Ensuring Local Regulations Allow Appropriate Development Techniques

Well-meaning but antiquated local regulations often encourage or even require land use practices inappropriate for coastal floodplains. For example, regulations requiring curbs and wide paved roads may increase flooding and erosion in coastal floodplains.

The resources below provide information on how communities can allow development while reducing pressure on municipal services, infrastructure, and budgets. The practices that your community adopts should be compatible with floodplain development, and shouldn’t, for example, create higher housing density in areas prone to flooding.

  • FEMA’s Coastal Construction Manualoffers excellent background on the challenges of development in floodplains, as well as specific recommended practices—check to see if your community allows and encourages them. See, in particular, these sections:
    • Section 2.2 and 2.3 provide an excellent overview of historic storm events and their often forgotten effects, as well as lessons learned that can inform future planning for development and redevelopment.
    • Section 6.4.3 covers the legal requirements of compliance with the National Flood Insurance Program, including what land uses are and are not allowed (see incorporating National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements into local ordinances and regulations).
    • Section 6.5 provides recommendations for exceeding NFIP minimum standards.
    • Chapter 8 gives recommendations on how to develop “raw” land, as well as redeveloping land. (Figure 8-5 provides a simple “Do & Don’t” list for land use in coastal areas.)

    To obtain a free copy of the Coastal Construction Manual (in print or on a CD), contact the FEMA Publications Distribution Facility at (800) 480-2520.

  • The Association of State Floodplain Managers’ Coastal NAI Handbook has specific regulatory recommendations.
  • The Massachusetts Coastal Smart Growth Program website and the Massachusetts Smart Growth/Smart Energy Toolkit provide information on planning, zoning, subdivision, site design, and building construction techniques, including model bylaws.
  • The Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) webpage of the Massachusetts Smart Growth/Smart Energy Toolkit provides details on this regulatory tool that harnesses private market forces to permanently protected open space by “transferring” development from areas that a community wishes to protect to other areas more suitable for development.
  • McKenna Ridge Road, Falmouth, MA is a case study on the use of TDR in a coastal community.
  • The best landscaping techniques for coastal banks, beaches, and dunes are available on CZM’s Coastal Landscaping website and can be incorporated into a community’s regulations.

* Your community needs only 500 points to qualify for reduced flood insurance premiums through the Community Rating System (CRS). For more information (including how to apply for the CRS program), see our Community Rating System (CRS) primer.

Notes from the folks at CRS:

“Many communities have discovered that NFIP’s minimum standards do not provide adequate protection from their flood risk. CRS recognizes higher construction standards including freeboard, coastal A Zone standards, enclosure restrictions and coastal erosion setback regulations.”