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Thread: This is taking nature conservancy a bit too far.

  1. #1
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    This is taking nature conservancy a bit too far.

    political cajones

    This is a bit nuts in terms of "open space" preservation. I think its cool that a governmental entity would try such a tactic, especially using development codes, to save nature.

    I know it is very burdensome to the property owner, but if the governmental body has such home rule powers, then it may be legal.

    As for the property owners that are complaining in the article, they need to get themselves elected and rescind the law, if they dislike it so much.

    My opinion.

    What are yours?
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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  2. #2
    Cyburbian DecaturHawk's avatar
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    I'm not familiar with Washington statutes, but I can't imagine that it will pass judicial muster. Are there thresholds for this, i.e, does it apply only to properties that exceed a certain acreage? Can the property owner subdivide? Are there standards for variances? In any case, it seems very draconian. Even if the state courts uphold it, there's no way that the federal courts will go along with this, IMHO.
    SOME say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice.
    From what I’ve tasted of desire
    I hold with those who favor fire.
    But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate
    To know that for destruction ice
    Is also great
    And would suffice.

    Robert Frost (1874–1963) (From Harper’s Magazine, December 1920.)

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    Nice effort, but it is a bit too much for me. Arizona is one of a few states with little private property (as a percentage of area) and we are still conserving. Scottsdale voters keep passing taxes on themselves to buy more land for conservation. I can support that, but using zoning to render 65% of properties is too much. If you can only build on 10% what's the remaining 25% for?

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally posted by ludes98
    Nice effort, but it is a bit too much for me. Arizona is one of a few states with little private property (as a percentage of area) and we are still conserving. Scottsdale voters keep passing taxes on themselves to buy more land for conservation. I can support that, but using zoning to render 65% of properties is too much. If you can only build on 10% what's the remaining 25% for?
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  5. #5
    I think they will have a hard time convincing a judge that there is a compelling governmental interest in only allowing a person to use 10 percent of their own property.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

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  6. #6
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    I would like to know a little more about the law before opining. 65% sounds a little extreme, but I make a rule never to take anything I read/see from Fox news as the whole truth.

    That being said, here are my thoughts, in no particular order---

    Regarding what the other 25 is for: probably uses that do not involve impervious surfaces such as pasture, gardens, gravel driveways, etc.

    In addition to DecaturHawk's questions re minimum acreage, variances, etc., I'd like to know:

    What is "natural state"?

    Will agricultural uses be exempt?

    Will the land owner get a lower assessment and thus lower taxes as a result of the loss of development right?

    Who determines what part of the property is preserved vs. developed? Is there a natural resources plan that prioritizes certain areas.

    What is the existing zoning? Are the landowners actually losing development rights at all? Imagine that the current zoning is 10 acre minimum lot size. If you owned a 10 acre parcel under the new 65-10 Rule, you could build a house and accessory structures that cover no more than 1 acre. You'd then have an additional 2.5 acres for lawns, gardens, driveways, pastures, etc. The remaining 6.5 acres would have to remain "natural". I actually don't see a significant loss in development potential there.

    Before critizing too harshly, we should keep in mind that many municipalities have zoning that requires significant open space set aside when land is developed. This law just requires the set aside before any potential subdivision takes place.

  7. #7

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    King County is highly urbanized and I think it is safe to assume that this applies only to some of the more rural portions. Beyond that the story is more incomplete than anything else, but it is not uncommon for a farmland preservation program or other conservation measure to require that dwellings be clustered into a very small part of a property. Kent County Maryland allows only 10%, for example. The State of WA has differential assessment provisions that can be used to limit the property tax paid on conserved lands, so I think we can presume that the affected owners will be able to take advantage of that. MSM is correct in noting that people may not be losing much if they already had low-density zoning. Also, don't forget that it is always possible to apply for a zoning map amendment: those owners who actually have development potential that makes sense always have that option.

