June 29, 2023
By Kyle Pimental and Autumn Scott, Strafford Regional Planning Commission
MADBURY and ROLLINSFORD – A partnership between the Towns of Rollinsford and Madbury and the Strafford Regional Planning Commission (SRPC) has resulted in the development and adoption of improved flood hazard regulations.
In 2021, the NH Department of Environmental Services Coastal Program received a Project of Special Merit award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to integrate future climate flood risk in existing floodplain management activities and improve access to hazard mitigation assistance funding in coastal communities. As a provider of technical municipal planning assistance to coastal zone communities, SRPC was included in the project as a funded partner to help build regional capacity and coordination for greater community resilience. One of the specific objectives of the project was for SRPC to help coastal communities incorporate the best available coastal flood risk science in decision making and to adopt higher floodplain management standards.
To solicit interest from coastal communities, SRPC, in coordination with project partners from the Coastal Program, UNH Extension, and NH Sea Grant, released a Request for Letters of Interest that outlined the types of training and technical assistance eligible under the grant. Three of the four applications SRPC received were selected for funding, including the development of floodplain ordinance amendments in Rollinsford and Madbury and re-scoping a culvert replacement to apply for hazard mitigation funding in Durham.
In both communities SRPC, UNH Extension, and NH Sea Grant established local subcommittees to review existing regulatory frameworks, discuss proposed revisions, and plan several outreach events. Together, the project teams conducted a comprehensive regulatory audit and developed proposed zoning amendments based on guidance from the Coastal Flood Risk Summary, the New Hampshire Model Floodplain Ordinance, and updates to flood resistant design and construction standards referenced in the state building code and residential code. Amendments included updates that more clearly identify: administrative provisions, the permitting process, and responsibilities of the floodplain administrator; structural standards for developments in special flood hazard areas; flexibility for detached accessory structures; consistency with best practices for floodplain management; and the process for an applicant to appeal an administrative decision.
“Madbury had a great experience collaborating with the SRPC and NH Sea Grant on crafting our new floodplain ordinance. A good floodplain ordinance is vital in many ways, as we were able to ensure our building standards were ready for updated climate change predictions so homeowners did not build to see their hard work washed away as well as make language and application very clear to all audiences so there was clear understanding on what is or is not permissible. Overall we have been able to set Madbury up for the next 50+ years so any new or modified construction will be ready for any additional flood risks.”
– Casey Jordan, Madbury Planning Board member
Once the proposed amendments were finalized, outreach events for municipal staff and volunteer boards were held. This included presenting at a Planning Board workshop in Madbury and hosting a virtual workshop for staff and boards in Rollinsford, with the goal of raising awareness about climate change, coastal flood impacts, and available regulatory approaches to mitigate risk. A follow-up workshop was scheduled in Rollinsford to provide residents with an in-depth discussion of the proposed zoning amendments and their intent as it relates to coastal resilience. Public hearings were then scheduled with each Planning Board to recommend moving the amendments to Town Meeting.
“Participating in these parallel projects in Madbury and Rollinsford was really interesting. Each process was tailored to the unique context of each town, but they were similar in that each had municipal staff and volunteer board members who were really engaged throughout the ordinance review to make sure the updated language addresses the local needs.”
Lisa Wise, Climate Adaptation Program Manager, NH Sea Grant | UNH Extension
In March 2023, Madbury residents voted in favor of the amendment to repeal and replace Article XXI, Flood Hazard Area Overlay District of the Zoning Ordinance. The updated ordinance serves as an important regulatory mechanism to guide development away from at-risk areas and reduce potential damage to development within the floodplain through higher construction standards. As a result of challenges with noticing requirements, amendments in Rollinsford are postponed until March 2024. In preparation, SRPC and the local subcommittee will reinvigorate the public outreach campaign later this fall and will host a second set of public hearings in the winter.