Possible Points: 50 points for the element.

Learn from the experiences of two communities that were successful in earning credit for this CRS element! Check out the Success Stories for Kitty Hawk, NC and Palm Beach County, FL.

Purpose of Element: Local officials and private landowners have the power to change how their land is used. For example, an area that is currently zoned as open space could be re-zoned as residential housing if the pressure to develop is high. Similarly, a private landowner could sell their hunting lands to a developer who subdivides this land for new development to occur. Growth of this nature is common in communities that are expanding. As available land becomes more scarce communities may be pressured to develop less-desirable areas. Sometimes this results in subdividing or developing lands within the floodplain that were previously preserved as open space or used as parks.

The purpose of this element is to reward communities that place legal restrictions on parcels of open space within the floodplain that permanently prevent these areas from being developed. Placing permanent restrictions on the types of development that can occur within the floodplain is critical to the protection of existing open spaces, and can help to ease the pressure to develop these areas. These legal restrictions may be a conservation easement or another type of legal document that is tied to the deed of the parcel. For more information see pages 420-12 - 420-14 of the CRS Coordinator's Manual.

Impact Adjustment: Yes. The impact adjustment for deed restrictions is calculated by taking the ratio between the area of the regulatory floodplain that is preserved as open space and protected by a deed restriction to the total area of the SFHA. These areas must also be mapped on the impact adjustment map that is prepared for this activity. See page 420-13 of the CRS Coordinator's Manual for more information.

Potential to Double Count Credit: Yes. Areas that qualify for Deed Restrictions credit by definition also qualify for credit under element 422.a. Open Space Preservation, and may also qualify for credit under other elements for activity 420. These include element 422.c. Natural Functions Open Space, 422.d. Special Flood-Related Hazards Open Space, 422.e. Coastal Erosion Open Space and 422.g. Natural Shoreline Protection.

Degree of Difficulty - Documentation: Low. Obtaining credit for this element requires a community to simply document where their deed restricted open spaces are within the floodplain and their ISO/CRS Specialist with copies of creditable deed restrictions. These tasks can be completed easily with the help of a GIS professional and through a review of the community's records or by working with private landowners to document easements or other creditable deed restrictions.

That said, in communities that have high numbers of parcels to document, the time spent on creating this documentation may outweigh the benefits of earning credit for this element because it is only worth 50 credits. As a result, many communities do not pursue credit for this element despite having creditable areas within their jurisdiction.

Degree of Difficulty - Implementation:  High. In order to get credit for this element a legal restriction must be imposed on parcels within the floodplain that are already preserved as open space. The deed restrictions that communities receive credit for do not need to be universally adopted nor do they need to be mandated. One possible strategy for earning credit under this element would be to encourage private landowners and public agencies to voluntarily place deed restrictions or conservation easements on their property. For example, some private landowners may willingly relinquish the right to develop their land if they are educated on the benefits of conserving floodplain ecosystems. In addition, a community could work with their parks department to identify park lands that intersect the regulatory floodplain and place deed restrictions on these existing park lands to ensure they remain park land into perpetuity.

While it is not conceptually difficult to encourage a landowner to place a deed restriction on their property, the actual negotiations and legal work that is needed in order to implement the restriction can be time consuming and expensive. Given that this element is only worth 50 credits, communities should carefully consider whether or not it is in their best interest to pursue additional credit under this element.

Path in Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve, an area credited for element 422.b. Deed Restrictions. Image courtesy of Ben Alexander, Town of Kitty Hawk.
Path in Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve, an area credited for element 422.b. Deed Restrictions. Image courtesy of Ben Alexander, Town of Kitty Hawk.

Tips for Success:

  1. Work with local land trusts and private landowners to identify properties that are already deed restricted and acquire the required documentation.
  2. Collecting the paperwork needed to take credit for deed restricted properties may be easy, but lobbying landowners to place deed restrictions on their property will take time and effort. Carefully consider whether or not it is in your community's best interest to pursue additional credit under this element.

Co-Benefits Associated with this Element: When floodplains are maintained as open space, they provide many ecosystems services. Most relevant to the CRS program is that floodplains store and convey floodwaters. Protection of open space in the floodplain prevents damage to structures because it essentially ensures that the land is kept free of development. As a result, when flooding does occur, adverse impacts are limited because floodplains are allowed to function as they would have in nature. The primary benefit of this element is that through deed restrictions, these lands are protected into perpetuity. Meaning they will be preserved as open space and therefore provide the aforementioned benefits forever.