Protect Natural Floodplains

If you are interested in receiving tax deferrals for preserving agricultural, horticultural, and forest spaces, please see Lynchburg's Land Use Deferral Program.

Protecting Natural Floodplains is a key focus of Lynchburg's Comprehensive Plan 2013 through 2030, adopted by the City Council on January 14, 2014. The Plan lists the following goals for these atypical areas:

NS-1.3 (page 27) Provide incentives (e.g. stormwater credit program, etc. ) for the private preservation of environmental resources, including, but not limited to:

  • Preservation of significant wooded open space;
  • Dedication of greenway, trail, and open space easements;
  • Preservation of unique or critical habitats;
  • Protection of floodplains and riparian buffers;
  • Implementation of "Green" building and site design practices; and
  • Environmental remediation or retrofits.

NS-1.4 (page 27  to page 28) Promote responsible management and development of lands adjacent to important natural resources that provide a pleasant, healthy, and safe environment for human activities by:

  • Minimizing fill or development within 100-year floodplains and wetlands, except as required for water resources management and passive recreational projects;
  • Limiting the development of steep slopes adjacent to streams, floodplains, and wetlands;
  • Protecting unique and critical habitats;
  • Protecting and enhancing scenic resources, such as City parks and trails, the old City Cemetery, the riverfront, and Point of Honor; and
  • Eradicating invasive plant species.

The plan also describes the following visions for protecting natural floodplains:

Designing with Nature

The City will encourage environmentally responsible design and management of public and private facilities and lands. Lynchburg's natural setting- its place along the James River, its proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and its forested stream valleys and rolling hills- contribute to its special sense of place. The Blackwater Creek Trail will serve as a model for similar projects throughout the City, connecting neighborhoods, natural areas, stream valleys, and the riverfront. Natural watershed boundaries will guide regional initiatives aimed at the appropriate use, preservation, and protection of environmentally sensitive areas, including stream valleys, floodplains, forested areas, and hillsides. Where development is appropriate or infrastructure improvements are necessary, environmentally responsible designs will be encouraged through a variety of tools (e.g., facilitated permitting process, stormwater fee credits, etc.). (page 8, page 9)

Designation of Resource Conservation Areas

Lynchburg is a City of Hills, with steeply sloping land, floodways, and flood plains comprising 7.2% of the City. Resource Conservation Areas, illustrated in green on the Framework Map (PDF), include rivers, streams, wetlands, floodplains, and adjacent steep slopes (25% or greater). Many of the City's parklands incorporate significant resource conservation land. These areas serve a range of important functions habitat, natural stormwater control, and active and passive recreation are counted among the City's primary assets. The conservation of these environmentally sensitive areas is one of the primary goals of the Plan. (page 55, page 61)

Like other communities in Virginia's Piedmont region, rivers, stream valleys, and hillsides have had a profound influence on the development of the City's form. The City was founded at a convenient crossing along the James River, the downtown was built on high ground above the floodplain, and later development extended outward from the core along roads following the ridge lines-Rivermont Avenue, Fort Avenue, and Campbell Avenue. Neighborhoods developed on the high ground, and railroads and later highways followed the contours of the lowlands.

As the City approaches build-out, pressure to develop adjacent to and within sensitive areas will increase. To ensure that the natural function and beauty of the City's remaining natural areas are conserved, the City should carefully evaluate development proposals and employ a range of strategies to accommodate infill while protecting resources. These strategies may include incentives such as density bonuses for resource protection or dedication, site development flexibility for clustering, acquisition of critical lands, requirements for best management practices, stormwater fee credits, or other approaches that accomplish the plan's goals to facilitate infill development while protecting or enhancing the function of natural areas. (page 62, page77)

Natural Systems

Both the frequency of bank overflow and flood elevations have risen in these streams. The increased impact of floods appears to be due to increased urbanization of stream watersheds, not only in the City but also in neighboring counties. This resulted in an update of the City's floodplain mapping with new FEMA 100-year floodplain maps being adopted by the City, effective June 3, 2008. While the City has permitted development to occur in the 100-year floodplain in the past, it should limit new development in the floodplain in the future and seek to protect existing development that may be affected by flooding. As required by dam safety regulations, the City also should monitor and update dam break inundation zones shown in Exhibit 10-1. Due to the potential impacts on downstream properties, this map should be updated regularly as new information becomes available for public and privately regulated dams. (page 113)

Finally, the City itself could become actively involved in natural resource protection and management. When the City constructs a building, a parking lot, a road, or a park, for example, it should strive to protect wooded areas, steep slopes, and floodplains to the extent feasible. The City should use green building techniques and demonstrate well-landscaped stormwater management facilities that not only serve as best management practices but also provide visually pleasing amenities. The construction of Heritage High School and the Juvenile Detention Group Home will continue the standard of City buildings that are built with sustainable guidelines. Citizens in public meetings voiced a great deal of support for the City's establishment of a greenway program to expand the James River Heritage Trail and the Blackwater Creek Natural Area and to establish similar areas along other City streams. The greenway program should promote the purchase and acceptance of donations of open space for resource protection along streams. The City could also use environmental performance standards to obtain the dedication of stream valley open space for the greenway program in developing and redeveloping areas. (page 119)