Urban Land Institute Resilience Panel Focus Group with Miami-Dade County
Miami-Dade County, with its 2.7 million residents and almost half a trillion dollars in at-risk assets, is often cited as one of our country’s most vulnerable places for the negative impacts of climate change and sea-level rise. Flooding, storm surge, and more intense wind events are ever-increasing concerns along its coastline. With such occurrences and their impacts no longer future forecasts but present realities, the County and its civic partners are seeking new ways to adapt both the built environment and future development to meet these challenges and protect the County’s citizens and assets. These actions must also address the very real issues of economic prosperity, quality of life, and environmental stewardship.
To help focus these efforts, the County established an Office of Resilience and collaborates with a wide array of public, private, and non-profit partners, including the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program, developing new policies and ways to create a more resilient future for its residents and businesses. For this effort, the County is actively collaborating with the City of Miami Beach and the City of Miami to produce a joint resilience strategy.
The issues are complex, and the County’s responses are also multifaceted. Developing new policies and practices aimed at short, medium, and long-range solutions are a priority, and exploring the use of a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Program as one possible tool was the task of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Focus Group held on November 2, 2017. Using a TDR program as an explicit part of a climate adaptation strategy is a relatively new concept, which has not previously been implemented in South Florida. The concept presents an exciting opportunity for private sector implementation, involvement, and funding diversification as an important piece of a comprehensive, long-term resilient land use strategy.
The Focus Group was the outgrowth of a week-long ULI Advisory Services Panel conducted in May 2016. This work focused on Miami-Dade County’s Arch Creek Basin area, a 2,838-acre multijurisdictional drainage basin that has been chosen as the County’s first pilot climate Adaptation Action Area (AAA). Communities within the low-lying stormwater basin are largely developed and face a myriad of issues; for example, many households have experienced repetitive flooding losses and some have unsuccessfully applied for FEMA buy-outs. The ULI Panel’s comprehensive recommendations for the area included the possible creation of a TDR Program for use as one of the adaptation strategies. Such a TDR program could take advantage of future development potential within the Adaptation Action Area and facilitate the development of safe relocation housing for vulnerable properties, as well as future green flood mitigation infrastructure.
Subsequently, the 2016 Resilient Redesign Workshop, which was held under the leadership of the University of Miami and the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, also proposed the creation of a TDR program as a regulatory tool for this purpose. The Workshop explored ways the county might implement ULI’s recommendation to create signature green spaces, such as a city slough concept in the Arch Creek Basin to help restore natural systems and deal with reoccurring flooding. The city slough is a district-scale green infrastructure/park project proposed for parts of Arch Creek Basin that had experienced repetitive losses, where residents had sought FEMA buy outs. These areas often align with the historic contours of low-lying, flood-prone areas, such as Arch Creek. One challenge to implementing this concept is finding ways to remove current housing and commercial buildings from flood-prone parcels to transition them into green spaces. If these flood-prone parcels are cleared, such actions will reduce repetitive losses, enhance flood attenuation and water quality, and help reduce the need to replace/harden infrastructure in vulnerable areas.
To explore possible ways to address this challenge, the ULI Southeast Florida/Caribbean District Council worked with Miami-Dade County’s Office of Resilience to organize a group of ULI members to brainstorm/explore/discuss the feasibility of such a TDR program and to suggest important program components.
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