Q&A: Will South Florida Soon be Under Water?


July 09, 2014

In South Florida, commercial real estate developers are increasingly planning projects with sea level rise in mind. Mitigating the current and future effects of rising seas is fast becoming a priority. But it's important that the truth stay at the center of our focus. We caught up with Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod attorneys Howard E. Nelson and Cristina Arana Lumpkin to uncover the biggest misconceptions about the sea level rise impacts, how the private sector can help municipalities impact the risks, and more in part two of this exclusive interview. If you missed it, you can still read part one: The Real Developer Impact of Rising Sea Levels.

GlobeSt.com: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the impact that sea level rise will have or has in our community as a whole?

Lumpkin: Probably the biggest misconception is that South Florida will soon be completely underwater, and that there's nothing we can do except stop all development. There's also a big misconception that sea level rise is just a coastal Florida problem, when in fact the western portions of South Florida could be just as badly affected.

GlobeSt.com: How can the private sector help municipalities mitigate sea level rise through their projects?

Lumpkin: Local governments are just beginning to look at sea level rise as a real problem, and they're still in the talking phases. However, there are certain cities that are seeking the active assistance of developers to assist in actions to alleviate area-wide flooding problems. We recently completed permitting for an industrial project where the developer has agreed to increase storage capacity in its project lakes to allow for the municipality to stage and detain stormwater at their project to prevent flooding in other parts of the local area.

GlobeSt.com: As far as you can see, are cities taking sea level rise into account in their planning? If so, how are they changing the planning/ approval process?

Nelson: While Florida has a long history of flood plain and stormwater management as part of the development permitting process, most local governments haven’t yet taken up rising sea level issues as part of the permitting process. In all likelihood, it will be a combination of progressive local governments and developers seeking to use alternative building materials or site planning techniques that will foster a change in development permitting.

View Part 1 of the Q&A, "The Real Developer Impact of Rising Sea Levels"

This article is reprinted with permission from GlobeSt.com.

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