Despite impassioned pleas from Santa Rosa residents and Flood Defenders’ Technical Advisor Chris Curb, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) did not adopt flood protection measures in the latest iteration of the county’s Land Development Code (LDC).
What happened: Despite recommendations from their own Zoning Board, the Santa Rosa County BOCC voted down a requirement that would have forced developers to maintain 25% of open space in any subdivision.
The problem: Preventing clear-cutting and development on wetlands would keep natural flood barriers in place. The new LDC allows both practices and could lead to more severe impacts from flooding.
The big picture: New development can increase a community’s flood risk, but doing so is avoidable. Smart development practices can help counties grow without making flooding worse. Flood-ready development codes can ensure safe development by offsetting the loss of open, absorbent space with new infrastructure, like stormwater ponds.
Yes, but: Santa Rosa hasn't implemented flood-ready development codes. They do not require that post-development flood runoff is no more than pre-development. That puts nearby residents at risk.
Development codes can work to allow responsible construction and protect the community.
In neighboring Escambia County, the LDC requires “that responsible improvements are built to protect residents and people are given an opportunity to discuss concerns before other construction can even start,” Escambia’s former stormwater manager Chris Curb told the Santa Rosa BOCC.
What they’re saying: Following the decision by the Santa Rosa BOCC, Zoning Board member Sam Mullins promptly resigned, saying "I'm not going to be on a zoning board that has commissioners that continuously go against the recommendations,"
The bottom line: “Santa Rosa needs to make sure its code protects residents and promotes responsible development,” Curb said. But that will have to wait for now. A special meeting will occur on Aug. 19 to officially adopt the new LDC.