Prof. John Nolon publishes op-ed: “Land-use policies must reflect reality.”

In the wake of damage wrought by recent tropical storms Irene and Lee, Prof. John Nolon called for smarter land use planning in an op-ed published in Sunday’s Journal News.

He wrote: “These storms debunked the myth of the 100-year storm. Serious floods happen every four or five years in the Northeast, largely due to decisions we have made about where and how people live. The problem goes beyond the decisions of owners to locate homes and businesses near streams and rivers and of local zoning regulations and boards to accommodate them there.”

Nolon explains that “various aspects of our modern lives intensify the effects of climate change,” including energy inefficient home size and building construction, and increases in vehicle miles traveled due to spread-out development. And, he adds, “The worst may be yet to come. The Census Bureau reports that the population will increase by 100 million by mid-century, which will require millions of new homes and billions of square feet of nonresidential development. To the extent that this development on the land replicates the pattern of the past, GHG will continue to skyrocket, the climate will continue to warm, and storms will become even worse.”

Nolon calls on local land use officials to adopt regulations that ensure on-site retention of storm water; insists that flood plains and areas subject to sea level rise and storm surges should become off-limits for any serious development; and argues for development in general to be more cost-, energy- and environmentally efficient.

“This can be done by emphasizing compact, mixed-use development in cities and urban nodes where vehicle trips are fewer, buildings are more thermally efficient, and supportive infrastructure is more cost-effective,” he writes.

Read the whole piece here.

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