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Thread: Dealing with rural sprawl in land use regulations and zoning

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    Dealing with rural sprawl in land use regulations and zoning

    I work for a rural planning commission in Canada (New Brunswick). We're currently putting together a rural plan for a rapidly growing parish (situated just outside a major urban centre).

    We'd like to prohibit residential lot subdivision along minor highways, hopefully leading away from one-acre lots stretched out along the road, and leading to more dense residential subdivisions off of the minor highways.

    We're not sure how well this will go over with our community working group - they're willing to place restrictions on commercial and industrial development, but residential development is sacred.

    How have you dealt with rural sprawl in your rural plans?

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    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    A lot of codes will prohibit "strip" development, which they define in the code. (In our code, I believe its more than three lots along an arterial road.) The great thing about it is you can turn it over to your Engineering Department and they can make it part of the specifications for roads- they are generally impossible to argue with.
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    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    We no longer allow residential driveways to enter collector roads. They are required to enter the local road of the subdivision, then that local road is allowed to feed the collector roads and controlled intersections. The collector roads are then allowed to feed into arterial roads, etc.

    Another benefit is that they "turn their back" on the "commercial corridor," an commercial development is required to have a 50 foot buffer at residential zoning.

    In principle we have retail commercial along major roads, with Limited Commercial (professional offices, etc) zone between retail commercial and residential.

    We have long ago recognized that commercial needs to be along major arterial roads. If you try to force them into "nodes" at collector points with space between them, that results in the "sprawl" you are opposed to - and commercial will eventially buy out the less desireable residential land between the "nodes" anyway.

    Another benefit is that this takes residential areas away from hazardous material transportation corridors.

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    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    To answer you rquestion, it only takes a quick look at "recent" plans in NB that have been killed that tried to do this:

    St Mary's
    Studholme
    Big River


    Then there is always CLURE.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    It's an issue we're just beginning to deal with where I work - not because it's a new problem, but because I'm the first here to recognize it.

    In the jurisdiction where I work, exurban residents love their "frontage lots". I'm trying to convince townships to discourage strip subdivisions using the following arguments:

    * They kill off the semi-rural character and sense of place that locals value, by blocking the views of open space and farms from the road.

    * They make it very difficult to develop in the future because the back ends of the lots -- usually narrow but very deep -- are nearly impossible to acquire from their different owners and consolidate.

    * They create future NIMBYs, because they are situated on long, straight roads that will naturally evolve into arterial roads as the area grows -- with the busy traffic that such roads entail.

    * Access management: the more curb cuts a street has, the more dangerous it is for both drivers and pedestrians.

    * The town unknowningly subsidizes frontage development, because the infrastructure is all in place and paid for -- water, sewer, natural gas, and a paved driving surface -- as opposed to subdivisions where the developer has to pay for all the improvements.

    My toolbox for fighting strip development includes:

    * Establishing width-to-depth ratios, so long, narrow parcels can't be created. If a landowner wants to subdivide their property, they're forced into a conventional subdivision with new roads, rather than carving multiple narrow lots with frontage on the main road.

    * Transfer of development rights.

    * Prohibit flag lots.

    * Triage: with agricultural preservation programs, grant higher priority to parcels that have not had frontage lots carved from them. (Personal experience: many times, when purchase of development rights (PDR) has been used to acquire farmland, the agency or conservancy responsible always allows the landowner to create a few final frontage lots. Farmland preservation around here seems focused on just preserving farmland alone, but IMHO it's pointless if nobody can see it, and the impact of farmland on creating rural character and sense of place isn't considered.)

    * If frontage development is politically unavoidable, use landscaping regulations to require extensive tree planting in residential front yards along collector and arterial roads, thus concealing houses from the road. Tree preservation regulations also help. Prohibit circular driveways that have two curb cuts. Require deep front yard setbacks; for instance, a minimum front yard setback of at least 1/5 the lot depth for lots that are deeper than 50 m.

    Because Ohio townships can't charge impact fees, charging a high impact fee to compensate the town for the infrastructure that is already in place isn't an option.

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    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    I wish I could prohibit flag lots, they suck!!
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    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by KSharpe View post
    I wish I could prohibit flag lots, they suck!!
    I used to think this way too but what if it's a shared driveway to the lot below it? isn't that a good thing?

    I have actually been thinking a lot about this posed question and there are no easy answers - the village/rural concept works so well in Europe, in part, because the government owns a lot of the rural land

    I am spending most of my political capital convincing my chief elected officials is that we need to buy this land that we don't want developed to push the development where we want - if it's so important, then it should be in the public interest to own it

    but things like TDR's work, low density requirements, incentives to build less/more but it's really hard - people come to Maine to get that few acre lot, as they left the clustered small lot subdivisions in major metropolitan areas to be more "rural" - it's circular reason, counter intuitive and just plain self-contradictory, so I have been having a hard time with this one

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    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by KSharpe View post
    I wish I could prohibit flag lots, they suck!!
    I don't think so at all, a Flag lot driveway is a lot better for the public than a 200 foot cul-de-sac or road. No county or town maintenance needed and less overall impervious.
    @GigCityPlanner

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    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by KSharpe View post
    I wish I could prohibit flag lots, they suck!!
    While they "suck", in rural NB the alternative of "private accesses" is even worse.

