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Coastal setbacks are a prescribed distance to a coastal feature, such as a line of permanent vegetation, within which all or certain types of development are prohibited (Cambers 1998). A setback may dictate a minimum distance from the shoreline for new buildings or infrastructure facilities, or may require a minimum elevation above sea level for development. Elevation setbacks are used to adapt to coastal flooding, while lateral setbacks address coastal erosion.
The ‘setback’ area provides a buffer between a hazard area and coastal development (Fenster 2005). The idea is to allow room for the average high water mark to naturally move inland by sea level rise throughout the economic lifetime of the property. Setbacks provide property protection against coastal flooding and erosion by ensuring that buildings are not located in an area susceptible to these hazards.