Selecting the Right Laws

How To Use The Model Local Laws

Model local laws should be viewed as examples to help local government officials interested in addressing resiliency issues in their municipal code. The model local laws have been compiled for information purposes and are not intended to be viewed as the only way to address resiliency to climate change and extreme-weather events. Models were developed from a variety of sources, including existing models, existing local laws, and a combination of sections from various laws assembled with professional expertise. Where existing laws have been adapted, that is noted, and endnotes provide links to the laws so they may be seen in context. A range of regulatory choices are provided, with some models consisting of simple changes to enhance resiliency aspects of typical local laws, and others that would constitute a comprehensive approach to a topic that may require more advanced administrative skills to be effective.

Readers are responsible for making their own assessments of the appropriateness of a model for their community, and how that model will be incorporated into their municipal code. These models are not intended to be adopted by a municipality verbatim, instead model local laws should be treated as a starting point for local law provisions that are molded to fit into an existing scheme of land use laws in your community. Local government officials that are considering the adoption of any of these models should seek the advice of their municipal attorney.

Most models are written as the language would appear in a municipal code book, without the trappings of a fully drafted local law. A municipal attorney should be consulted to properly frame the laws with the necessary language for the proper insertion into the municipal code either through amendments, deletions, and/or additions. Additionally, the municipal attorney will need to include an enacting clause, severability clause, and effective date, as well as ensure the municipality follows the proper procedure for adopting the local laws. For more information, refer to the Department of State publication, Adopting Local Laws in New York State.

As most models could be adopted by either a city, town, or village, there is often a choice that is presented in brackets and italicized text [e.g., city/town/village]. There may also be blanks to be completed, such as by inserting the name of the local government or of a zoning district. There are other choices to be made, such as who is granted the authority to act (e.g., planning board or zoning board) and the extent to which the local government wishes to regulate something (e.g., setbacks of 50 feet or 100 feet).

To help guide communities in their choices, local law topics are introduced with brief narrative, and resources that expand upon the topic are provided both in the narrative and in the endnotes. There are also text boxes that expand upon topics in the narrative or in the model local law itself.

Assessing What Local Laws Are Needed

A “one-size-fits-all” approach to model local laws has been rejected in favor of providing a range of alternatives. This menu-based system recognizes that local governments have varying levels of expertise and interest in the amount of intervention they want to exercise through the adoption and enforcement of local laws.

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), responding to a request from the Department of State, developed a local assessment tool to help local governments decide what model laws might be right for them. Working with the ad hoc Long Island Smart Growth Resiliency Partnership, EPA and FEMA produced a publication that will help a local government consider the hazards it faces and assess and refine its laws and policies in a way that improves resilience and helps achieve desired community outcomes. See Community Resilience: Implementation and Strategic Enhancements (C-RISE) Local Assessment Tool.