Protecting people and property is a fundamental duty of all levels of government. One of the most effective ways that local governments protect people and property is through the permitting process. Here, local officials can and should do what they can to reduce the likelihood that the development or use of property will cause harm.
Communities should also be aware that in a growing number of states, courts are favoring plaintiffs that sue local governments for permitting projects that later cause damage to property (for example, permitting the construction of roads that back-up streams and increase flooding in the community). For more information on this trend, see No Adverse Impact Floodplain Management and the Courts (available at www.floods.org), where the authors found that a community is vastly more likely to be successfully sued for allowing improper development that causes harm than for prohibiting it.
The take-home lesson: As a local official, you have been given the responsibility and the legal rights to manage coastal and inland floodplains. If you do so in a way that expressly seeks to prevent harm, the courts will support you.
For More Information. . .
Again: this is not and cannot be legal advice. To answer specific legal questions please see an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. To learn more about the general legal framework of NAI-based floodplain management see:
- Our Recent Relevant Legal Publications page.
- No Adverse Impact Floodplain Management and the Courts (available at www.floods.org). While this document is designed for attorneys, it is useful for anyone working in floodplain management.
- The Coastal NAI Handbook (available at www.floods.org).
- The American Planning Association’s 1995 Policy Guide on Takings.