Subdivision Design in Flood Hazard Areas

PAS Report 473

By Marya Morris, FAICP

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Economic, political, and market pressures make some development on floodplains inevitable. But appropriate subdivision designs can minimize risks of flood damage — or eliminate them entirely.

This report explores the full range of planning techniques to minimize possible problems in a flood-hazard area. Cluster development, coast-to-road lots, and elevated buildings are all suggested as techniques that will minimize flood damage. Detailed diagrams illustrate the natural functions of a floodplain and describe the tools used to preserve these functions and protect properties from flooding. Photographs show planners both good and bad planning techniques. Includes appendices with selected ordinances and policies.

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Page Count
Date Published
Oct. 1, 1997
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Table of Contents


1. Reducing flood losses and protecting the floodplain resources
The policy basis of managing floods • An overview of the National Flood Insurance Program • Legal issues for subdivision and floodplain management regulations

2. Protecting the natural functions of the floodplain
What is a floodplain? • Floodplain resources • The impacts of development on floodplains • Potential community uses in the floodplain • The broad range of floodplain protection tools

3. Planning tools for flood hazard areas
Local comprehensive planning • Floodplain management planning • Zoning and subdivision regulations • Other land-use planning tools

4. Site-specific measures to minimize flood damage and preserve natural function of floodplains
Subdivision and site plan review • Finding a workable approach: A design hierarchy • Additional considerations to minimize on- and off-site disruptions • Special considerations in alluvial fans • Special considerations in coastal high-hazard areas • Regulations for dune access

A. Partially annotated list of references • B. Selected National Flood Insurance Program (NMFIP); Minimum requirements • C. Site inventory and analysis • D. Site plan review checklist • E. Selected ordinances and development policies