Fearing the Floodplain? 4 Reasons Development Might Make Sense

17 May, 2022

With prime real estate hard to come by in many markets, developers are forced to reevaluate sites they may have turned down in the past, like floodplain-flagged locations.

When a site shows up on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood map, it is often ruled out due to challenges like uncertainty about the site’s maximum potential, choosing the right FEMA application (there are six), and navigating a complex approval process.

see RELATED: Turning Challenging Sites to your advantage

Before you pass up a property due to its proximity to a floodplain, here are four tactics that could potentially make a floodplain-classified site work for your development.

1. Take a Closer Look

Not all sites that appear on a flood map are actually in the floodplain. FEMA looks at the big picture, monitoring a vast floodplain area. Your site is a small segment of that map, and upon closer inspection, it may not be entirely affected by the floodplain. A topographic survey will provide more detailed contours and a clearly defined floodplain area.

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2. Revise the Flood Map

In some cases, FEMA’s maps are based on outdated topographic and survey information. A site civil engineering consultant can observe surrounding properties and make a recommendation to potentially begin a rezoning process with FEMA. By compiling existing documentation and procuring updated survey information, the design team could run new hydrology models to submit to FEMA. In successful situations, the new data could demonstrate to FEMA that the site has been elevated by adjacent improvements and can therefore be rezoned.

3. Design Around It

Even if a portion of your site does fall within a floodplain, an experienced civil engineering consultant can provide conceptual designs to maximize your site, and in some cases, use the floodplain area for open space or stormwater management. It’s advantageous for your consultant to collaborate with a landscape architect, architect, and even a general contractor on the overall design. Integrating these unique perspectives can result in innovative design solutions that not only solve the problem but add value to the end product.

4. Raise It Up

Sometimes, circumventing floodplain challenges is as easy as raising the site to elevate the buildings out of the floodplain, which will also save you money on costly flood insurance. A qualified design professional can evaluate this potential option without having to invest in a costly, in-depth study of the area.

Choose the Right Consultant

With an approximate nine to twelve-month lead time for the FEMA approval process, there is no time to waste. Retain a qualified site civil engineering consultant who understands how FEMA, the municipality, and the regional Department of Environmental Protection agency work together to affect the final approval. A consultant with this foresight can typically provide a more accurate timeline and cost estimate and will work to keep the project moving forward.

SEE RELATED: BUilding a successful development team

Turn floodplain fear into opportunity by recognizing that your floodplain site could hold more potential – and profitability – than you think. Bohler’s FEMA team specializes in floodplain due diligence, forecasting, design, and approvals.

About David Kuklish, PE
Dave Kuklish Rehoboth

As Associate and Branch Manager for Bohler’s Rehoboth Beach, DE office, David oversees site civil engineering design and permitting for all his team’s projects across the region. He is focused on helping owners and developers identify land development opportunities throughout Delaware, and especially along the waterfront. David’s team handles FEMA flood map revisions and works to keep coastal projects moving forward through the ever-changing development landscape. Together with his team, David specializes in redevelopments, as well as new ground-up sites throughout the Delmarva Peninsula.

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