax base.

JCC’S Floodplain Ordinance


JCC’s floodplain regulations pertain to those areas subject to inundation by waters of the 1% annual chance flood event (formerly referred to as the 100-year flood) or greater in any given year. The minimum basis for the delineation of these districts shall be, but not be limited to, the flood insurance study maps prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Insurance Administration (FIA).
  • Please read more on the role of these agencies on our FEMA and National Flood Insurance Program page.
  • If you have questions regarding how this affects the cost of flood insurance please read more on our flood insurance information page.
The construction or placement of any structure or obstruction, filing or changing the cross-section or flow characteristics within the 1% annual chance flood elevation shall not be permitted unless the project is in conformance with the provisions outlined in Sec. 24-595. You can find this section of the Ordinance here. One provision outlined in this section permits residential usage if the finished elevation of the lowest floor, including the basement or cellar of the building, is at least 2 feet above the 1% annual chance flood elevation.

If you have an existing structure which lawfully existed before the enactment of these regulations and is not in conformity with floodplain regulations, it may remain as a legal nonconformity. If you are considering making an addition to your home, business or adding another structure to your property please call the Community Development office for more information.