    Finally, as a factual matter, research is making it increasingly clear that when impervious cover reaches approximately 10%, the streams in a watershed begin to suffer permanent damage due to hydrological changes. If you want to avoid major investments in stormwater management and stream restoration, you might want to stop development at this level until you are prepared for those investments. No one has ever had a property right to impose costs on the taxpayers.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    So, What's the big deal?

    We have created a natural resource protection district here on Cape Cod with very similar restrictions. On lots of greater than 40,000 sf in this particular district hardscape alterations are limited to 12.5% of the lot. This includes all buildings, walkways, driveways, patios, pools, decks, etc. The area cleared for physical landscaping is also limited to 12.5%. Thereby physically restricting 75% of the property as natural vegetation. This is the most restrictive portion of the district where properties include significant environmental resources (wetlands, coastal marshes, etc), as well as scenic vistas. The properties draw their value by what they can see. However, by increasing the visibility from these properties also make them more visible. Ergo, what they value the most, they destroy for others.

    This district has environmentally driven lot sizes with traditional grid development starting at 80,000 sf per house lot and going up from there. Various cluster approaches allow for greater densities, in exchange for preserving the most sensitive land, and an increased hardscape allowance (20% in a cluster with a 4,000 sf cap on the size of the footprint of the principal dwelling if it is located in the scenic resource portion of the district).

    On a 40,000 sf lot in a cluster within the scenic resource area, the developer/property owner needs to determine how they wish to dedicate the use of their 8,000 sf of hardscape area, if 4,000 sf is dedicated to house footprint, then we are generally talking an 8,000 sf home at two stories! With an equal area available for garage, pool driveway, etc.

    Yes we had a lot of opposition from the property owners, but the town took nearly two years putting the regulation together to ensure a certain level of fairness. Most specifically, you develop in the fashion we desire, and you can recover most, if not all of your previous density.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    With the exception of "preserving in a natural state," I wonder if the essence of this is much different from the 35- or 40-acre lot split limitations commonly found in agricultural areas.If I have 80 acres and am allowed only two splits, then the limitation is far less than 10% of the land available to develop. Still, I think there are better methods to achieving the same end.
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian plankton's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    Finally, as a factual matter, research is making it increasingly clear that when impervious cover reaches approximately 10%, the streams in a watershed begin to suffer permanent damage due to hydrological changes. If you want to avoid major investments in stormwater management and stream restoration, you might want to stop development at this level until you are prepared for those investments. No one has ever had a property right to impose costs on the taxpayers.
    I like the analogy, but as a factual matter? Increasingly clear....? I know there are tons of studies and research available on stormwater/lot coverage issues, but I have not heard of the 10% mark before. Got any good links that speak (relatively) definitively on this issue, particularly ones that point to research done in the Pac NW region? Thanks.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    What Lee says sounds about right to me. I have had a hydrology class and "environmental geology" and ... some other related stuff. It is a well established fact that additional impervious surfaces cause more water pollution -- both chemical and sediments -- from non-point sources (run off), more soil erosion, more frequent and more extremes floods, more mudslides, and so on.

    Here is a quote from an EPA site:
    8 tools of watershed protection in developing areas
    Tool #1: land use planning
    http://www.epa.gov/watertrain/protection/index2.html
    "Although presence of vegetated streamside buffer zones or wetlands can help counteract impervious cover impacts, a watershed exceeding 10% impervious cover will generally not be able to support a high quality stream system. In this particular classification system, subwatersheds with impervious cover of less than 10% are classified as sensitive. A subwatershed with 10 - 25% impervious cover is classified as a degraded or impacted system. Any stream's watershed having greater than 25% impervious is classified as a non-supporting stream with characteristics such as eroding banks, poor biological diversity, and high bacterial levels."
    ----
    Additionally, I did a quick search and the sources below look like they are probably solid sources, but I don't have time to review it all for you. I hope it helps answer some of your questions:


