NADO Resilient Regions report

The National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Resilient Regions report describes how regional planning and development organizations are helping local governments to re-build resiliently after natural disasters. The report offers detailed case studies from Florida, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Wisconsin. The strategies described demonstrate how land use planning can be adopted as a hazard mitigation tool to reduce vulnerability, promote economic growth, ensure natural resource protection, and adapt to climate change impacts.

Southwest Florida Plans for Hazard Mitigation and Sustainability

The Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council (SWFRPC) is working to integrate disaster mitigation planning into sustainable development in Lee County, Florida. The report describes Lee County with an estimated population of 618,000, one of SWFRPC’s largest coastal counties - where the built environment here nearly tripled in land area over the last 20 years. SWFRPC developed the County’s 2010 Land Management Strategy which proposed an aggressive public land acquisition program to protect natural resources, and to enforce cost-effective land use and environmental regulations. The strategy supports implementing buffer zones between developed and undeveloped land, and reassessing existing built-out property in the coastal high hazard areas.

SWFRPC also prepared a Climate Change Resiliency Strategy and Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for Lee County in 2010.   


Floodplain Acquisition Program in Oklahoma

The City of Tulsa, Oklahoma implemented a very large land acquisition program in the 1980’s to purchase homes in repeated flood zones - buying over 1,000 homes along the floodplain. The land is now successfully used as integrated recreational space with flood management systems. For example, cleared space along the 61-square mile Mingo Creek watershed now includes a 10 mile channelization system and 23 detention basins, as well as recreation facilities, pedestrian trails, stocked ponds, and outdoor sports facilities.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Tulsa had the most federally-declared flood disasters in the country. In 1984, the Memorial Day flood caused $180 million in damages, 14 deaths, and damage to 7,000 buildings. The acquisition program began soon after and as a result of these efforts, during the 1993 Great Midwest Floods, Tulsa was minimally impacted. There also has been no flooding in buildings constructed since Tulsa adopted comprehensive flood regulations in 1987.


Economic Development and Historic Preservation in Southwestern Wisconsin

After repeated flooding events in Darlingtion, Wisconsin in 1990, an interagency task force was formed to develop the city’s (and Wisconsin’s) first Flood Hazard Mitigation Plan to be approved by FEMA. In favor of preserving the historical significance and character of their downtown, Darlington stakeholders decided to flood proof rather than relocate the historic buildings that were vulnerable to future flooding. The mitigation technique had to meet FEMA’s HMGP requirements and conform to the local zoning ordinance by preserving the historic structure.

In addition, the relocation of 14 businesses with hazardous materials such as storage tanks, fuel oils, and natural gas significantly reduced threat of pollution or explosion after a flood; as well as the town’s wastewater treatment facility was relocated away from the flood zone. These businesses were given priority to relocate to a newly built resiliently designed business park, and the acquired flood prone land was converted into a park and campground, greatly improving the aesthetics of downtown Darlington.


Zoning Revisions in Southern Mississippi

SmartCode is a unified land development ordinance template for planning and urban design, that is based on smart growth principles, and combines zoning, subdivision regulations, urban design, and design guidelines into one document. To address flood mitigation, SmartCode was adopted in the Pass Christian township of Mississippi to replace their original zoning code in 2008. 

Pass Christian was devastated by Katrina with the majority of homes either destroyed or damaged, including most of the iconic historic mansions along the coast. The new code enforces lower densities in areas more prone to flooding, and building elevation requirements were changed to accommodate new base flood elevation maps. Properties in new lower density flood zones have also transferable development rights (TDR) under the new code, allowing property owners to transfer their development rights to an area with less flood hazard.


Publication Date: July 2011

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