420 Open Space Preservation
400 Mapping and Regulations

420
Open Space Preservation

Preserving your floodplain as open space by limiting development is one of the most impactful activities that your community can undertake. As such, a large number of credits are awarded through the CRS for these elements.

422.a
Open space preservation (OSP)

A substantial amount of credits can be awarded for preserving open space in the floodplain in order to reduce flooding and restore the natural benefits.

Level of effort = high

Overview

To qualify for Open Space Preservation credits, your community must preserve land with a signed statement from the land's owner or through regulations. All preserved open space should be mapped for credit.

Element steps:

  1. Preserve land through a landowner or regulations
  2. Identify all land that is preserved through an agreement or regulations. This can include open space in state and local parks or nature preserves. Note that most land owned or managed by the federal government won't count toward CRS credit but there are some exceptions. Check with your CRS Specialists to make sure.
  3. Map all preserved open space in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)

Considerations

For land to qualify as open space it must be free from buildings, fill, and concrete. Your community will not get credit for open space outside of the floodplain, open water, federal land, or open space with impervious surface or buildings. You also won’t receive credit for space that allows fill, or space that serves as a right of way (examples of this include levees or canals). Undeveloped open space that could be developed one day does not get credit either.

Documentation

To receive credit for this element, you must provide:

  • A map of the preserved open space with the area labeled with the acronym OSP
  • Documentation that the space has been preserved

    • This can take the form of a letter from an agency/landowner stating it will be permanently preserved or a copy of the regulations preventing development in the open space.
  • A copy of the ordinance language prohibiting development (if applicable)
  • If you are applying to receive credit outside of the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), proof that floodplain regulations apply to open space outside the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)
  • An impact adjustment map

Credit Calculation

Max: 1,450

For the impact adjustment, divide the preserved open space area in the floodplain by the total Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and multiply that by the credits awardable:

(Preserved Open Space / Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)) X Total Credits

422.b
Deed restrictions (DR)

Open Space that is permanently preserved can receive credits if deed restrictions are used.

Level of effort = moderate

Overview

This element builds on 422.a Open Space Preservation (OSP) and awards credits to communities who take steps to insure that parcels will remain undeveloped in perpetuity through deed restrictions. Deed restricted land can include state or local parks, and land acquired with FEMA funds.

Considerations

Element 422.a Open Space Preservation (OSP) is a prerequisite for this element. Deed restrictions must include prohibiting development on qualifying parcels in perpetuity.

Documentation

To receive credit for this element, you must provide:

  • A list of the deed restricted properties
  • A copy of the deeds for those properties
  • The impact adjustment map with Deed Restricted (DR) areas labeled

Credit Calculation

Max: 50

For the impact adjustment, divide the deed restricted open space area in the floodplain by the total Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and multiply that by the credits awardable:

(Deed Restricted Open Space Area / Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)) X Total Credits

422.c
Natural functions open space (NFOS)

The CRS encourages the preservation of open space that enables or supports natural floodplain functions.

Level of effort = moderate

Overview

Preserving natural floodplain functions can help reduce flooding. Depending on your municipality, preservation actions can include flood and erosion control, water quality maintenance, groundwater recharge, biological productivity, and fish and wildlife habitat preservation. For credit under this element, you must limit development on natural functions open space (NFOS) land and also demonstrate that you property manage the area to preserve its natural state.

This element is divided into four subelements. For the main subelement, NFOS1, your community can receive credit for land preserved through 422.a Open Space Preservation (OSP) that is in its natural state or has been returned to its natural state. This can include undeveloped areas, restored rural areas, or areas preserved by state or local agencies. It does not include recreational areas, commercially forested areas, or artificially reinforced beach areas.

If you receive credit for NFOS1, you can receive credit for NFOS2 - NFOS4:

  • NFOS2: Credit is awarded if the preserved land is included in a plan to protect natural floodplain functions (see Activity 510 Floodplain Management Planning)
  • NFOS3: Credit is awarded if the land is a critical habitat for a particular species.
  • NFOS4: Credit is awarded if the land is part of an open space corridor.

Considerations

422.a Open Space Preservation (OSP) is a prerequisite for 422.c. If your community already receives OSP credits, you should look into whether or not any of your OSP areas qualify for this element. This element is a bit confusing because it is split into four subelements: NFOS1 - NFOS4. NFOS1 is a prerequisite for the other subelements (as listed above).

Documentation

To document your work for this element, you must provide:

  • Documentation describing the natural floodplain functions of the preserved area. This can take the form of a report or a plan prepared by a relevant agency or a letter signed by a professional in the natural sciences.
  • For NFOS2, the applicable floodplain plan or resolution
  • For NFOS3, documentation of the protected species
  • For NFOS4, the open space corridor plan
  • An impact adjustment map, with each NFOS labeled

Credit Calculation

Max: 350, including any of the following:

Element Maximum Credits
NFOS1 190
NFOS2 50
NFOS3 50
NFOS4 50

For the impact adjustment, divide the open space in the floodplain by the total Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), and multiply that by the credits awardable:

(Open Space / Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)) X Total Credits

422.d
Special flood-related hazards open space (SHOS)

Does your community preserve open space in areas affected by special flood-related hazards?

Level of effort = high

Overview

Your community can receive additional credit for open space preserved in areas at risk from hazards including uncertain flow paths, closed basin lakes, ice jams, land subsidence, mudflows, and tsunamis.

