Flooding and Maps

What are Floodplains?

What Are Floodplains?

Floodplains are the areas along streams or rivers that are likely to experience repeated flooding. Over thousands of years, nature shaped the floodplain to hold excess water that spills over the banks. Simply put, floodplains are meant to flood. Because nature designed floodplains to flood, the floodplain is considered to be part of a healthy creek system.

Decades ago, homes and buildings were often built in floodplains in Charlotte and across the nation. That's because water was easily available for drinking or commercial uses and the floodplain land was often flat and easier to develop than hilly land. Since the late 1970s, building in local floodplains has been restricted. Protecting floodplains from additional development can reduce flood losses and improve the environment.

It should be noted that nature formed floodplains to flood and to carry a large volume of stormwater. Therefore, floodplains can be dangerous during heavy storms and should be avoided when water is present.

Protecting floodplains from the impacts of development is essential for protecting water quality, reducing the risks of flooding and flood insurance rates, supporting wildlife habitat, and providing areas that can potentially be used for recreation.

Improve Water Quality. Floodplains prevent and remove pollutants in stormwater by providing open space for floodwaters to slow down and absorb into the ground. This dissipates the energy and volume of floodwaters, decreasing erosion and sedimentation within the stream. It also allows pollutants such as sediment and nutrients to settle out of floodwater.

Reduce Flood Risks. Floodplains are supposed to flood. Floodplains help spread the extra energy and volume of floodwaters along an entire stream or river system rather than concentrating it in one area where it can be more destructive. For example, a one-acre floodplain can store 1.5 million gallons of floodwater. Protecting floodplains not only reduces flood risks, it lowers flood insurance rates.

Provide Wildlife Habitat and Recreation Areas. Floodplains provide spawning ground for fish and unique habitat for a wide variety of plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. Their long corridors of connected habitat make them a rich resource for wildlife and ideal area for greenway trails.

For all these reasons, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services proactively protects floodplains from the impacts of development through local regulations. In 2000, Charlotte-Mecklenburg became the first community in the nation to show both current FEMA Floodplains and future floodplains on its official maps. Future floodplains are also called Community Floodplains and show where flooding is likely to occur in the future based on expected development upstream. As development occurs, regulations that help protect FEMA Floodplains and Community Floodplains will avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in future flood damage.

Landowners and professionals planning any “development” activity in a floodplain within the City of Charlotte and/or Mecklenburg County should have the knowledge and skills to plan, design, and construct their project in compliance with local, state and federal Floodplain Regulations. For purposes of floodplain management, “development” means any man-made change to improved and unimproved real estate, including, but not limited to, buildings or other structures, mining, dredging, filling, grading, paving, excavating or drilling operations. Floodplain development restrictions apply to both FEMA Floodplains and Community Floodplains.

For more information about the regulations that limit or ban new construction and other development in mapped floodplains, see the “Floodplain Regulations Technical Guidance Document” at Regulations

Facts and Stats for the Regulated Floodplain

  • There are almost 20,000 acres of land designated as regulatory floodplain across Mecklenburg County.
  • More than 20,000 parcels of land touch or come in contact with the regulated floodplain, representing 5.8% of the land in the county.
  • Approximately 2,700 residential and commercial structures are located in the regulated floodplain. Although many of these homes and businesses are built above the 100-year flood level, many are impacted during large rain events.

Am I in a Floodzone?

Find out by typing your address into the 3D Interactive Floodzone Map or call 704-432-RAIN.

Floodplains and Maps

Public safety is our top priority at Charlotte Mecklenburg Storm Water Services. To prevent tragedies caused by flooding, we partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assess and map flood risks in response to any changes in land development, changes in rainfall statistics and improvements in topographic data.

Floodplain Maps also referred to as Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), display areas near major streams that have a specific risk of flooding determined through the analysis of many factors. The maps show how likely a building, or a section of land could be affected by rising water from a stream during a storm event. Flood risks vary. Flooding can occur both inside and outside of the designated floodplains. Floodplain maps are used for flood insurance purposes and managing land development activities through permitting guided by floodplain regulations.

Floodplain Mapping Program and Revisions

Flood risks change over time. Floodplain maps must be updated regularly to accurately show flooding risk. Our Floodplain Mapping Program updates local floodplain maps. Risk mapping technology has improved, allowing our staff to more accurately predict where floodwater is likely to flow. The new maps also calculate how deep floodwater is likely to get and show how frequently a section of land is expected to flood.

Remapping regulated floodplains follows the standards, methods, and sequence of steps required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The steps are: 1) Planning, 2) Development, 3) Draft, 4) Preliminary, and 5) Effective. This is relayed as the status for each phase of mapping.

