Floodplain Regulations Update

The City of Bellevue has been implementing floodplain regulations since 1978. The intent of these regulations is to protect human life and safety, minimize environmental and property damage, and reduce expenditures for disaster assistance and flood control.

What is Happening Now?

The City Council is considering a Land Use Code Amendment (LUCA) related to its floodplain regulations. This LUCA is to adopt Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) updated Federal Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and Flood Insurance Study (FIS), and to conform the city’s Land Use Code (LUC) to the updated FIRMs and FIS and federal and state standards. This LUCA is required to be effective by August 19, 2020.  

Background

The current FIRMs adopted by city code were published in 1995. In February 2020, FEMA completed its periodic update to the countywide FIRMs. The city is required to adopt the updated FIRMs as well as conform its floodplain regulations in chapter 20.25H LUC and several related sections in the Land Use Code to applicable federal and state standards, by August 19, 2020. Meeting this requirement is necessary for continued eligibility for Bellevue residents and businesses to obtain insurance and participate in the NFIP.

The NFIP is a federal flood insurance program that the city has participated in since December 1, 1978, by adopting minimum standards for development in FEMA floodplains. Participation in the NFIP allows any property owner in the city to purchase federal-backed flood insurance. The city has a Class 5 rating in FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS). The CRS program uses a rating scale of 9 to 1, with most communities entering the program at a CRS Class 9, which entitles residents to a 5 percent discount on their flood insurance premiums. As a community implements additional floodplain requirements, its residents become eligible for increased NFIP policy premium discounts. This program is available to the city’s residents and businesses, and the city’s excellent CRS rating provides a 25 percent discount on NFIP-backed flood insurance policies in the city.

Goals

This LUCA aims to protect human life and safety, minimize environmental and property damage, and reduce expenditures for disaster assistance and flood control. In other words, the requirements to adopt the updated FIRMs and conform the city’s frequently flooded areas to applicable federal and state standards are consistent with the goals of preserving healthy floodplains and promoting healthy biological processes.

Upcoming Opportunities to Engage

In the June 15 Study Session, the City Council initiated this LUCA to update the city’s frequently flooded areas regulations in the LUC and to adopt updated FIRMs and FIS transmitted to the city earlier on February 19. Comments and questions should be sent to the contact listed on this page.

Floodplain Project Status Timeline

The Bellevue City Council will hold a public hearing during its virtual meeting on Monday, July 13, 2020, to consider the Floodplain Regulations Land Use Code Amendment.

Notice of the Public Hearing and Staff Recommended LUCA was given on June 25, 2020.

Recommended LUCA strike-draft

Frequently Asked Questions

The City of Bellevue is accepting public comments on draft Land Use Code Amendments to the city’s floodplain development regulations in the Land Use Code (LUC). The following is additional information regarding the draft amendments.

The proposed code changes are driven by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which published updated Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and updated Flood Insurance Studies (FISs). These FIRMs and FISs do not change the areas that are regulated by the city’s critical areas regulations as Frequently Flooded Areas. The new maps have an updated vertical datum and are of finer resolution. Once adopted, these maps will become the official maps for flood insurance purposes within the city. Communities are required to update local codes to the current federal and state National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) standards and adopt the updated maps and studies by the effective date of August 19, 2020. Meeting this requirement is necessary for continued eligibility for Bellevue residents and businesses to obtain insurance and participate in the NFIP. The city has participated in the NFIP since 1978; therefore, Bellevue has a strong legacy of effective floodplain management.
Necessary Amendments to the Definitions

Twelve new definitions are will be added to the Land Use Code, and six definitions are proposed to be amended to improve clarity. These changes are for consistency with federal standards and are required by FEMA.

New terms added to the LUC:

  • Alteration of watercourse
  • Area of special flood hazard
  • Base flood
  • Flood elevation study
  • Floodplain or flood-prone area
  • Floodplain administrator
  • Highest adjacent grade
  • Historic structure
  • Mean sea level
  • New construction
  • Start of construction
  • Variance

Amended terms in the LUC:

  • Base flood elevation (BFE)
  • Flood or flooding
  • Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM)
  • Floodproofing
  • Floodway
  • Substantial improvement
Necessary Amendments to the Performance Standards

The amendments to the performance standards aim to improve flood prevention measures for new or substantially improved structures within frequently flooded areas. An example is a new standard to require automatic entry and exit of floodwaters for a garage attached to a residential structure, built below the Base Flood Elevation (BFE), for residential and mixed-use projects.

Necessary Amendments to the Floodplain Variance Process

The amendments require a variance process if a proposed development in a frequently flooded area does not comply with all required performance standards and include additional decision criteria consistent with FEMA’s requirements.

Necessary amendments to procedural requirements

The proposed amendments provide that the Director of Development Services must review certain application submittals and materials when evaluating and approving proposals for development within a frequently flooded area.

Currently, property owners choosing to construct within frequently flooded areas must apply for a Critical Areas Land Use Permit approval with the Development Services Department. The proposed changes ensure development in these areas are designed to minimize or eliminate flood damage and prevent one property owner from increasing flood damage to their neighbors. The changes follow standard floodplain management practices and are consistent with federal and state requirements.

The City Council is expected to conduct a public hearing in July, 2020, and adopt the proposed ordinance before August, 2020. The LUCA will be discussed with the East Bellevue Community Council (EBCC) on June 30, and the EBCC public hearing to approve/disapprove is scheduled for August 4.

The draft code amendments are available for public comment through July 13, 2020, or until the City Council takes final action, whichever is later.

Questions or public comments on the draft amendments will be accepted through July 13, 2020, or until the City Council takes final action, whichever is later, and can be submitted via email or US mail to the contact listed on this page.