Boston developers required to do more to limit flood damage

by Liz Hughes

A new zoning measure will require Boston developers to take additional steps to limit damage from coastal storms and sea-level rise. 

The Coastal Flood Resilience Zoning Overlay District doesn’t just impact areas identified by FEMA flood maps. It also applies to areas that could be inundated during a major coastal storm event, known as a 1% chance flood event with 40 inches of sea-level rise, according to a press release.  

Boston Mayor KimJaney, who signed the measure on Oct. 26, said that by requiring developers to do more in vulnerable areas, the city’s infrastructure, jobs and homes will be  protected. 

The zoning overlay was approved by the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s board of directors in September and promotes “resilient planning and design, provides consistent standards for the review of projects and maximizes the benefits of investments in coastal resilience.”

“For Boston to grow and thrive for generations to come, we must ensure that buildings constructed today are resilient and protected from the impacts of climate change,” BPDA Director Brian Golden said in the release. “By updating our zoning code to go above and beyond the FEMA flood maps, Boston is leading the way in not only preparing for the storms of today but the storms of tomorrow.” 

According to the release, based on climate modeling, 40 inches of sea-level rise is expected around 2070, which is within the usable life of most buildings undergoing review by the BPDA. 

Provisions of the new zoning overlay include: Building height and setbacks, lot coverage and required open space, gross square floor area and limitations on use below the sea level rise design flood elevation.

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