Subdivision Design and Flood Hazard Areas

From the American Planning Association (APA), this report discusses strategies for using local subdivision ordinances and the site plan review process to enhance flood resilience. Recommendations are given for creating standards that protect natural floodplain function. The report discusses how climate change is increasing flood risks in communities.

Chapters in the report guide local policymakers through different stages of planning for managing increasing flood risks, and integrating flood considerations into site-plan review processes and subdivision ordinances.

  • Chapter 1 - Making the Case for Better Floodplain Management: Discusses climate risks, changes in technology, and improvements in floodplain mapping. This chapter also describes legal issues that policymakers will need to navigate and the analyses that can help them make the legal case for enhancing standards.
  • Chapter 2 - The Principles of Subdivision Design: Provides general principles that policymakers should use when incorporating considerations of flood resilience in subdivision review, including:
    • stakeholder engagement
    • employing multiple lines of flood defenses
    • applying a watershed approach to floodplain management
    • designing infrastructure to be resilient to high- and low-frequency flood events
    • protecting open space and incorporating green infrastructure, and
    • providing for enforcement of subdivision requirements. 
  • Chapter 3 - Integrated Community ApproachDiscusses the role of planning and how comprehensive planning and hazard mitigation planning can facilitate improvements in local subdivision ordinances.
  • Chapter 4 - Subdivision Roles and Processes: Outlines the stages of site plan review and subdivision approvals, as well as how resilience principles can be incorporated at each stage of the process. 
  • Chapter 5 - Subdivision Standards: Describes standards that local policymakers can incorporate into subdivision and site-plan review ordinances to preserve natural floodplain functions, ensure that infrastructure is designed to account for increasing flooding, ensure that development is sited outside of flood hazard areas and designed to be resilient to increasing flood risks, and ensure that developers incorporate stormwater management practices that retain all runoff on site.

An Example Ordinance is provided in Appendix B.

The report was developed in collaboration with the Association of State Floodplain Managers.


Publication Date: 2017

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  • Legal Analysis
  • Policy analysis/recommendations


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