Thursday, November 8, 2018

I Missed It! (Or Did I?)

October was, according to the American Planning Association (APA), National Community Planning Month.  The initiative is intended to help put focus on the importance of community planning and the potentially positive impacts good planning can achieve. 

FEMA took that notion of #PlanningMonth one step further and suggested it would also be a good time to highlight the role planners have in helping reduce "the impact of disaster through the way land use, zoning, easements, and building codes can be harnessed to reduce a community's risk to natural hazards in long-lasting ways. After all, the safest community is the one that encourages development away from hazard-prone areas, and actively plans for its potential risks."

FEMA's own Planning Month page proclaims "It’s About Where and How We Build"  It notes the importance of educating young homeowners and renters in finding their new homes in safer areas. The page continues:

Making the decision to invest your life and your money in a new home is a monumental decision – a decision that should encompass all of the facts, including how your home could be affected by floods, windstorms, or earthquakes. You as the homeowner need to be equipped with this information to make the best decision possible for you and your family. These are risks we all face and do our best to protect ourselves against. The actions we take ahead of a disaster can protect our homes and loved ones. Your state government has worked to identify what hazards affect your community, and what steps can be taken to reduce the effects of disasters.

As an example, they cite the work the state of Colorado undertook following the severe flooding along the Front Range in 2013.  An e-mail announcing FEMA's #PlanningMonth programs included a link to the document Planning for Hazards: Land Use Solutions for Colorado, by the state's Department of Local Affairs' Community Development Office.

Good News!

The good news is that any month is a good month to begin planning safer communities.  And even better news is that today, November 8th, has been designated by the APA as World Town Planning Day!  The designation began in 1949 by the late professor Carlos Maria della Paolera of the University of Buenos Aires.  The APA says "World Town Planning Day is celebrated in 30 countries on four continents each November. It is a special day to recognize and promote the role of planning in creating livable communities." 

Of note to me here is that the APA also notes the purpose of World Town Planning Day is to:
  • To draw attention to the aims, objectives, and progress of urban and regional planning around the globe.
  • To engage local citizens and officials in the value of planning and to participate in shaping their community.
  • To highlight the valuable contributions sound planning has made to the quality of global human settlements and their environment.
  • To give worldwide coverage to the ideals of urban and regional planning not only within the profession but also among the general public.
FEMA hasn't embraced World Town Planning Day in a formal way, but given the International nature of the posts in this blog, I'll do so here. Inherent in the bullets above is the notion that effective community planning, as practiced in any nation, should include consideration of the elements described in the Colorado guide (above).  Specifically:

There are numerous opportunities to effectively integrate and address the mitigation of known hazards in local plans and policies. The comprehensive plan is a community’s most important and potentially effective tool for consolidating and articulating various policies that relate to planning, land use, and development. Hazard-related issues arise in a range of planning contexts, and there are different approaches for integrating hazards into comprehensive plans, discussed below. Beyond the comprehensive plan, the Local Hazard Mitigation Plan is an obvious and important place to address local hazard policy.

In addition, communities should utilize other supporting plans, policies, and programs to demonstrate clear linkages and potential synergies between hazard risk reduction and other important community goals. Each supporting plan typically should include a background study or assessment of existing and future conditions, as well as goals, strategies, and policies that can contribute to the implementation of multi-objective solutions. 

Planners should ask:

  • Does the future land-use map clearly identify natural hazard areas?
  • Are transportation policies used to guide growth to safe locations?
  • Do environmental policies provide incentives to development that is located outside of protective ecosystems?
  • Are the goals and policies of the comprehensive plan related to those of the FEMA Local Hazard Mitigation Plan?
  • Does the zoning ordinance conform to the comprehensive plan in terms of discouraging development or redevelopment within natural hazard areas?
  • Do subdivision regulations allow density transfers where hazard areas exist?
  • Does the capital improvement plan/program provide funding for hazard mitigation projects identified in the FEMA Mitigation Plan?

Finally, related to an earlier post on the integration of various plan components, policies and institutions,  the Colorado document outlines ways this can be done to maximize the mitigation aspects of the plan.

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