Developing Flood Plans After Sandy

deveoping flood plans after sandy

by Elizabeth Terenik

​The way our coastal communities develop is changing.  Reductions in flood insurance subsidies, as well as revised flood plain maps, are forcing this change. Hurricane Sandy has sped up the inevitable. Now  community leaders, property owners and development professionals need to engage in the process and understand what these changes meean for their town.

How do communities communicate these changes and help determine theirs future?  Fortunately, there is a structure in place to start the conversation.

Planning boards, made up of community residents, exist to set development policies in each municipality.  They write and adopt the master plan which is the basis of zoning laws.  They vote to approve development applications. They have professionals, engineers, planners and attorneys who understand flooding issues, the impact on property values and the tax base, as well as the state floodplain and coastal zone management laws that  govern development.

Planning boards are the perfect entity to lead the effort in educating the community on floodplain measures and recommending zoning ordinance changes to the governing body that considers the long-term effects of coastal vulnerability.

To start, the planning board can invite the municipal floodplain manager to present the new FEMA Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps, as well as the town's Hazard Mitigation Plan, a requirement if FEMA funding is received. This plan contains information relative to previous hazards and recommendations to help a town become more flood prepared.  An insurance agent in the community can be invited to explain the changes to the flood insurance program. 

Using the established land use process and people, and working from the existing Hazard Mitigation Plan, will result in a systematic, technically accurate and cost effective approach that will include meaningful public input.