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What we do


     Through the recovery plan implementation, opportunities are provided for businesses and residents to be more resilient to future weather related disasters. Decisions made today will influence rebuilding and new construction. Taking a long-view when making these decisions will make the community more sustainable and resilient. Two activities were identified that would foster smarter community rebuilding. The first is to adopt development and building codes that increase flood resilience, the second is to review and remove existing land use and zoning regulations which impede the implementation of disaster recovery strategies and projects.

Rebuild Smarter includes two projects that take the long view:
  • Building Regulation Update
  • Zoning Map and Land Use Designation
     The steering committee recognizes that damaged yet viable structures are in need of repairs, that these repairs, as well as any new structures, should be constructed in a manner that will minimize impacts from future flooding. Therefore, as rebuilding occurs, incorporating new building regulations and flood mitigation measures as standards for rebuilding and new construction will benefit the entire community.The goal is to review and update Athens Borough building, construction, and land use regulations to create a stronger, more resilient community.Project DescriptionThis project is for the zoning and planning commissions, Borough Council, and Bradford County Planning Department to adopt and enforce building design guidelines and materials requirements as part of the flood protection and building code. New requirements would be implemented through the building plan review and inspection processes, and the Borough building code enforcement consultant would participate in the implementation process.Once adoption is complete, contractors and community members would receive education on new regulatory measures, cost versus financial benefit of flood protection, and potential financial assistance available to implement new flood protection measures.The Borough Hall, Valley Recreation Center, or other appropriate facility could provide educational seminars and serve as a repository for flood mitigation information. Examples of design standards and regulations for consideration include:


  • Requiring wet and dry flood proofing best practices for new construction, such as elevating structures above the base flood elevation;
  • Requiring the use of flood resistant building materials designed to minimize impact from flood waters and reduce restoration time after a flooding event, such as moisture and mold resistant exterior/interior materials;
  • Requiring HVAC and other utility service equipment to be located above base flood elevation;
  • Requiring external flood protection measures, like floodwalls, when retrofitting an existing structure is not feasible;
  • Prohibiting construction of new basements and filling existing basements that cannot be dry flood-proofed;
  • Requiring on-site stormwater management to ensure there is not a net increase in runoff between pre- and post-construction for new construction as well as reconstruction;
  • Establishing zoning overlay districts for flood-prone areas with a second tier of development requirements designed to reinforce flood mitigation guidelines;
  • Establishing regulation alternatives for reducing flood-related damage in historic districts, and properties on a historic register or, alternately, establishing regulations to protect historic properties from future floods without negatively effecting their status in the Athens Borough National Register Historic District and the Borough´s local historic district; and
  • Adopting an advisory base flood elevation based upon the preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Map, thus broadening the area required to repair and rebuild in conformance with flood zone regulated requirements.
     The business district was hard-hit by the disaster. The September 2011 flood effected 52 local businesses. Twenty-nine of these businesses remained closed as of March 2012. Community meeting attendees recognize the business district is the heart of the community and that it needs to be reinvigorated. The Business and Economic Development Work Group weighed the suggestions offered by the community and determined that reviewing the Borough’s zoning map was a starting point to creating an overall marketing strategy.The goals, within the Borough, are to ensure that allowable uses offer the greatest opportunity for new investment and commerce; strategically support rebuilding that strengthens the community’s quality of life and supports business district resilience from future flooding; and identify areas where land use density can be safely increased.Project DescriptionWorking together, the planning commission and elected officials will review the zoning map and ordinances. This should be done to ensure permitted commercial uses and readily identified business areas are zoned and regulated in a manner most conducive to attracting small businesses and, promoting mixed-use development (housing above businesses). The review will look at the delineation between commercial and residential zoning districts to ensure clarity and connectivity between the two areas. The assessment of the zoning map, regulations, and definitions determine:
  • If current property uses are consistent with the zoning designation;
  • If amendment or adjustment of the zoning map and designations would strengthen new business and commercial investment; and
  • If commercial and manufacturing zone designation definitions require amendment or addition to support the attraction efforts.
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