Subdivision Design and Flood Hazard Areas

PAS Report 584

By James Schwab, FAICP, Chad Berginnis, Terri Turner, AICP, Anna Read, AICP, Nicholas Walny

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This report was produced in partnership with the Association of State Floodplain Managers, with funding from FEMA, which makes it available for free to all.

A lot has changed since APA released its first PAS Report on Subdivision Design and Flood Hazard Areas in 1997. Today sustainability, resilience, and climate change are top of mind for planners and floodplain managers.

But for subdivision design, those ideas haven’t yet hit home. The results? Untold damage from Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina as well as floods in places like Colorado and Atlanta.

This updated report is out to end the cycle of build-damage-rebuild. Editor James C. Schwab, FAICP, manager of APA’s Hazards Planning Center, gives communities sound guidance to bring subdivision design into line with the best of floodplain planning.

Six planning and design principles help put subdivisions on the right footing. Standards for review, inspection, and maintenance cover all types of terrain and infrastructure. And nine concrete recommendations lay out steps to keep subdivisions safe and dry. Readers will get the tools they need to save lives, protect property, and build a better future.


Executive Summary

About the Authors

James C. Schwab, FAICP (Editor) served as the project manager and principal investigator. He is the manager of the Hazards Planning Center at the American Planning Association (APA) and co-editor of Zoning Practice. He previously edited the PAS Reports Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery: Next Generation and Hazard Mitigation: Integrating Best Practices into Planning.

Chad Berginnis, CFM, is executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM). Since 1993, his work has focused on floodplain management, hazard mitigation, and land-use planning at the state and local levels and in the private sector. He worked with the Ohio Floodplain Management Program and as Ohio’s state hazard mitigation officer; as a local planning director in Petty County, Ohio; and as the national practice leader in hazard mitigation for Michael Baker Jr. Inc.

Terri L Turner, AICP, CFM, is the development services administrator/floodplain manager/hazard mitigation specialist for the Planning and Development Department in Augusta, Georgia. She is the outgoing ASFPM Region 4 director and the ASFPM No Adverse Impact Committee co-chair, and she was recently appointed to the ASFPM Foundation as an associate.

Anna Read, AICP, is senior program development and research associate at APA. She conducts applied research within the National Centers for Planning and works on educational programs for practicing planners. Prior to joining APA, she worked on regional broadband planning efforts for the State of Missouri and as a project manager for the International City/County Management Association’s Center for Sustainable Communities, where her work focused on smart growth and rural communities.

Nicholas A. Walny is an intern for the APA Hazards Planning Center. He provides research assistance for projects related to hazard mitigation, post-disaster recovery, and climate adaptation. Previously, he worked as a student planner in the City of Oxford’s Town Planning Department in the United Kingdom.

Product Details

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

Table of Contents


Executive Summary

Chapter 1. Making the Case to Better Manage Flood Risk
Era of the Billion-Dollar Disaster
The Rise of Resilience, Climate Change, and Adaptation
Changes in Technology
Improvements in Defining Flood Risk
Recognizing the Benefits of Protecting the Floodplain Resource
Legal Issues for Subdivisions and Floodplain Management Regulations
Structure of the Report

Chapter 2. The Principles of Subdivision Design in Flood Hazard Areas
General Principles
Planning and Design Principles

Chapter 3. Integrated Community Approach
Comprehensive Planning and Visioning
Other Planning Tools and Linkages
Implementation Tools

Chapter 4. Subdivisions: Role and Process
Routine Activities of the Planning Department

Chapter 5. Subdivision Standards
Natural and Human-Made Geographic Features
Layout and Design

Chapter 6. The Road Ahead

Appendix A: Sample Workshop for Homeowners Associations