Resiliency Committee Sends Long-Awaited Legislation To Full City Council

Nov 20, 2020

The Jacksonville City Council’s Special Committee on Resiliency finalized legislation Friday that has been in the works since early this year to help mitigate the risks of sea level rise and flooding.

In 2019, an Adaptation Action Area working group that included experts on the subjects of climate change and sea level rise came up with a list of recommendations, including hiring a chief resilience officer as other large Florida municipalities have done, updating the county’s flood risk zones, and creating new land development regulations when building in high-risk areas, as well as preparing homes and other buildings for potential flooding.

The Special Committee on Resiliency spent the next months reviewing the suggestions from the Adaptation Action Area working group, making tweaks to it in subcommittees, before coming to finalized legislation that will be heard before the entire City Council.

Apart from the AAA’s original plans, the subcommittees made two key amendments, which are:

The city should seek partnerships to deploy additional active tide gauges.
The city should pursue the adequate provision of housing options and affordable housing opportunities that are located on land that is high, dry, connected and outside the AAA.

If the full City Council approves the legislation, it will be sent to the state.

“It's a two-step process,” said Bill Killingsworth, Jacksonville’s Director of Planning and Development. “They go to the state for comment, they come back. We address the state's comments, and then we adopt.”

Killingsworth said while the policies are being evaluated by the state, his department could look at which they would like to prioritize and begin work on ordinance code revisions.

When the bill returns from the state with comments or concerns - which Killingsworth said he doesn’t expect - the council will hear the bill again for full adoption.

“It becomes the highest law of land development within the city of Jacksonville,” Killingsworth said.

Councilman Michael Boylan said he wanted to know how long the entire process will take before real changes begin.

“By that I mean, the actual application of them and the enforcement of them,” Boylan said.

Killingsworth said the final ordinance could take 18 months to two years.

“There would be substantial outreach to the regulated industries that would be regulated by it, to the public that would benefit from it,” Killingsworth said. “And I expect that there would be a lot of public meetings conducted by ourselves, as well as by Council, because that will be where the rubber hits the road. At that point, you are regulating people's properties. And the intent is to protect public safety, health and welfare, but it will be challenging.”

Councilwoman Joyce Morgan said all of the plans adopted will be a lot of work for a proposed Chief Resiliency Officer, but added the situation can work out to the city’s benefit.

“When a resiliency officer comes in and sees the magnitude of the work and the things we've laid out, I think that helps us, number one - get a good person,” Morgan said. “But number two, I think that they can come in and actively start working on some of the things that we've found to be important in our community. So I think it's a great place to start.”

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.