Charleston, SC

Charleston to consider flood data in zoning

Libby-Jane Charleston
Plan recommends zoning changes based on flood dataJonathon Ford/Unsplash

Charleston is searching for ways to prevent future flooding incidents with a set of recommendations outlined in its 10-year comprehensive plan.

Charleston City leaders are currently re-working the city’s comprehensive plan, which will be used as a guideline for decisions impacting the community in the next decade.

The plan sets out, as a series of recommendations for future developments, the plan suggests using elevation, hydrology, and flood risk data to create a new zoning ordinance.

According to Charleston city councilman Ross Appel, this is the first time in the history of the city of Charleston that land-use policy decisions will be made from the view of flooding and sea level rise.

“We’ve engaged some of the best experts in the world to come in and map areas all over the city to determine where the high ground is and where the low-lying areas are. Long story short, we’re trying to encourage development on the upland portions of the city and discourage development in the low-lying areas, and the idea here is to avoid problems before they start," Appel told Live5 News.

City Plan Land and Water analysis has provided the information around elevation-based land use which is included in the comprehensive plan.
Information around elevation-based land use is included in the comprehensive plan.Dutch Dialogues

The plan itself has been ompleted by a team of consultants that also led the Dutch Dialogues in Charleston. While flooding can't be "fixed;” the Dutch have found that risk can be reduced. The Dutch approach combines integrated planning with urban landscape design. The Dutch Dialogues, through a collaborative effort with city, professional, academic and community leaders in planning,stormwater management, resiliency and other interests, will bring an integrated approach, tying together numerous entities, collectively working to manage water

Susan Lyons, who lives in downtown Charleston, told Live5 News she's experienced flooding around her property many times.

Following a pattern of serious flooding on her street, she and her neighbors created the Groundswell! advocacy group to take action against rising flooding issues.

Lyons believes an elevation-based zoning ordinance and the other recommendations outlined in the comprehensive plan, is the best way forward.

“On the peninsula we have limited the ability to do a whole lot, but there is the option of creating a certain number of nature-based solutions to the flooding mitigation plan,” Lyons said. “The first thing is a land use program which says this is where it’s going to flood, don’t put your fancy building or your little house here, leave it open and let the land absorb the water that comes up and back down from the rivers and from the rain above.”

Charleston city council is expected to vote on the comprehensive plan later this Summer, but the plan is only a guideline.

Councilor Appel says creating a zoning ordinance will be an ongoing matter into the future.

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I'm a journalist and author writing across a wide range of topics, including tech, travel, history, business/startups, relationships, beauty & fashion, British royal history, & local stories concerning Charleston, S.C (where I have a long family history on my father's side: hence my surname! ) Former HuffPost Assoc Ed, ABC TV, ATV Beijing correspondent and many more. Author of "Fatal Females." Mother of three boys: I will love them until the Statue of Liberty sits down.


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