by Steve Dwyer
Redevelopments that incorporate green space have become a core aspect of successful single- or mixed-use blueprints. Striking that balance is a compelling aspect when considering the acute flooding that occurred in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
Might your susceptible mid-Atlantic community—located perhaps in the shadow of an ocean, river, lake or stream—be the next Houston or Florida Keys? A strong planning vision promulgated by the private-public partnership can not only avert disaster but also provide social and environmentally-friendly amenities to benefit the local community.
This type of planning takes on extra urgency when considering the long-range growth plan of Houston, Texas, which dubs itself “the city with no limits.” It’s the largest U.S. city with no zoning ordinances, all part of a hands-off approach to urban planning that might have its upside; but, might have contributed to catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey that left thousands of residents in harm’s way.
Growth that is virtually unchecked, including that in flood-prone areas, has diminished land’s already-limited natural ability to absorb water. A city’s drainage system duly suffers as most are not designed to handle the massive storms that are increasingly common.
The systemic problem transcends just a green space conversation, it includes a developer’s commercial or residential construction approach. A developer who grasps the magnitude of potential flooding establishes a building plan that comes equipped with necessary buffers—think about the implementation of a crawl space and the elevation of properties above ground level.
While it’s laudable to have autonomy when you dub yourself a “city with no limits,” well-thought-out zoning laws are actually our friend, not our hindrance as they provide necessary and vital controls.
Plan ahead with a smart, working vision to avert disaster that stems from tropical storms and hurricanes. Superstorm Sandy of 2012 might have impacted you. Thus, it serves as a compelling reminder.
EDITOR’s NOTE: If you are attending the Oct. 13, 2017, ANJEC Environmental Congress, you’ll hear from Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, NJ about her municipality’s experience during Superstorm Sandy and the work going on now to protect the city for the future.