MASGC Project Impacts

Semmes, Alabama, includes low-impact development provisions into subdivision regulations


The city of Semmes is a newly incorporated city in the 8-Mile Creek watershed in Mobile County, Alabama, with a population of 3,015 people. The Semmes Planning Commission seeks to foster future growth while preserving the rural character of the community. 38 % of the total acres and 15% of the total parcels of property in the city’s jurisdiction are currently undeveloped. As a new city, the Planning Commission needed to develop planning documents and regulations that guided future development, yet ensured achievement of community goals, such as protecting streams, open space and fostering conservation development.


Auburn University researchers, funded by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium to develop watershed models to predict water quality impacts of land use change, met with Alabama Department of Environmental Management and Semmes City officials to discuss the benefits of low impact development (LID). LID is an approach to land development (or re-development) that attempts to work with nature to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible. LID employs principles such as preserving and recreating natural landscape features and minimizing effective imperviousness to create functional and appealing site drainage.


Several of the actions and policies suggested by the researchers were incorporated into the Semmes Subdivision Regulations, adopted on January 27, 2012 and subsequently revised on several occasions. For instance, model stream buffer policies were adopted and are measured as follows: “Within 150 feet of a public drinking water source and any associated tributaries and/or wetlands; within 100 feet of streams and associated wetlands; and within 75 feet of natural drainage features and adjacent and/or isolated wetlands.” These stream buffers and other policies will promote water quality, natural resource planning, and low impact development within Semmes.


Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant researchers helped the City of Semmes develop and adopt subdivision regulations that focus on conservation, stream conservation, stream buffer, and LID policies. (2014)