We like to think of Boston as a shining beacon on a hill. Although, it seems the bigger concerns for Bostonians aren’t the hills but the harbor and the rising seawater expected in the future.
With climate change being an increasing concern, the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) has looked ahead to consider how to protect vulnerable buildings. Earlier this month, BPDA released a map of the coming zoning overlays expected to meet the needs of rising water levels.
Why are they making these changes?
It’s not simply a rising sea level that the BPDA looks to mitigate. Already places in and around the Boston waterfront, such as Morrissey Boulevard near UMass Boston, have flooding issues on rainy days. The concern is that in the future, these issues will become more extreme and more frequent.
The new zoning changes will affect:
- Building heights and setbacks
- Open spaces
- Lot coverage
- Gross square floor area
Most of those changes are extensions of the limitations placed on the Sea Level Rise Design Flood Elevation (SLR-DFE).
The hope is that new zoning and building safety guidelines— and the push for Boston to become carbon neutral — will protect the real estate infrastructure that Boston relies on.
As real estate developers and construction companies know, zoning restrictions are a constant battle. Changes, even those made with the best of intentions, can mean delays and setbacks in ongoing projects. The new rules mean that many current developments may need to go back to step one to ensure compliance, and current buildings could require updates.
The zoning changes will be a net good to developers: properties will face less damage due to flooding, and buildings will remain protected throughout their usable life. Yet, there is so much work to do. An attorney who intimately understands Boston’s real estate laws and zoning ordinances may be able to help save your projects costly impacts.