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Building codes, zoning credited with Florida storm resiliency

If you drive south from Cocoa along the Florida coast for a couple of hours, you come to Jupiter. The city is home to former congressman Patrick Murphy, who recently penned an op-ed extolling our state's resilience in the face of Hurricane Irma.

Murphy wrote that damage was less than expected here because Florida lawmakers and residents made needed changes to zoning, building codes and land-use regulations in the wake of the devastation Hurricane Andrew wrought in 1992.

Murphy said that he was just 9 years old when Andrew flattened portions of South Florida. Because his family was in the construction business, they moved around the state for a couple of years afterwards, helping people rebuild.

"I don’t think I’ll ever forget the scale of destruction I witnessed walking through those hollowed-out communities as a child," Murphy wrote. He adds that one of the most important lessons learned in the aftermath of Andrew "was the need for stricter building codes" so that new structures could resist 150-mph winds and more.

As others have done, Murphy points to the widespread destruction Houston experienced when Hurricane Harvey hit. Houston is the largest city in the U.S. without zoning regulations.

Murphy writes that there is no point in denying the impact of climate change on weather patterns. He says "the impact of our warming planet will likely lead to even stricter zoning and building codes to account for the rising sea levels."

While we don't know what impact Irma or climate science might have on Brevard County zoning, we do know that homeowners, entrepreneurs and developers will continue to need zoning changes, variances and more to deal with their evolving needs in coming years.

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