Resilient Zoning Code for a Coastal Community

Problem

Norfolk, a community with 144 miles of coast line, home to the largest naval base in the world and one of the busiest seaports in the country, is experiencing sea level rise, sinking land and more intense precipitation events, a combination which requires us to actively address flooding. Because of climate change, we are now planning for 1.5’ of sea level rise by 2050, 3’ by 2080 and 4.5’ by 2100. Tidal flooding is now regularly inundating areas, even on sunny days, referred to now as “nuisance flooding.” Because of climate change and increased and more intense precipitation, “rain bombs” are now dumping inches of rain in a short period of time, creating chaos and flooding that damages our structures.

Solution

Recognizing that Norfolk needs to learn to “live with the water,” we updated our zoning code to encourage and require flood-resilient development:
• elevated building requirements (between 16” to 3’ above base flood elevation)
• a Coastal Resilience Overlay (limited parking and impervious pavement, additional landscaping and open space); Upland Resilience Overlay (reduction of resilience requirements allowed in exchange for placing conservation easements on higher-risk properties)
• a “Resilient Quotient,: a point-based system for new development to mitigate risk (e.g. impact resistant roof and windows, storm shutters), sustainable energy (e.g. wiring for solar panel or generator); and stormwater (holding water on site after precipitation).


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