BPDA Advances Zoning Measure to Address Future Climate Risk

Boston – Fulfilling steps outlined in Climate Ready Boston, the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) board of directors recently approved a zoning overlay requiring new development and retrofits to take additional steps to limit the damage and displacement related to the impacts of coastal storms and sea level rise.

The Coastal Flood Resilience Zoning Overlay District goes beyond the areas identified in FEMA flood maps, applying to areas of the city that could be inundated during a major coastal storm event, known as a 1% chance flood event with 40 inches of sea level rise. The zoning overlay promotes resilient planning and design, provides consistent standards for the review of projects, and maximizes the benefits of investments in coastal resilience.

“We must take the steps that will better protect our neighborhoods from the increasing threat of coastal storms and sea level rise,” said Mayor Kim Janey. “By requiring developers to do more in vulnerable areas, we are protecting our infrastructure, our jobs, and our homes.”

The Zoning Overlay (Article 25A of the Boston Zoning Code) will provide new definitions and standards for building dimensions and uses to facilitate flood resilient design for new projects and building retrofits. Intended to prevent flood damage by elevating building occupiable space, flood proofing areas beneath flood elevations, and promoting health and safety by preventing uses such as living space below the flood elevation, the specific provisions of the overlay include building height, building setbacks, lot coverage and required open space, gross square floor area, and limitations on use below the sea level rise design flood elevation.

All development projects subject to BPDA’s Article 80 Large and Small Project review will be required to undergo Resilience Review, and comply with the Coastal Flood Resilience Design Guidelines. The zoning overlay will be brought to the Boston Zoning Commission for approval before going into effect.

The BPDA has also launched the Zero Net Carbon Building Zoning Initiative to assess and identify strategies to strengthen green building zoning requirements to a zero net carbon standard for new construction, to meet the City of Boston’s goal for Boston to be carbon neutral by 2050.