Morgan City, LA

Morgan City is defined by its relationship to water. The economy, culture, and urban form are all functions of Morgan City’s position on the Atchafalaya River, Intracoastal Canal, and Lake Palourde, yet its proximity to these major bodies of water increases flood risks. Following damages and changes in base flood elevations resulting from Hurricane Katrina, new levee construction and upgrades were made to reduce the impacts of flooding. Despite increased protection, the city is considering the ongoing risks from sea level rise, subsidence, and storms as it maps out a plan for future growth and development.

Twin Bridges, Morgan City, LA. Photo by faungg via  Flickr .

Twin Bridges, Morgan City, LA. Photo by faungg via Flickr.

The city is using a character-based approach to describe future land use that recognizes these risks and the importance of balancing economic, social, and environmental health for sustainable, long-term growth. The Future Land Use and Development Plan (FLUDP) describes the goals and objectives to achieve the type of development the community desires in light of existing environmental conditions. It sets the stage for the city’s Zoning and Land Development Code (ZLDC), which guides investment and ensures new development is consistent with the goals outlined in the FLUDP.

The FLUDP and ZLDC seek to improve dilapidated neighborhoods by identifying and targeting areas for investment. Opportunities for growth in the city are limited by population declines, insufficient number of sites for water-based development, and adequate lands to accommodate water-based development.  In addition, much of Morgan City’s urban area exists in the older parts of the community that have been neglected and are in need of reinvestment. Revitalization of these critical urban areas is essential to the vitality of the community.

The FLUDP categorizes neighborhoods into conservation, stabilization, improvement, and redevelopment to evaluate and prioritize improvements.  It also sets a plan for the growth and diversification of Morgan City’s economy. The new ZLDC refocuses the zoning ordinance to emphasize the character and form of development in appropriate zoning districts. It also establishes better screening and buffer yard provisions, and it preserves the city’s surrounding rural character.


Resilience Planning in Action

Morgan City faces both near- and long-term risks from sea level rise, land loss, and storms. The city’s future vision must consider these risks while striving to maintain its importance as an industrial center. Both the FLUDP and ZLDC serve to guide future development in a way that contributes to the community’s overall character and minimally impacts the area’s natural resources to foster resilience and sustainability. They recognize that any short-term development must be considered in the context of a long-term vision that is based on sustainable growth and reinvestment.


Morgan City is ensuring that any new or substantially improved properties do not adversely affect the environment, and the ZLDC aims to minimize the impacts of flooding caused by new development on neighboring properties.

  • Strengthens the process for permitting procedures in floodplains by requiring the following information for development in special flood hazard areas: elevation of the lowest floor of all new or improved structures; elevation to which the structure will be floodproofed; certificate of compliance to floodproofing criteria; and a description of extent to which any natural water systems will be altered or relocated due to proposed development.
  • Prevents the overcrowding of land and the unnecessary concentration of population.
  • Uses development patterns that preserve and increase the amount of pervious surfaces to mitigate the impacts of storms, expand green spaces, and reduce the heat island effect with no additional strain on external infrastructure systems.
  • Prevents or regulates the construction of flood barriers that will unnaturally divert floodwaters or which increases flood hazards to other lands.
  • Landscaping incorporates storm water runoff best management practices, such as through the use of vegetated swales, bio-infiltration, and other types of water quality measures.


The ZLDC aims to ensure that transportation systems are carefully planned and function smoothly. It also steers development in places where adequate infrastructure already exists and limits development where facilities do not exist.

  • Calls for the diversification of energy production and distribution infrastructure through the exploration of renewable energy sources and appropriate redundancies in the distribution network to reduce damage from major natural disasters.
  • Seeks to improve transportation by reducing congestion on roadways, enhancing multimodal travel opportunities, and reducing travel times.


The ZLDC supports community growth with adequate public ways and utilities, as well as educational and recreational facilities to support healthy surroundings and quality of life. Traditional, conventional, and mixed neighborhoods each have respective characteristics that function in their distinct role within the city, and the FLUDP seeks to optimize the distinct neighborhoods that exist today. The ZLDC and FLUDP also ensure that the needs of businesses and industry are being met.

  • Promotes strategic growth, development, improvement, and redevelopment of the community.
  • Provides for sufficient commercial and industrial property to allow for economic development within the city.
  • Preserves and protects places and areas of historic, cultural, scenic, or architectural importance and significance.
  • Imposes specific elevation and other flood control standards for all new or substantially improved residential and nonresidential structures, including recreational vehicles, in special flood hazard areas.
  • Considers employing a form-based code to allow for greater variety in the city’s residential makeup.
  • Attempts to improve the community appearance by emphasizing the character and form of development in appropriate zoning districts.
  • Aims to improve the compatibility and transitions between districts by establishing better screening and buffer yard provisions to increase compatibility between competing uses and to preserve the rural character in the city’s periphery.


Next Steps

The Morgan City Future Land Use and Development Plan will prioritize key projects based on certain criteria to help decision-makers focus resources in a way that will achieve the overall long-term vision for growth. The city expects to pair new developments with investments in capital and neighborhood improvement programs, particularly related to public amenities, to maximize the impact of new developments on the city and improve quality of life. The city is also considering other codes and standards in addition to the ZLDC, such as municipal building code and public works and engineering standards, to achieve a more sustainable future.