FL - Florida codes keep new homes ‘high and dry.’ Do they make flooding worse for neighbors?
Lance Peterman’s home in the Fort Lauderdale neighborhood of River Oaks flooded earlier this month during record-setting rains. It wasn’t the first time for him or many of his neighbors. But he heard a different story when he chatted with the owners of some newer homes built on elevated lots along his street.
“They were high and dry,” said Peterman, 56. “Nothing like the rest of us.”
It’s become a common sight in development-crazed South Florida: Shiny new homes popping up in neighborhoods of low-slung older homes — almost always constructed on land raised by trucked-in gravel. The added elevation has become standard thanks to decades of stricter building codes and a growing understanding that Florida buildings need to rise to withstand storms and floods of the future.
But neighbors like Peterman wonder — especially after the latest “rain bomb” to hit Fort Lauderdale — if the standards to raise new construction make flooding worse for surrounding older homes.
Peterman said his family has owned their home since 1972. It’s flooded several times since, he said, getting more common and intense in the last decade. He believes all the new development in the neighborhood, including dozens more homes, a church, a McDonald’s and a hotel, has something to do with that.
He’s not alone. The Biscayne Shores neighborhood in Miami-Dade County is fighting a new residential development with the same logic, that a new, higher building will flood the older, lower homes.
“To me, it’s going to be a nightmare,” said Dave Hart, who lives in a 1944 house near the proposed project site just off Biscayne Boulevard. “Where is the water going to go? They’re tearing up earth and putting cement on it.”
According to the Florida Building Code, properly designed buildings and homes shouldn’t cause flooding for neighbors. Construction standards typically call for them to include swales or other features to handle runoff from the property — no matter how much higher they’re built.