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Thread: Downzoning: tiny rural town facing high-pressure growth

  1. #1
    Apr 2004

    Downzoning: tiny rural town facing high-pressure growth

    My town (pop. under 500) is being overrun by subdivision applications. Meanwhile, we are still served by individual septic systems and will soon reach the point of saturation. This is only one of many concerns, but it seems to be the one most of us agree should prompt some action (this is Utah). Of course we will have to face the impending switch to city sewer, but we need some time and room to plan for it. Our default zoning is one acre rural residential, so the entire outer tier of our incorporated area is zoned that way (around 35%, under that zoning, of land area is developed so far). Some studies in the region have resulted in recommendations for minimum 5 or 7 acre lots where septic tanks are to be used. We are considering ‘downzoning’ our outermost areas, or perhaps all of our undivided rural residential zone, to larger minimum parcels. Is this a good idea? Can anyone suggest proper language or purposes upon which to base the amendment? Any useful articles? Any legal concerns we should be aware of?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Clore's avatar
    Mar 2006
    In Pennsylvania, the only thing to hang your legal hat on for downzoning is protection of natural features- steep slopes, wetlands and buffers, agricultural soil, riparian buffers... If you require that these features be worked around when determining lot size, you may see that your lot size increases as a result, before downzoning. Easements should also be required to be deducted from lot sizes.
    In PA, two court cases have determined how this should be done- Dolington Land and C&M Developers.
    You should also look into the Growing Greener concept of Conservation by Design, which allows lots to be grouped, saving a developer infrastructure costs, and requiring 40% or more of the original lot to be permanently preserved. The idea with this is to shift roads and homes around natural features so that they aren't destroyed in the process. This leads to higher home values and nicer layouts.

  3. #3
    Jan 2007
    the Emerald Coast
    I don't recommend that sized lot. Think about when you do have the opportunity to serve these homes with water and sewer. The expense to run lines though larger lots is much higher than to a denser development.

    I don't know how your jurisdiction handles the dedication of roads, but here the developer is required to build the road to city or county specifications as a condition of the development order. It would seem logical that the developer would want to spend less money on the construction of roads in smaller, denser neighborhoods where his net gain of lots is greater with denser development. Here in Florida, they want to get as many units as they can off any given parcel in order to have the greatest revenue.

    If you don't have a regulation on connectivity (of the roadway network), I would expedite an ordinance on that regard. Traffic congestion in the long run will become an issue with a bunch of cul-de-sac subdivisions who only have one way to get home.

    If you do not have water and sewer impact fees, consider that revenue source to help pay for a future system.

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