Charleston comprehensive plan recommends zoning changes based on flood data

Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 9:34 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 6, 2021 at 11:26 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The city of Charleston is looking to prevent future flooding issues with several recommendations outlined in its 10-year comprehensive plan.

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

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

“This is the first time ever in the history of the city of Charleston we’re going to stand making land-use policy decisions with an eye towards flooding and sea level rise,” Charleston city councilman Ross Appel said. “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.”

The information around elevation-based land use comes from the City Plan Land and Water analysis, which is included in the comprehensive plan. It was completed by a team of consultants that also led the Dutch Dialogues in Charleston.

Susan Lyons lives in downtown Charleston and has experienced flooding around her property several times.

After a pattern of serious flooding on her street, she came together with her neighbors to create the Groundswell! advocacy group to combat rising flooding issues.

Lyons believes an elevation-based zoning ordinance and the other recommendations outlined in the comprehensive plan, make sense.

“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.

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

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