Accounting for Flood Hazards in the Subdivision Approval Process

Zoning Practice — March 2016

By Chad Berginnis, James Schwab, FAICP



Along with zoning, the subdivision ordinance is a cornerstone of land-use controls for local governments in the U.S. Carving up smaller residential parcels out of large blocks of land has long been the path to growth at the local level.

But why focus on floodplain management as a subdivision issue? Isn't flooding a larger community problem? The answer to the latter question is obviously yes, but that does not negate the value of specifically scrutinizing how subdivision design may contribute to the problem — or the solution.

This issue of Zoning Practice highlights specific areas of concern for updating subdivision standards and review processes to improve the management of flood risk. It focuses on geographic features, layout and design, infrastructure, platting, and watershed management.


Page Count
Date Published
March 1, 2016
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Chad Berginnis
Chad Berginnis is the executive director for ASFPM. With more than 20 years of experience, he is a recognized national expert in floodplain management and hazard mitigation, having participated on national research/focus groups, providing agency (FEMA, USACE, OMB, CRS, IG, CBO, and others) and congressional testimony. He was selected to participate on an advisory panel to the Chinese government on the development of a national floodplain management strategy. Berginnis previously served as an appointed planning commissioner for Licking County, Ohio.

James Schwab, FAICP
Jim Schwab earned MAs in Urban and Regional Planning and Journalism from the University of Iowa. From 1985-1990, he was assistant editor of Planning, then moved to the APA Research Department as senior research associate. From 2007-2017, he served as manager of the APA Hazards Planning Center. Since leaving APA on May 31, 2017, he has been principal of Jim Schwab Consulting LLC, as well as an author, speaker, and continuing his role since 2008 as Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Iowa. He is an accomplished author and has been responsible in whole or in part for 11 different PAS Reports. In 2016, in recognition of his "pivotal role" in helping create the new subfield of hazards planning, he was inducted into FAICP. Two years later, the Association of State Floodplain Managers awarded him its highest honor, the Goddard-White Award, in recognizing his national impact on the field of floodplain management. He is currently immediate past chair of the Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Recovery Planning Division and leading an effort to create a documentary film about the role of planning in helping communities address natural disasters and climate change.