How can a nascent city with much of its land in a floodplain plan for a sustainable future – resilient to economic and environment risks?
The two primary challenges facing the city of Central involve the management of its extensive floodplain, and the development of a civic center that provides Central a unique identity. The city has addressed these challenges through a planning process that promotes environmental, economic, and community resilience. This was accomplished through three distinct, yet inter-dependent deliverables: a Floodplain Management Plan; City Center implementation strategies; and Design Guidelines and Pattern Book for the City Center Development.
The City of Central is located on the eastern edge of East Baton Rouge Parish. The area was originally settled in 1810 when a ferry began operating on the Amite River. In the mid-1800’s, the area became known as Greenwell Springs and grew into a small rural community for people moving from Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Until the 1980’s the area remained mostly rural. After experiencing rapid growth through the next decade, the City of Central decided to incorporate in the spring of 2005. Soon after incorporating, the city began a comprehensive planning process to guide development in the fledgling community. The Master Plan was officially adopted in 2010. The plan reflects the community’s goals and incorporates Smart Growth Principles to establish a future land use map, which will help shape the City’s physical, economic, and social form.
Resilience Planning in Action
Central’s resiliency planning efforts build toward successful implementation of their 2010 Land Use Plan. The Floodplain Management Plan is based on a scientific analysis of the area’s natural features and flooding risks to test the proposed density and intensity of development in the land use plan. This approach proposes development types based on the drainage capacity of natural and built infrastructure, and provides the city a baseline of information to amend the land use plan and guide future development to be more resilient to flooding. The City Center Implementation Strategies provide the City a set of strategies that will bring the City Center from a proposal to construction. The Design Guidelines and Pattern Book create visual expressions of the regulations defined in the Land Use Plan. The Pattern Book and Design Guidelines provide guidance for the appropriate density, aesthetic, and quality of development for the proposed City Center. This includes a model ordinance of a City Center overlay district. These are valuable contributions to greater resilience for the city.
Central sits between the Amite and Comite Rivers and 70% of its 64 square miles are within the 100-year flood zone. This presents a challenge for effectively zoning the growing community to insure the safety of residents, minimize property damage from flooding, and protect the river ecosystems. The Resiliency Plan includes a Floodplain Management Plan, which will guide the city toward responsible development decisions in the future related to its floodplain and ecosystem services.
- Improve environmental resiliency by demonstrating innovative development and best practices in compact development patterns, density, and design guidelines
- Based on floodplain zones identified in the plan (natural, simulated natural, and hard engineered) implement appropriate strategies as designated in the plan
- In “natural zones” minimize intensity of use in A and AE zones through passive detention in green spaces and buffering streams. These are low density areas.
- In “natural zones” projects should demonstrate 100 year and 500 year flooding post-development; 2 and 10 year or 2 and 25 year events for design of projects
- In “simulated natural zones” avoid A and AE zones and move development to X and 0.2 zones by detaining water with structures and soft BMPs such as rain gardens and swales. These are middle density zones.
- In “simulated natural zones” projects should demonstrate 100 year and 500 year flooding post-development
- In “hard engineered zones” minimize filling and conflicts with storage and conveyance capacity through the optimization of removal of water and maximize storage through structures and semi-engineered solutions such as rain gardens. These are core density areas.
The Central Resiliency Plan largely focuses on drainage infrastructure as it relates to drainage basins, floodplains, and future projected development. The plan identifies inadequate capacity for stormwater, and provides mitigation recommendations.
- Improve capacity of culvert and bridge sizing where flooding has occurred in the past
- Improve capacity of hard engineered structures through implementation of impervious surfaces, bio-swales, green roof techniques, and careful attention to detention systems
- Remove inadequate culverts/pass-throughs under Hooper Road and other roadway crossings. These improvements could be made whenever major road improvements are scheduled.
As a young city, Central currently lacks civic space and public gathering space to foster a greater sense of community and identity. Through the city’s master plan the desire to create an identifiable place to centralize city services, as well as provide space for different types of public gathering became an evident shared value of the citizens. The Resiliency Plan provides further guidance through both the City Center Implementation Strategies and the Design Guidelines and Pattern Book, which provides a model ordinance and standards for the City Center. The City Center is an important step for Central in the development of a shared identity of the community.
- Improve social resiliency by creating a signature public space conducive to public gatherings, community interaction, and integration with other existing public facilities including schools, parks, and public service outlets
- Leverage public investment to build a City Hall to stimulate private investment in high-quality commercial and residential development
- Improve economic resilience by diversifying commercial activity and attracting new retail, office, service and job creation in the city
- Develop site selection criteria for City Center; engage property owners
- In site selection value image and community branding potential, location and connectivity to green space and other public assets, including schools
- Encourage a mix of uses in the City Center including city services, retail, office, residential, and green space
Reference Design Guidelines and Pattern Book when creating a City Center overlay district, which will set standards and control development types in the new district