Major storms Katrina and Sandy have made catastrophic hurricane damage in the United States a reality, and there are significant lessons that need to be applied to protect our shorelines in the future. There are specific vulnerabilities the city of Boston will face in the event of sea level rise, and there is a need to ascertain how critical some of these threats are to the average Bostonian, and in particular the Boston property owner.
Up and down the New England coastline, a precedent has been set for the utilization of sea walls, dunes, and other effective man-made and natural flood protective strategies. There has not been a significant flood preventive structure built since 1978, but waterfront development of Boston has continued. The desirability of both commerce and real estate in the Boston Harbor region has increased significantly, especially since the completion of the project nicknamed “The Big Dig.” Moving forward, as this ongoing development continues, constant vigilance is needed to be certain that both new and existing development is assessed as to adequacy in curtailing ongoing threats from flooding.
Massachusetts became the first state to officially incorporate climate change effects into its environmental review procedures by adopting legislation that directs agencies to consider reasonably foreseeable climate change effects, including additional greenhouse gas emissions and predicted sea level rise. Massachusetts G.L. ch. 30, § 61 (2012).
Boston’s location on the sea is a large contributor to the city’s beauty and cultural allure.The city’s roots from 1630 as a port and fishing village are what allowed it to grow into a worldwide hub with some of the most significant educational, financial, and health care institutions in the world. Boston contributes to a significant portion of the U.S. economy and is a cultural, academic, and scientific hub for not just the United States but a significant portion of the globe.
We also are a wealthy community that can – and should – financially contribute to maintaining our desired position on the sea. Boston has maximized development on every available square foot of the city, with some of the most valuable areas created via landfills. By proactively involving the greater community in working towards preparedness, Boston will not just save lives and property in 2014 but will be prepared for the uncertainty of the future, as sea levels continue to rise.
What is Boston’s plan? Is there consensus between government organizations, scientific experts, businesses, and the residential community on best adaptation practices? How can the business and residential communities get involved in building solutions?
Alternatives that need to be considered, especially for personal residences, include insurance benefit considerations if the property owner states that it will not rebuild, reduced payouts, allowances, or higher deductibles, premium discounts for wetland development on personal property, sea walls and sand dunes, and considerations for premium rebates or discounts for every 10 or 20 years without a claim. In the instance of a property owner agreeing to not rebuild, that land would then default to public land and become part of a strategy to utilize coastal properties as a natural defense against flooding. Additional steps, as recommended by the Green Ribbon Commission, should also reduce flood insurance premiums. These include building flood walls, installing permeable pavement and landscaping buffers, reinforcing doors and windows to withstand flooding and high winds, and acquiring backup power and water sources in case of an emergency.
Your Boston, Massachusetts real estate attorney can advise you on how best to safeguard your property, your most valuable material asset, from the potential effects of climate change, utilizing zoning, insurance, and remedial or preventive measures that may require either public or private financing.
As experienced Massachusetts real estate attorneys, Pulgini & Norton can help you with all of your legal needs. If you have a question regarding your property rights, give us a call today at 781-843-2200 or contact our office online, and we can help legally clear the way for you.
Living off the Grid and Real Estate Law, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, May 14, 2014
How a Real Estate Lawyer Can Help You With Zoning Restrictions, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, April 9, 2014