    FOREST COVER, IMPERVIOUS-SURFACE AREA, AND THE MITIGATION OF
    URBANIZATION IMPACTS IN KING COUNTY, WASHINGTON
    http://www.watershed-watch.org/wup/p...0and%20EIA.pdf

    Stormwater Appendix -- King County, WA
    http://www.metrokc.gov/ddes/cao/PDFs...pendixB-04.pdf

    METHODOLOGY FOR DETERMINING EFFECTS OF EXTENT AND GEOMETRY OF IMPERVIOUS SURFACE ON HYDROLOGIC BALANCE
    (abstract of resource)
    http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/pub...15=158823&pf=1

    The Cumulative Effects of Urbanization on Small Streams
    in the Puget Sound Lowland Ecoregion
    http://www.psat.wa.gov/Publications/...dfs/1a_may.pdf

    Arnold, C. and J. Gibbons. 1996. Impervious Surface Coverage: The Emergence of a Key
    Environmental Indicator. Journal of the American Planning Association 62(2):243-258.

    URBANIZING WATERSHEDS AND CHANGING RIVER FLOOD DYNAMICS:
    IMPLICATIONS FOR URBAN WETLAND RESTORATION
    http://twri.tamu.edu/reports/2003/20...sr2003-016.pdf

  12. #12

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    I think people began understanding and documenting the 10% (give or take) cover threshhold in the early '90's. I used it in a project I did then and the literature was recent, but there. Michele has provided some good links. If you are specifically interested in the PNW, you need to look for professional papers on stormwater issues by Derek Booth, who I suspect was involved in some of what Michele cited. Another good all around source is the Center for Watershed Protection.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Hoorah for King County! I think that it looks like a good way to preserve the rural resources in the area. The Growth Management Act in Washington requires each municipality (above a certain size) to designate a Urban Growth Area. Outside of that area, I absolutely agree that this type of legislation is needed, especially in light of the shrinking agricultural resources in King County and the significant increase in the amount of flood damage in the area (both urban flooding and in rural areas). Under GMA, any critical areas ordinance or other environmental ordinance needs to be support by Best Available Science. King County (except for maybe Seattle) has the most scientific experts that deal specifically with issues that most generalist planners only start to understand (including me). The flood control program and stormwater division are huge and very, very up to date on the latest science and technology. I have no doubt that what they adopt will be scientifically sound.

    As an example, if you go to King County's website, the Critical Areas Ordinance page includes proposed legislation and findings, but also the Best Available Science research.

    Edit: Oh, and the proposal didn't say that you can only develop 10% of your land. It said that only 10% can be in impervious surfaces. Grasscrete, loose crushed gravel, turf in yards, etc. doesn't typically apply. So over 10% can be developed and used for other uses besides ag... it just can't be impervious.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nerudite
    Edit: Oh, and the proposal didn't say that you can only develop 10% of your land. It said that only 10% can be in impervious surfaces. Grasscrete, loose crushed gravel, turf in yards, etc. doesn't typically apply. So over 10% can be developed and used for other uses besides ag... it just can't be impervious.
    Makes me wonder about things like Earth Ships, where the roof is designed for water catchment so that there isn't runoff from the top of the house. And in Europe, you still have cobblestone streets in some areas or sidewalks made from decorative blocks that allow for grass to grow up in between -- kind of a "lace-like" sidewalk design, if that makes sense. It isn't actually a given that human developments must cause extreme disruption of natural processes.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    Makes me wonder about things like Earth Ships, where the roof is designed for water catchment so that there isn't runoff from the top of the house. And in Europe, you still have cobblestone streets in some areas or sidewalks made from decorative blocks that allow for grass to grow up in between -- kind of a "lace-like" sidewalk design, if that makes sense. It isn't actually a given that human developments must cause extreme disruption of natural processes.
    Precisely! In Davis, we used grasscrete often... especially for things like emergency accesses that were hardly every used. I am going to be pushing for grasscrete for extra parking spaces on narrow lots here in St. Albert, as the pervious driveways on narrow lots are not allowing enough perc to support our boulevard trees. Also, some of the development in Village Homes have turf roofs, where the excess stormwater from the roof would drain into the overland storm system (faux creeks).

