Before the end of 2020, parts of Baltimore’s waterfront could
set a record by experiencing “sunny day flooding” at least 30 times within a
year, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
In Annapolis, City Dock has already exceeded that frequency of sunny day floods. Consequently, the city is advancing a $50 million plan to raise City Dock by six feet and outfit the area with flood barriers and an expanded pumping system.
“Coastal flood risk causing minor-to-major impacts is
changing because of ongoing relative sea level rise,” a 2019 NOAA report
states. “Flooding that decades ago usually happened only during a powerful or
localized storm can now happen when a steady breeze or a change in coastal
current overlaps with a high tide.”
The growing frequency, severity and geographic reach of
flooding along Maryland’s coastline understandably is a subject of concern and
one that needs to be addressed seriously by public and private interests.
In 2014, for example, the City of Baltimore enacted
legislation that established new flood zones in tidal and non-tidal floodplains
identified by Federal Emergency Management Agency mapping. The new city laws
included the extraordinary requirement that new buildings in some floodplains
include a two-foot freeboard above the 500-year flood height.
NAIOP Maryland supports sound efforts to improve our
communities’ resiliency and those efforts need to be conducted within a
rigorous regulatory system. A bill presented to the Maryland General Assembly
recently could compromise that system by transferring portions of the review
process to the Coast Smart Council, which lacks the administrative capacity to
properly regulate private construction.
“It’s important to maintain the existing regulatory
framework which includes floodplain ordinance building codes and is
administered at the local level through agencies that are involved in all aspects
of development review,” said Tom Ballentine, NAIOP-MD Vice President for Policy
and Government Relations.
“Climate resiliency and mitigation are built into the
everyday operation and future investment decisions of commercial real estate
companies,” he said. “Ensuring that construction and reconstruction in flood
hazard areas adapts to changing conditions is a critical component of
protecting public and private assets.”