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Thread: Environmental / parks best practices

  1. #1
    Member Jeff_Rosenberg's avatar
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    Environmental / parks best practices

    In one of my planning classes, we've been assigned a group project in which we develop a series of best practices to guide planning in a town at the edge of the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

    The town my group is working with is Rogers, a small town at the Northwestern edge of the Twin Cities metro. It is a small town within a much larger township, with which there is an orderly annexation agreement. By the year 2030, Hassan Township will be completely taken over by the City of Rogers. There are some unique environmental assets in Hassan Township, where development is very low density, which need to be preserved as the city expands and brings higher-density growth.

    I'm developing some suggestions of environmental best practices, that will also play a role in a parks system.

    I'm looking for some ideas about how these could be implemented, and especially some examples of other towns around the country that have achieved these goals in innovative and successful ways.

    Goals:

    Preserve patches of environment assets
    Protect important environmental assets from being developed, and secure them as public land.
    Some ways I think this could be achieved are through cluster development in the areas surrounding these assets and acquiring easements (perhaps with the aid of land trusts).

    Create a conservation corridor
    Rogers and Hassan Township have proposed a wetlands conservation corridor, a broad belt running through the township, south of where high-density development exists in Rogers.
    Some ways I think this could be achieved are through acquisition for parkland, acquiring easements, and limiting growth and street connections south of the corridor.

    Create a system of small, easily accessed parks, as opposed to one or two very large parks.
    Parks should ideally be within walking distance of all houses. At least, they should require no more than a five-minute drive.
    I think this could be achieved through acquisition of single lots in Hassan Township, which typically has 5-acre lots. Park requirements could also be made part of the subdivision regulations.

    Please let me know if you have any suggestions/examples!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jeff_Rosenberg


    Create a system of small, easily accessed parks, as opposed to one or two very large parks.
    Parks should ideally be within walking distance of all houses. At least, they should require no more than a five-minute drive.
    !
    Lake Mary FL has recently amended their comprehensive plan for the "old" downtown to include "step parks", individual lots in a staircase pattern which each have a distinct use: playground, basketball court, fishing pier, etc. All within walking distance of the downtown area.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    You may want to look at some of the management plans from places like Banff, Jasper and Canmore, AB. Good enviro/wildlife stuff.

  4. #4
    For my tuppence worth (and it's going to seem a bit scatty). As well as protection of the best sites, a park system and the wetlands corridor:
    • Roads Forex, in Germany, scrub/tree lines are planted and allowed to grow between the two parts of an autobahn, (i.e 'North'bound and 'South'bound). This blocks the glare from oncoming headlights and increases the amount of wildlife seen from the road - particularly birds. This could be extended to other wide roads where the space could be supported, all that's needed is a strip 1 to 2 metres wide. There is also the potential to include a similar strip between the cars and cyclists and even pedestrians, wth the same proviso on space. If the neighbourhood wants it neat and tidy, you'll end up with something that looks more like a parade. If it scrubs over, it'll be a mini woodland. I don't know about the States, but in the UK (and France and Germany from what I've seen) we also allow the embankments of motorways scrub over - it has a lot to do with the difficulty of working by the side of one! - and as a result, they have some of the better wildlife species. You are more likely to see a kestrel on the motorway than in the 'countryside'.
    • Roofs Is it possible to insist that public buildings and all developments over a certain size have green or brown roofs, depending on the habitat they are replacing? If you can, it might be worth doing so: a) it'll save them money on energy for heating and cooling and b) it will (potentially) provide wildlife havens. Obviously, it doesn't replace the existing habitat, but it can ameliorate the loss. And IMO, roofs of this sort of any size should be made publicly available spaces, particularly on public buildings!
      Link: http://www.livingroofs.org/
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Just a few suggestions:

    1. It is usually the environmentally-sensitive areas that get preserved. The land right up to them gets developed. How many times have you seen houses built to the edge of a ravine, or a detention pond bordering the wetland? Be sure to preserve a variety of habitat. The uplands provide critical habitat for animals living in the ravine, and the edges of a wetland are critical for filtering groundwater.

    2. Do tie the assets together to provide corridors for wildlife. If you are going to put trails through them, they need to be wide.

    3. Consider using low-impact development techniques for roadway construction, especially where you have large lots (such as business parks) or through park or conservation areas. There is a good manual for LID, and a supplement for LID in cold climates, which you can find if you google it. LID reduces pollution from run-off and has a lower construction cost. You can enhance this by requiring that detention areas be planted with native seed mixes. Companies like Prairie Moon, in Minnesota, sell them.

    4. Definitely use tools such as cluster development and transfer of development rights.
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Use setbacks as an implementation tool... Gallatin county, montana just amended its subdivision regulations (and has various zoning districts) that mandate a 300 foot setback for residential and commercial structures from certain large rivers and 150 from all tributaries.

