The Directors shall have the power to consider and authorize or deny variances from the strict application of the requirements of these regulations. A variance shall be approved only if it is determined to not be contrary to the public interest and where, owing to special conditions of the lot or parcel, a literal enforcement of the provisions of these regulations, and unnecessary hardship would result.
Upon consideration of the purpose of these regulations, the individual circumstances, and the circumstances and limitations of the Garrett County Floodplain Management Ordinance, the Directors may attach such conditions to variances as it deems necessary to further the purposes of these regulations.
The local permitting official shall notify, in writing, any applicant to whom a variance is granted to construct or substantially improve a building or structure with its lowest floor below the elevation required by these regulations that the variance is to the floodplain management requirements of these regulations only, and the cost of Federal Flood Insurance will be commensurate with the increased risk, with rates up to $25 per $100 of insurance coverage. A record of all variance actions, including justification for insurance shall be maintained pursuant to §151.001 (j) of the Garrett County Floodplain Management Ordinance.
Floodplain Variance Application
In order to obtain relief from the requirements of these regulations, a request for Floodplain Variance must be submitted to the local permitting official. The request shall include the following:
- The location and description of the project.
- Justification for the development.
- An engineering analysis with supporting documentation to meet the conditions set forth in §152.102.
- An acknowledgement that an increased premium rate for flood insurance may not occur and that construction below the base flood increases risk to life and property.
Conditions Granting Variance
Floodplain variances shall only be granted upon findings by the local permitting official, with the concurrence of the Directors, that the development complies with each of the following conditions which are consistent with sound floodplain management:
- Good and sufficient cause is demonstrated.
- Exceptional hardship exists (economic hardship shall not be considered exceptional).
- The proposed development is the minimum necessary to afford relief.
- Additional threats to public safety are not posed.
- A determination that the granting of a floodplain variance will not result in extraordinary public expense or create nuisances, cause fraud or victimization of the public.
- No conflicts occur with existing local laws or ordinances.
- Comments from the State National Flood Insurance Program Coordinator are received.
- Flood proofing requirements in FEMA regulations are met.
- Any other conditions that the Directors may deem necessary for the protection of the health, safety and welfare of the public.
Natural Channel and Watercourses
The natural watercourse shall be maintained for protection of aquatic resources. In all floodplain zones, any development, which proposes to alter a watercourse, must obtain a Floodplain Variance. Any Floodplian Variance issued for the alteration of watercourses must assure that:
- The conditions for encroachment in the floodway are approved by FEMA, adverse impacts to aquatic resources are minimized and the public good outweights the adverse impacts;
- A certification by a licensed professional engineer that the flood-carrying capacity of the watercourse will not be diminished;
- Evidence that adjacent communtieis, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and MDE have been notified of the proposal, and evidence that such notifications have been submitted to FEMA;
- Evidence that the applicant shall be responsible for providing the necessary maintenance for the altered or relocated protion of the watercourse so that the flood carrying capacity will not be diminished. The Floodplian Administrator may require the applicant to enter into an agreement with Garrett County specifying the maintenance repsonsibilites; if an agreement is required, the permit shall be conditioned to require that the agreement be recoreded on the deed of the property which shall be binding on future owners.
Denial of Variance
A floodplain variance shall not be granted for:
- The placement of fill in the floodway except for the associated with public roads, compensatory storage must be provided.
- New structures in the floodway except for that associated with necessary infrastructure.
- Storage of materials or storage of equipment in the floodway.
- Substantial improvements of nonconforming structures in the floodway except for historic buildings.
- Encroachment in the floodway if any increase in the base flood will result.
Issuance of Floodplain Variance
The variance granted by the Directors shall be the minimum necessary, considering the flood hazard, to afford relief. For any floodplain variance issued, a letter shall be sent to the applicant indicating the terms and conditions of the floodplain variance, the increased risk to life and property in granting the variance and the increased premium rates for National Flood Insurance coverage. The applicant shall be notified in writing of the requirement for recordation of these conditions in the land records of Garret County prior to obtaining a permit.
The granting of a floodplain variance does not exempt the applicant from all required Federal and State permits. The applicant must secure all necessary State and Federal permits before proceeding with the development variance.
Functionally Dependent Uses
Variances may be issued for new construction and substantial improvements for the conduct of a functionally dependent use. A functionally dependent use cannot perform its intended purpose unless it is located or carried out in close proximity to water. It includes only docking facilities, port facilities that are necessary for the loading and unloading of cargo or passengers, and ship building and ship repair facilities, but does not include long-term storage or related manufacturing facilities. The variance may be issued only upon sufficient proof of the functional dependence. The provisions of §151.101 and §151.102 of the Garrett County Floodplain Management Ordinance must be met and the structure must be protected by methods that minimize flood damage up to the flood protection elevation and must create no additional threats to public safety. This may require methods of “wet flood proofing” which allow the structure to flood without significant damage. Methods of flood proofing must not require human intervention.