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More density in flood-prone St. Pete? City Council says ‘maybe’

The St. Petersburg City Council wants to adapt its land use and overall city comprehensive plans to recently-changed maps showing where areas are most at risk for storm surge, the board decided during a committee meeting.

Under the city’s current rules, new development or renovations to existing development in the established Coastal High Hazard Area designated by the National Weather Service’s Sea, Lake and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) computerized storm surge models, cannot add density. There is no wiggle room on that policy.

The idea is to ensure people are able to evacuate when a hurricane threatens.

But the city wants to provide some flexibility to that plan because the SLOSH models have now changed.

Before 2016, the Coastal High Hazard area included about 7,700 acres in St. Petersburg. Those areas were near water and included mostly residential units that had little need for increasing density.

But the models updated in 2016 more than doubled that acreage and now include areas further inland that could affect commercial and multi-unit housing development. Restricting development in areas like the Gateway business district and the southern part of the Skyway Marina District, which are now both within the SLOSH models, could have a potentially deleterious effect on economic development in those areas.

Both are in city-created activity zones targeted for economic development and job growth.

The possibilities for amending the city’s rules on development in high hazard areas are nearly endless.