  7. #7
    Member Jeff_Rosenberg's avatar
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    Thanks for your help, everyone, that stuff is great.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian plankton's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by vaughan
    Use setbacks as an implementation tool... Gallatin county, montana just amended its subdivision regulations (and has various zoning districts) that mandate a 300 foot setback for residential and commercial structures from certain large rivers and 150 from all tributaries.
    A bit off-topic, but here goes ---> Isn't this a taking? What legitimate government goal is being served by these (seemingly) arbitrary setbacks along the waterbodies? I know (as all good planners should ) about water quality, shading, groundwater recharge, habitat protection, etc. and other valuable reasons for imposing riparian corridor rules but can these items be quantified and justified in such a manner where the regulating agency can avail against claims of inverse condemnation (and, here in Oregon, Measure 37 claims)? [Hey Mod: would this be a worthwhile thread split?]

  9. #9
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by plankton
    [Hey Mod: would this be a worthwhile thread split?]

    I'd say it is relevant to the topic.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by plankton
    A bit off-topic, but here goes ---> Isn't this a taking? What legitimate government goal is being served by these (seemingly) arbitrary setbacks along the waterbodies? I know (as all good planners should ) about water quality, shading, groundwater recharge, habitat protection, etc. and other valuable reasons for imposing riparian corridor rules but can these items be quantified and justified in such a manner where the regulating agency can avail against claims of inverse condemnation (and, here in Oregon, Measure 37 claims)? [Hey Mod: would this be a worthwhile thread split?]
    You may be correct. I would like to see a real rational for the distance. Like many other such numbers, though, I think it just becomes one of the "common practices" of our profession. I have also argued, when I was in Wisconsin, for a more flexible system. Rather than use an arbitrary figure like fifty feet, allow for a reduction if additional measures are taken which enhance the reasons for which the setback was created. A person using porous pavement in their parking lot, installing sediment traps, using green landscaping techniques, and planting buffers of native vegetation on the stream bank is going to have far less of an impact with only a 25-foot setback than a person with 100 feet who paves the rest of his lot and landscapes with kentucky bluegrass up to the water's edge, which he then fertilizes and sprays with herbicides twice a year.
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  11. #11
    Member Jeff_Rosenberg's avatar
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    Does anybody have examples of some cities/counties/towns/etc that:

    1) Have successfully preserved ecologically sensitive areas in the midst of urban development?

    2) Have developed a continuous system of parks/environmental preserves connected by corridors?

    3) Have ensured small parks within subdivisions, which are accessible to children on foot, without crossing busy streets?

    On a side note, and not on this topic (I'd appreciate any advice via PM), what's a good way to go about researching things like this? I'm only in my 2nd year of an undergrad planning program, and this is the first time I've had to look for case studies . . . is there a good way to find these, or is it just a lot of searching?

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jeff_Rosenberg
    Does anybody have examples of some cities/counties/towns/etc that:

    1) Have successfully preserved ecologically sensitive areas in the midst of urban development?

    2) Have developed a continuous system of parks/environmental preserves connected by corridors?

    3) Have ensured small parks within subdivisions, which are accessible to children on foot, without crossing busy streets?

    On a side note, and not on this topic (I'd appreciate any advice via PM), what's a good way to go about researching things like this? I'm only in my 2nd year of an undergrad planning program, and this is the first time I've had to look for case studies . . . is there a good way to find these, or is it just a lot of searching?
    Over time, as a planner, you will begin to build up your own knowledge of good and bad practices. Your friends and family will be thrilled to travel with you and stop to take photos of pedestrian crossings. You will regale them with lectures on why a certain sign violates the city's code. But until then and even afterwards, asking questions of your peers is always a good way to identify practices that can be modeled elsewhere.

    Oh, and I can't think of any examples to share with you.
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  13. #13
    Cyburbian MayorMatty's avatar
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    Buffalo NY - Buffalo River corridor; Hudson River Greenway

    The Buffalo River used to be an industrial sewer until Erie County, the City of Buffalo, the Friends of the Buffalo River got together and started purchasing brownfields along it and restored them as local parks. There was a master plan created for this project which is ongoing. Google 'Friends of the Buffalo River'

    Also Google the 'Hudson River Compact' or 'Greenfield Connections' a multi-town plan for the Hudson River Valley Greenway corridor in Dutchess County NY.


    Quote Originally posted by Jeff_Rosenberg
    Does anybody have examples of some cities/counties/towns/etc that:

    1) Have successfully preserved ecologically sensitive areas in the midst of urban development?

    2) Have developed a continuous system of parks/environmental preserves connected by corridors?

    3) Have ensured small parks within subdivisions, which are accessible to children on foot, without crossing busy streets?

    On a side note, and not on this topic (I'd appreciate any advice via PM), what's a good way to go about researching things like this? I'm only in my 2nd year of an undergrad planning program, and this is the first time I've had to look for case studies . . . is there a good way to find these, or is it just a lot of searching?

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