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Thread: Increasing Open Space

  1. #1
    Cyburbian PlannerByDay's avatar
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    Increasing Open Space

    I works as an as needed planning consultant for a number of community's and I have a client who is interested in some new or innovative ideas for increasing the perception of open space.

    I have mentioned clustered housing, PUD's, Density bonus, 1/4 1/4 and sliding scale zoning etc. Their current zoning allows many of the options, but they want something they can do on an individual parcel basis.

    Now I say perception of open space because they want some tools or ideas which they can apply to an individual parcel, but they don't want to pay or institute a site plan review requirement/process.

    They have already made the following changes to their AG District.

    Old Min. lot size 1 acre
    New Min. lot size 3 acres

    Old front setback 60 ft.
    New front setback 100 ft

    Old Min. Lot width 200 ft
    New Min Lot width 300 ft.

    Can you think of any other ideas on what this rural community can do to increase the perception of more open space?

    I have to prep. a memo by this Wed. and to to make a presentation to the PC and Township Board next Wed. so you input would help out a lot.

    Thanks

  2. #2

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    Well, there is always buying open space in blocks large enough to make a real difference. It works better than all of the regulatory approaches combined. But I have a feeling that's not what they have in mind.

    I don't know what environment you're working in, but if it makes sense, I suppose you could try requiring either a) that the home be hidden from the road (ie from the public view) or b) that if it can't be, that there be a certain minimum amount of plant material installed or, better yet, retained. That can be effective in some places, for some lots, if what we are talking about is the perception of openness. I suppose some design guidelines could make a minor contribution: keep buildings lower, break up massing, etc.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Well, the "improvements" they have already made to the zoning ordinance are unlikely to create the outcome they want. They will encourage housing dispersed over more of the region. Instead of a bunch of one-acre lots and some big tracts, they will have a bunch of three-acre lots and no big tracts.

    I'd agree with Lee's approach of using design guidelines, perhaps with an emphasis on landscaping. Too few people actually understand how the selection and placement of plants can create a sense of place. Give some thought to requiring native species and naturalized buffer strips along property lines, and putting together a manual with ideas for homeowners to use in landscaping their properties. Several firms specializing in habitat restoration have done this sort of thing. I can direct you to one or two if you want.
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    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    One of the things we've considered is maximum setbacks from one of the side yards. That is to say that the house not be centered in the lot but forced over to one side. That way there is a "window of opportunity" to see what is behind the house. In our area this idea has been discussed for coastal properties in order to maintain a connection to the water for everyone.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  5. #5
    Cyburbian PlannerByDay's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    Well, the "improvements" they have already made to the zoning ordinance are unlikely to create the outcome they want. They will encourage housing dispersed over more of the region. Instead of a bunch of one-acre lots and some big tracts, they will have a bunch of three-acre lots and no big tracts.
    I totally agree, when they called me and told me what the Planning Commission did I thought "OH great sprawl" perhaps the only light at the end of this tunnel is that if there are 1 and 2 acre lots they will remain undeveloped for a while.

    I like the suggestion about requiring landscaping and the off setting of the house through the use of different set backs was one I suggested to my boss but he thought that that would require a more extensive site plan review and enforcement process.

    Thanks for your input. Keep the ideas coming.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PlannerByDay
    I totally agree, when they called me and told me what the Planning Commission did I thought "OH great sprawl" perhaps the only light at the end of this tunnel is that if there are 1 and 2 acre lots they will remain undeveloped for a while.

    I like the suggestion about requiring landscaping and the off setting of the house through the use of different set backs was one I suggested to my boss but he thought that that would require a more extensive site plan review and enforcement process.

    Thanks for your input. Keep the ideas coming.
    It's the community's perception of open space as well. The three acre lots will give the impression of housing dispersed, private, singularly owned open space. Clustering gives the homeowner an immediate perception of a denser than rural suburban area but preserves large amounts of commonly owned/public unspoiled land.

    I fear natural landscape buffers because it seems no matter how natural LA's try to make them, they always feel manufactured.

    Being from the praire, i can't help but to picture any rural area as flat, void of everything but corn and tall grass in ditches. So utilizing landscape buffer strips to achieve the impression of natural open space seems contradictory.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

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