St. Pete is studying Climate-Informed Zoning.
The Stormwater Master Plan, nearing completion, is set to significantly influence the city’s approach to climate challenges, particularly sea level rise. This comprehensive plan aims to enhance the city’s Community Rating System (CRS) score, boosting the chances of securing various grants. A key development in this context is Council Member Gabbard’s initiative for a detailed discussion in the Committee of the Whole in early 2024. This platform will enable council members to collaboratively discuss overlapping projects openly, aligning priorities and strengthening their collective voice on climate issues, in compliance with Sunshine Laws.
In Norfolk, Virginia, a city highly susceptible to sea level rise, the focus on climate-informed zoning has been pivotal. Reports by Smart Growth America highlight the city’s efforts through plans like planNorfolk2030 and Vision 2100. These plans are aimed at mitigating economic and social impacts of climate change and have become a template for other cities grappling with similar challenges. The organization’s analysis revealed no significant short-term fiscal impact of these zoning changes, likely due to recent implementation and pandemic-related market disruptions. However, the potential for long-term market effects and policy signaling to direct development towards safer areas is notable.
Norfolk’s case illustrates the broader trend of U.S. cities integrating climate risks into urban planning. While some cities have made strides, especially those with higher-value real estate markets, there’s a noticeable gap in comprehensive, climate-informed zoning strategies, particularly in smaller municipalities. Challenges include addressing heat hazards through Urban Heat Island Ordinances and managing wildfire risks in suburban areas.
The study’s findings underscore the importance of embedding climate considerations in land use policies. It highlights the need for cities to recognize historical discriminatory land use practices and to balance climate adaptation with mitigation efforts. Norfolk’s proactive approach, despite not showing immediate fiscal impacts, sets a valuable example for other cities, demonstrating that acknowledging climate risks in urban planning can be done without causing market disruptions.