  16. #16
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Bad means to achieve a good end. I'm not sure using a forced regulation was the way to go on something like this. To me, they would have more success using incentives for large-scale open space preservation and still keep everyone happy.

    For example, the community wants land owners to set aside 50% as open space. Rather than force it down their throats, incentivise it by providing a density bonus. Also, make information available to land owners showing the savings with provision of infrastructure due to the more compact development and the highly desireable park-like setting. Developers are happy because they can still maximize profits while the community is happy because open space is preserved.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  17. #17
    Cyburbian plankton's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    Additionally, I did a quick search and the sources below look like they are probably solid sources, but I don't have time to review it all for you. I hope it helps answer some of your questions:
    Thanks. This information should prove helpful in some ongoing code work & special district dealings in my fair city. Your response was so darn thorough (& quick) that I feel like kind of a dolt for not doing the research myself to answer my own questions. So, if it's not too much bother, I'd sure appreciate your reviews and notes on all this stuff..........Just kidding, of course. :-P

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by plankton
    Thanks. This information should prove helpful in some ongoing code work & special district dealings in my fair city. Your response was so darn thorough (& quick) that I feel like kind of a dolt for not doing the research myself to answer my own questions. So, if it's not too much bother, I'd sure appreciate your reviews and notes on all this stuff..........Just kidding, of course. :-P
    lol. I don't know how much time I spent on it. I was taking a break from serious research. But, frankly, I have been an online student for, um, 5 1/2 years? And I took a class in online research as part of my online degree program. And I had some jam up training from my online volunteer work...and...well, you might not have been able to replicate it as rapidly.

    But, because it really WAS quick: you already have all my reviews and notes. That is the whole shebang.

    However, I would like to note that the EPA site that I quoted...which used to be called "Watershed Academy 2000"... has a fair amount of free online training for any watershed questions. I have also bookmarked a number of things from some of the modules I have done from that site. It is a great place to go for ANYTHING having to do with watersheds/water quality/etc. (the linky: http://www.epa.gov/watertrain/)

    Enjoy!

    EDIT:
    Oops! I lied. Here is a link I kept just for me about Best Management Practices, that didn't seem directly relevant to your questions:
    http://www.lrc.usace.army.mil/co-r/b..._practices.htm

    NOW you have "everything".

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
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    What is "natural state"?
    Will agricultural uses be exempt?

    Will the land owner get a lower assessment and thus lower taxes as a result of the loss of development right?

    Who determines what part of the property is preserved vs. developed? Is there a natural resources plan that prioritizes certain areas.
    I have been involved in a very large project in which within the catchment of one of the largest drinking water sources of our city, was notified as urban development area. When the land use planning started we took into account a Supreme Court ruling many years ago and also a state government statute restricting any development activity except agriculture and/or related and even if the lot size is small only 10% would be allowed for construction.

    Keeping this in the background around 40,000 acres in the area had to be shown as green.

    What created the hue and cry was that many developer had sold thousand of lots( this is hardly agriculture use now) and wahsed their hands of it. The thousands of investors( they thought the lots would appreciate) now couldnt build houses in them. The green color in the master plan killed the real estate market.
    We as planners couldnt go against the Supreme Court and the state government statute. IT was a typical 'Planners Catch 22'.
    The master plan is stuck with the government. Real estate market is frozen. No citizen has approched the courts still. One citizen group threatens to go to court. The real estate lobby is trying to arm twist( and other methods) the state government to relax the statute( the Supreme Court ruling will still remain).

    I can write a small book on this in due course I think.It's so complicated.
    "I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them".
    -Isaac Asimov

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