The remapping process includes a series of public meetings to inform the public about the pending changes, gather feedback and allow the public to provide input and comments throughout the process.

Current Mapping Updates Schedule

To schedule updates, Mecklenburg County has been divided into four geographical areas called “phases.” New floodplain maps have been developed and adopted starting with Phase 1 and ending with Phase 4. Phases 1, 2 and 3 are now Effective; Phase 1 maps took effect in 2014, Phase 2 maps in 2015 and Phase 3 maps in 2018. Flood maps for Phase 4 are in development.

Enter an address or use the zoom controls to view the floodplain remapping phase for a property.

View a larger map

Floodplain Maps FAQ

What are floodplain maps used to do?

Floodplain maps are used to:

  • guide new construction and remodeling.
  • determine when flood insurance is required.
  • set the cost of flood insurance premiums.

What’s the difference between the FEMA Floodplain and Community Floodplain?

The FEMA Floodplain shows where flooding is likely to occur now. Community Floodplain shows where flooding is likely to occur in the future, based on expected development upstream. In 2000, Charlotte-Mecklenburg became the first community in the nation to show both current and future floodplains on its official maps.

Can I build or renovate in the floodplain?

Whether you can build or renovate in the floodplain depends on:

  1. Where the property is in the floodplain.
  2. If the building's floor is above the required elevation.
  3. The cost of renovation compared to the value of the existing structure.

Keep in mind: Building codes are different in the floodplain than outside of the floodplain. A special permit is required before any floodplain construction takes place to make sure it complies with the additional regulations. Floodplain development restrictions apply to grading, new construction and some renovations on floodplain property.

To get approval to renovate or repair a structure in the floodplain, you need to know:

  1. What is the required elevation for a building in that part of the flood zone?
  2. Is the floor of my building below this required elevation?

Buildings below the required elevation are at a higher risk of flood damage. For that reason, there are restrictions on renovations.

Who should buy flood insurance?

Anyone at even low to moderate risk of flooding. Everyone lives in a floodzone. Some places have higher flood risks than others. If you live on a hill, your risk may be reduced. But it is not eliminated. Flooding can happen anywhere. Each year 28% of flood insurance claims are from outside high-risk areas (regulated, mapped floodplains). Standard homeowners' insurance or business insurance does not cover flood damage.

Additional Information

Floodplain Development

Floodplain Development

Our staff works with property owners to provide services to protect floodplains. The entire community benefits when urban floodplains are protected and restored.

Floodplain Regulations

  • Provide recommendations to elected officials regarding floodplain ordinances
  • Enforce floodplain ordinances, including notices of violation
  • Issue Floodplain Development Permits
  • Review building Elevation Certificates
  • Maintain accurate floodplain maps
  • Work with the National Flood Insurance Program

The regulatory side of Storm Water Services' Flood Mitigation Program focuses heavily on construction. Development in a FEMA or Community Floodplain requires a Floodplain Development Permit from the floodplain administrator. Some remodeling or redeveloping of existing structures within the regulated floodplains also requires a Floodplain Development Permit.

Locate floodplain regulations for each jurisdiction within Mecklenburg County. 

Floodplain Construction and Permits

A Floodplain Development Permit (FDP) has been required in Charlotte-Mecklenburg since 1994 for all development within the floodplain. To determine if your proposed development or lot is in or touching the floodplain, check the 3D Interactive Floodzone Mapping application. 

The requirements are different in a regulated floodplain. Additional rules and permitting requirements apply to new construction, additions or renovations, even grading the soil in the floodplain. Floodplain regulations apply to both the FEMA Floodplain and Community Floodplain. For detailed, legal requirements please reference the Floodplain Regulations Technical Guidance Document(PDF, 2MB) and each jurisdiction's Floodplain Regulations.

There are two types of Floodplain Development Permits - General and Individual.

General Floodplain Development Permit

To comply with federal regulations, a General Floodplain Development Permit has been issued by the Mecklenburg County Floodplain Administrator covering certain activities in the floodplain. These generally include passive land use or activities that do not cause a technically-measurable increase in the Base Flood Elevation.

Individual Floodplain Development Permit

An Individual Floodplain Development Permit (IFDP) is required for all projects in the floodplain that do not meet the requirements covered by the General Floodplain Development Permit. In general, IFDPs are required for grading, filling, drilling, dredging, new construction, and renovations with a value of more than $10,000 if the structure does not already meet floodplain regulations.

The Individual Floodplain Development Permit Process is as follows.

