Integrating Hazard Mitigation and Local Land Use Planning

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Land use planning can be used as an effective tool in reducing the economic and social risks of natural hazards. The local governments provide the better authority to implement planning mitigation strategies due to extensive and comprehensive potential for tapping into community resources and public participation. The local governments are also in a better position to tailor the comprehensive planning strategies to align in line with the region’s specific vulnerability to natural hazards.

The authors advocate a combined strategy of sustainable development and hazard mitigation to draft land use plans. Use of high risk areas such as flood plains, steep slopes, earthquake fault zones, coastal areas should be discouraged for human habitation. Sustainable practices advocate relocating land use away from hazard areas and relying on resilient building practices to withstand natural hazards.

The mitigation plan in addition to the comprehensive land use planning document allows the community to reassess its primary issues in a systematic manner. It also allows the community to understand the various connections and nexus between private land ownership and interests and public safety through proposed policies and programs. This contemplation not only informs the public of the risks but also makes them more aware of the mitigation strategies that the local government plans to implement either by coercion or cooperation. A comprehensive plan encapsulates the multiple goals, plans, issues, and policies of the community as a whole and transmits it to the interested stakeholders. The plan also forms a means to implement policy and enforce regulations, if need be, to counter risk vulnerabilities.

The primary values that should be considered before drafting a comprehensive plan are social values, market or economic values, and ecological values. These values examine the basic assumptions that a community holds central to its existence and proper balancing of these values are central to the model that links land use planning, mitigation, and sustainability. As FEMA puts it appropriately, all mitigation is local, the local government can use various powers – planning, regulatory, spending, taxing, and acquisition – that vary in its intensity with respect to coercion to formulate its own version of comprehensive plans.

The authors advocate the incorporation of hazard mitigation into land use planning to effectively channelize the implementation of such mitigating strategies. Usually communities wait for a “window of opportunity” to break down resistance to mitigation and introduce sustainable and innovative policy changes in the comprehensive plans. Mitigation strategies can be studied and emphasized at every stage of the planning process; be it generating planning intelligence or monitoring, evaluating, and revising plans in accordance with the changed objectives.

However, there is no single approach to design a hazard mitigation planning comprehensive plan and it is dependant on the planners and the relevant authorities to choose an appropriate method that would suit the region. The local government must be specific about studying the method necessary to involve the community in the planning process including deciding which component of a plan to include and emphasize given the motivations and political leanings of the people. This would let the planners understand what kind of plan and more importantly, what mitigation strategies to employ. The resulting plan need not be in accordance to a single strategy but instead be a hybrid, combining policies, land use plans & maps, and management programs geared toward realizing the consensual goals and objectives of the community. Creating a separate chapter on hazard mitigation in a comprehensive plan might also be considered as a middle ground between fully integrating hazard plans into the comprehensive plan and creating a separate hazards plan.

Reference: Chapter 4: Cooperating With Nature: Confronting Natural Hazards With Land-Use Planning for Sustainable Communities (Natural Hazards and Disasters).

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One thought on “Integrating Hazard Mitigation and Local Land Use Planning

  1. brian norton

    thanks for this article i used in a paper i wrote on the environmental impacts of urban sprawl, and one of the topics i uses were the effects of mitigation on local species.

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