    Many of the planning commissions there have adopted polices with respect to the suitability of them and how they should be configured.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

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    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    In my neck of the woods, flag lots don't share access points with the lot in front of them-otherwise, there would be no need for a flag. They would just have an access easement. Also, I think its a bad idea in general to have houses behind other houses. Emergecy vehicles have a harder time finding them and aesthetically, its not ideal.
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    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    the village/rural concept works so well in Europe, in part, because the government owns a lot of the rural land
    Are you sure about this? I didn’t think that was the case, but I could be wrong.

    In Italy, most agricultural land is ‘zoned’ (to use a US term) for agriculture. You cannot build anything on it (but you can rebuild or add purely functional / uninhabited structures for agri reasons, AFAIK. Land will routinely be made ‘buildable’ but this is meant to be concentrically from existing settlements.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

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    Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I'll look into the different possibilities and see how they'd pan out here, especially since the area I'm working on has no local government per se, but is controlled by provincial legislation. The area is also not an agricultural area, but is mostly forested where there is no residential development along the minor highway, so we couldn't use agricultural zones to limit development.

    KShare - do you have an on-line example of a code that defines "strip development"? (or could you send me one)

    Donk - can you tell me more on what happened in St. Mary's, Studholme, and Black River?

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    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ruraliste View post
    Donk - can you tell me more on what happened in St. Mary's, Studholme, and Black River?

    Two words - Political expedience

    There is a court order to remove and remediate some lands in Studholme - never done(nearly 10 years later, you can still see the piles of paper in the air photos), plan was done to make the use somewhat legal, then was killed by the MLA and premier. Had OK community buy in, best lines ever came at the public hearing - the problem here is that there are too many people wearing ties, the other line is was about the use of law and how there is white man's law and "lastname of a person" and that that person ain't no nXgXXr.

    St Mary's has had more planners work on it than the City of Toronto's new OP, which has passed and regulates more properties and more people in a comparable area.

    Black River, I think it passed as revised, but was greatly watered down fromwhat was proposed.

    Planning in rural NB is a non-starter. Look at CLURE and see what has been done since it was written nearly 15 years ago, by someone who understood the context of planning in rural NB.

    Try introducing the concept around Blackville, Zealand or out Chipman/Minto, Sunny Corner and we'll hear about a planner found dead with a burning tire around their neck at Halloween.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

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    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    We have this requirement:

    Lot accesses. All lots shall have access to an interanl sudivision street unless physical or natural impediments make such access unadvisable.

    I know County Engineering has their own requirements dealing with strip development, but I don't have a copy of that. Its County Street Specifiications or some such document- I dare say it comes from the DOT.
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    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    In Italy, most agricultural land is ‘zoned’ (to use a US term) for agriculture. You cannot build anything on it (but you can rebuild or add purely functional / uninhabited structures for agri reasons, AFAIK. Land will routinely be made ‘buildable’ but this is meant to be concentrically from existing settlements.
    this would not hold up here as constitutional, however sensible it is

    I would also be tarred and feathered in the Village Green...

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    Cyburbian
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    The great tragedy of urban (and rural) planning is that the correct answer to a problem is often unacceptable to the general public or to city officials.

    Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Holland have legalized most or all drugs--and seen their crime rates drop because there is no more illegal, black market drug traffic. Now try convincing Americans of this. Cities, states, and countries that have disarmed private citizens have seen violent crime rates go up because criminals now face no deterrence. Try explaining that to progressive, urban voters.

    A strictly libertarian approach to these land use issues would state that new developments have to pay up front for new connections and hookups, as well as negative impacts on neighbors. Do what you want with your own land so long as it does no harm to your abutters. If developers had to pay impact fees and payments to abutters, you'd probably see a lot more care in how new neighborhoods were built.

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    Having worked for the Virginia Department of Transportation and now a County Planning Office here are my 2 cents...As a local planner, I would like to have the ability incorporate in our zoning ordiance restrictions on driveway locations or even the prohibition of new driveway locations along Highways, artierials, and even major collector roads. In Virginia, it is the Department of Transportation that determines access points to all State maintained roads. That being said:

    What about frontage roads set back from the collector roads?

    What about requiring adequate infrastructure before development can happen? This could include schools, fire and rescue, police stations, public water and sewer, etc.

    Provide incentives to get creative. Allow more lots if housing is clustered and set back from highway. Or if adjancent parcels cluster their "development rights" together.

    We are looking at the same issues, but are also having to deal with the entrances we already have in place.

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    Cyburbian Richi's avatar
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    Access management: the more curb cuts a street has, the more dangerous it is for both drivers and pedestrians.
    I'd add to Dan's quote above that access points to collectors & arterials also reduce capacity.

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