  1. Fill out the Individual Floodplain Development Permit Application.

  2. Submit the applicable Application Check Sheet indicating the type of development and location of the property within the floodplain.

    Substantial Improvement Check Sheet - use for Improvements to Existing Structures in the floodplain for TYPE/AREA 2A, 2B, 2C
    Flood Fringe Development Check Sheet - use for development in the Community Flood Fringe Area for TYPE/AREA 1C, 3C
    Community Encroachment Area Development Check Sheet - use for development in the Community Encroachment Area for TYPE/AREA 1A, 1B, 3A, & 3B

    If your project involves unique circumstances not covered by the types of development listed on the application, contact the Floodplain Administrator at 704-432-7246 or email floodinfo@mecknc.gov.

  3. Final Construction Plans or Sketches - For development anywhere in a floodplain submit one set of final construction plans or sketches showing all proposed work as indicated on the check sheet.

  4. Floodway Engineering Analysis prepared by a North Carolina Professional Engineer - Submit if indicated on check sheet.

  5. Affidavits - For building renovations requiring an IFDP, also submit:

    Owner Affidavit of Building Improvements - Upon review by the Floodplain Administrator, the property owner may need to record (via the Register of Deeds) one of the following documents in the property chain of title: Affidavit of Substantial Improvement/Community Exemption OR Affidavit of Non-Substantial Improvements.

    Initial Review - Submit the IFDP Application, applicable Check Sheet, other supporting forms and documentation and contact information in digital format to the Floodplain Administrator at David.Goode@mecknc.gov.

  6. Payment of Fees - A permit fee is assessed for IFDPs based on the costs of technical and compliance review. Payment of fees is due after the initial review of the application and prior to the technical review for compliance. Mecklenburg County will provide information to pay the fee online after receiving the application. A permit will not be issued until the fee payment is received by the County.

Technical Review and Permit Approval - The complete IFDP package will be reviewed by Storm Water Services' staff for compliance with applicable floodplain regulations. Due to the wide variation in the complexity of the submittal reviews, review times will vary. If the application is approved, the permit will be issued and sent to the applicant. The permit will include stated terms and conditions about when and where the Permit applies.

Upon approval or denial of your FDP application, you may receive a brief Customer Service Questionnaire to help us continue to improve our process. You may also submit the Questionnaire on-line.

After Construction is Complete - Construction of new buildings or placement of fill material in or near the floodplain can impact floodplain lines.  Proper certification and/or as-built topographic mapping are required prior to final approval of projects in or near the floodplain.

All structures built on lots within the Community and/or FEMA Floodplain will automatically have a Permit and Occupancy Hold placed through the building permit system. After construction of a building is completed, a licensed Land Surveyor or Professional Engineer must fill out and submit to Mecklenburg County Flood Mitigation Program an Elevation Certificate form. The Floodplain Occupancy Hold will be removed, and Certificate of Occupancy will only be issued upon submittal and approval of the FEMA Elevation Certificate.

For development in the Community Encroachment Area or FEMA Floodway Encroachment Area, a properly geo-referenced digital submittal of the topographic map is required.

For floodplain development outside of the above areas, a North Carolina Professional Land Surveyor or North Carolina Professional Engineer must complete a Certification of Development Outside the Community Encroachment Area.

Please note this information is a general summary. It does not take into consideration unique circumstances that may arise for individual properties during the permitting and building process. Specific legal requirements are outlined in local floodplain regulations.

Elevation Certificates

After you complete construction in a FEMA-regulated floodplain—but before anyone moves in or uses the building—you must get an Elevation Certificate (FEMA Form 86-0-33).

The Elevation Certificate form must be completed by a Land Surveyor, licensed engineer, or architect registered in the State of North Carolina. An Elevation Certificate is necessary before you can receive a Certificate of Occupancy and before the power company can turn on electricity to the building. The Elevation Certificate is required by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to determine flood insurance rates for the structure. It also provides documentation that the community is enforcing building and floodplain ordinances.

Buying or selling floodplain property

There are more than 20,000 parcels and 2,900 buildings in Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s regulated floodplains, many of which have flood prone structures. It is legal to buy and sell floodplain property. However, the State of North Carolina requires sellers to inform buyers of flood risks or drainage problems. In North Carolina, the State Residential Property Disclosure Statement requires the seller to tell the prospective buyer if the property is a “flood hazard” or that the property is in a "Federally-designated floodplain.” Other questions on the Disclosure Statement require the seller to tell of any problems with standing water, dampness, or drainage.

Buyers should ask—and verify what the seller has told them—before committing to buy any property.