Considerations

422.a Open Space Preservation (OSP) is a prerequisite for this element. The area designated as Special flood-related hazards open space must also be regulated under Activity 430 Higher Regulatory Standards.

Documentation

To receive credits for this element, you must provide:

  • Open Space Preservation (OSP) documentation (see 422.a Open Space Preservation (OSP))
  • A map of the area showing the potential hazard(s)
  • The applicable regulations for the area

Credit Calculation

Max: 150

To calculate the impact adjustment, multiple the area susceptible to hazards by 150 and divide by the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA):

150 X area susceptible to hazards / Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)

422.e
Coastal erosion open space (CEOS)

If your community has coastal erosion areas, you can receive credits for preserving open space in these zones.

Level of effort = high

Overview

Your community can receive credit for preserving open space in areas at risk of coastal erosion, defined here as areas eroding at a rate of 1.5 feet per year or more. This category can include setbacks, dunes, and beach areas.

Considerations

In order to get credit for this element, you must first receive credits for the following elements:

Documentation

To document your work for this element, you will need to submit:

Credit Calculation

Max:750

The impact adjustment for this element is complicated. It can be calculated with the following equation:

(area that qualifies for this element / area of your community's total coastal erosion hazard area) x (length of eroding coastline / length of total coastline) x ((the year to which the location of the erosion reference feature is projected / the year of credit request) / 100) x Sea Level Multiplier x 500

For the Sea Level Multiplier, use 1.2 if you are using NOAA's "intermediate-high" projection or 1.5 if you are using NOAA's "high" projection.

422.f
Open space incentives (OSI)

Planning tools can be valuable mechanisms for preserving open space.

Level of effort = high

Overview

This element awards credits to communities for utilizing planning tools that incentivize open space preservation outside of 422.a Open Space Preservation (OSP). These tools include but are not limited to density transfers, transfer of development rights, bonuses for avoiding the floodplain, planned unit developments, cluster development, greenways, easements, and setbacks.

There are four subelements in this element:

  • OSI1: Your community can receive credit for designating the floodplain in a subdivision as open space.
  • OSI2: You can receive credit for adopting regulations requiring that new development is located on high ground and out of the floodplain or...

    • OSI3: If credits are not awarded for OS2, you can alternatively receive credit for regulations requiring that new building sites are on high ground and out of the floodplain to the extent possible
  • OSI4: You can receive credits for adopting open space regulations involving transfer of development rights or density bonuses
  • OSI5: You can receive credits for adopting regulations that allow cluster development
  • OSI6: Your community can receive credits for adopting programs that provide tax incentives to keep land open
  • OSI7: You get additional credit for a land use plan that recommends open space or low density development

Considerations

This element is complex, as it involves drafting/adopting regulations as well as mapping the regulated areas. Only areas that do not qualify for 422.a Open Space Preservation (OSP) credit can be applied to this element. To qualify, your community must apply regulations to new development as well as redevelopment.

Documentation

To document your work, you must provide:

  • The applicable ordinances detailing the open space incentives
  • The 422.a Open Space Preservation (OSP) map, labeled with OSI areas
  • Site plans and plats providing evidence of regulatory action

Credit Calculation

Max: 250, including any of the following:

Element Maximum Credits
OSI1 250
OSI2 150
OSI3 65
OSI4 70
OSI5 25
OSI6 25
OSI7 10

For any given area, you can only receive credit for one of the first four subelements in this element. The impact adjustment involves dividing the regulated area by the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) for OSI1 through OSI6:

Regulated Area / Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)

There is no impact adjustment for OSI7.

422.g
Low-density zoning (LZ)

Low-density zoning can be a useful means by which your community decreases its open space impact.

Level of effort = high

Overview

You can receive credit for zoning areas for agriculture, conservation, or large residential lots (the threshold for "large" is at least 5 acres). In order to do this, your community must have a zoning ordinance identifying varying densities and development rules.

Considerations

This element only applies to areas that do not qualify for 422.a Open Space Preservation (OSP) credit.

Documentation

To receive credits for this element, you must provide:

Credit Calculation

Max: 600

To calculate the total credits, multiply 60 times the minimum lot size, in acres:

Total credits = 60 x (minimum lot size in acres)

The impact adjustment for this element involves dividing the total credits by the size of the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA):

Total credits / Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)

422.h
Natural shoreline protection (NSP)

Do you have natural, undeveloped shoreline in your community that you can preserve?

Level of effort = moderate

Overview

Your community can receive credit for allowing shorelines to occur naturally by regulating development through an ordinance/regulation or by enacting local policies on public lands. The regulation(s) must prohibit any alteration or change, including dredging and vegetation removal in riverine areas, or adding fill/seawalls in lake or ocean areas. Changes can be allowed if they benefit natural shoreline functions.

Considerations

This element only applies to shorelines currently in their undeveloped natural state. You can receive credit for all relevant areas, even those included under 422.a Open Space Preservation (OSP).

Documentation

To receive credit for this element, you must provide:

Credit Calculation

Max: 120

The impact adjustment for this element is the length of shoreline impacted by the regulations divided by the length of toal shoreline.

Length of impacted shoreline / Length of total shoreline

If less than 10% of the shorelines are impacted, communities can use the minimum impact adjustment of 120 x 0.1.

This CRS guide was produced by CRS professionals and Certified Floodplain Managers to help you navigate the Community Rating System. It is not meant to replace FEMA's official CRS Coordinator's Manual, nor should it supersede the instructions given by your ISO/CRS Specialist.

For additional resources, visit https://crsresources.org/ .