Adaptation Action Areas Guidebook: A Planning Guidebook for Florida's Local Government

This Guidebook is designed for local governments of coastal communities in Florida interested in integrating Adaptation Action Areas (AAAs) into policy and operational frameworks. Adopted into the Florida Statute in 2011 through the Community Planning Act, an “Adaptation Action Area” is an optional designation within a local government comprehensive plan for areas that experience coastal flooding and sea-level rise - for the purpose of prioritizing funding for infrastructure needs and adaptation planning. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) created this guidance primarily to assist communities in using AAAs to adapt to coastal flooding. The guide introduces methods to tailor adaptation strategies to the unique vulnerabilities of each community, to utilize the AAA strategies, as well as to meet other local goals for community resilience. The Guidebook describes a process for engaging community stakeholders, identifying vulnerability, developing planning tools, adopting policies, and implementing strategies for these action plans.

The first chapter describes the overall adaptation planning process and connects the activities undertaken for the AAAs process to corresponding components of the overall adaptation planning process. The following chapters (2-5) then explore each major component of adaptation planning, with explicit examples provided of how pilot communities integrated AAA planning into their community preparedness efforts.

The guide describes ways in which local governments can: 

  • Assemble advisory support from local experts and officials;
  • Design principles and motivations and provide opportunities for community input;
  • Describe the planning context;
  • Conduct an exposure analysis;
  • Conduct an impact analysis;
  • Prioritize adaptive needs;
  • Develop adaptation strategies; and,
  • Integrate these strategies into plans and an Adaptation Action Areas ordinance.

Chapter 3 examines current trends in coastal flooding and flood response around Florida, provides a brief overview of the way in which sea-level rise is expected to occur, and explains the steps towards developing hazard assessments. Table 2 lists “Coastal Flood Hazard Tools” for this process, including online SLR visualizers, databases of resources (including this Adaptation Clearinghouse), and add-ins for GIS programs or other models.

The Adaptation Planning and Policy Tools section of the report outlines various adaptation planning strategies a coastal community could establish and implement through their local comprehensive plan or other strategic plans. The tool or initiative is identified, its benefit of use for adaptation planning discussed, and examples of policy strategies are provided for:

Transferable Development Rights (TDR); Incentivize through Community Rating System; Setbacks and Buffers; Building Codes and Site Design Standards; Floodplain Regulations; Zoning Codes; Overlay Zones; Decreased Intensity of Permitted Uses; Limit Rebuilding and Utilization of Rebuilding Standards; Hard- and Soft-Armoring Permits; Conditional Development; Stormwater Utility Ordinance; Special Assessments; Impact Fees; Conservation Easements; Real Estate Disclosures; Coastal Land Acquisition Programs and Land Trusts; and Land Readjustment Strategies.

The report details various methods of incorporating AAAs into local comprehensive plans. As described by DOE, the comprehensive plan amendment process has been streamlined at the state level to assist Florida communities who wish to plan proactively for adaptation planning, amongst other activities. As such, an AAA may be easily integrated into the comprehensive plan Coastal Management element after a community has engaged with the other activities suggested by this guide.


This guidance and related work is part of a Project of Special Merit funded by NOAA and coordinated through the Florida Coastal Management Program and DEO’s Community Resiliency Initiative. The Initiative is focused on developing and implementing Adaptation Action Areas policy, advancing partnership between the City of Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, South Florida Regional Planning Council and the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact. 


Publication Date: August 2015

Related Organizations:

  • Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO)

Related Resources:

Related Toolkits:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Planning guides

States Affected:


Go To Resource

User Comments: