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Thread: Conservation design

  1. #1
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    Conservation design

    Hello everybody. I joined and posted about six months ago and have been quiet since. So it's much like starting over. I am on the planning commission for my small village. We are surrounded by three larger municipalities that are growing our way very quickly. We have large lots, some small farms, woodlands, glacial soils, creeks, seeps and lots of open space for our size. Conservation Design is being heavily promoted and our county is working on a countywide Conservation Design ordinance. What are the downsides of conservation design?

  2. #2
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    for us, it's market - people move to northern Maine to get some elbow room (2 to 5 acres) and not to go back to compact neighbrohoods where they can see their neighbors - it's very difficult - developers aren't interested in building what they think will not sell

    we also have an affordable housing component to our cluster, which is found in the PUD - and developers are saying they can't make the numbers work -

    so we are looking at our PUD to see what we can do

  3. #3
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    Hello neighbor. I live in Roscoe, IL and work in Rock County, WI. Up here we are sort of pushing the idea of Conservation Subidivisions in our comprehensive plan. We already try to get conservation easements whenever a subdivision includes environmentally significant areas. In my opinion the only downside is how difficult it is to get public acceptance of the idea. People don't like thinking that you are taking away their right to use their entire property the way they'd want. And if the conservation areas are public space, there are concerns about who is actually going to maintain it, and at what cost. Then of course the fear that "undesireables" will be hanging out in these public conservation areas.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    As CCH noted, getting property owners on board is a challenge. They often believe the only thing the market will support is typical development. They also think you are cutting the number of homes they can build (which may sometimes be true). I am doing the plan for one where we have two people complaining. One property owner does not understand that they need to even provide land for storm water or open space. They want 2.5 homes uniformly on every acre of their property. A second person wants 20 units per acre because it is "sustainable," and anything less is sprawl.
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Orginization my be the biggest downside. I guess the question is what are you trying to conserve? Farms for farming, or farms for open space? Even then has your community explored the use of a land conservation trust? One way of doing this is creating this non-profit organization and use it as a land bank as development occurs within your community, and require mitigation be done in the form of land dedication or fees. If the land is dedicated (and you would want to set up criteria for the type of land dedicated, you don't want just any type of land) then the developer has fullfiled their obligation and the land trust now is the owner and the organization responsible for maintaining the land, not the government. If a fee is paid, the planning department receives the fee and transfers the money to the land trust so that the land trust can go out and buy key pieces of property that are targeted to ensuring open space. The land trust can also become your bridge to folks to want to put permanent easements on their land so that it remains as open space or farming in perpetuity. We have done this approach for the loss of ag land around some communities as a part of their comprehensive plans here in California.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Raf, are you talking about conservation easements or conservation subdivision design?

    Some additional problems with CSD's:

    1. CSD's encourage less pavement to improve surface run-off. Smaller pavement widths and cul-de-sac might raise complaints from fire departments.

    2. There is not always a well-defined rear or side property line, so it becomes harder for property owners to tell where their property ends and where common open space begins.

    3. Property owners are not always educated regarding the maintenance of native plants (although that is rapidly changing in many areas). They may still use pesticides and fertilizers and some might not really be comfortable with scheduled burning.

    4. CSD's often have a trail/bike path within the open space that provides an alternative transportation route. However, the smaller lots + the proximity of the bike paths (which may link with other routes offsite) may likely raise security concerns with the residents.

    5. I have yet to see a CSD that includes multi-family apartment buildings/condos. Does anyone have any good examples?

    Eberendt, if you haven't already, I would recommend taking a trip to the CSD at Prairie Crossing in Grayslake.
    http://www.prairiecrossing.com/pc/site/index.html

    Randall Arendt is one of the leaders of this movement and has written several good books on conservation subdivision design including Rural by Design and Conservation Design for Subdivisions. However, he focuses more on the strengths of this type of subdivision design.
    http://www.greenerprospects.com/

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Conservation Easements for protection of Ag land or Open Space.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian ruralplanner's avatar
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    Another greetings from Wisconsin.

    Our county developed and abopted conservation subdivision ordinances about 1.5 years ago. Since that time we have not had any such developments occur. Our design requirments state that 60% of the original parcel can be developed while 40% must be preserved. At the time conservation subdivisions seemed like a good idea, however in hindsight they seem to use up more land for development than is really necessary. In other words, the 40% of open space is really no different than having a large lot subdivision especially if there is no management plan. When I talk about a management plan, I mean one that manages this open space for conservation purposes. So Reed Canary Grass and Buckthorn grow and prosper!

    Our county is starting to seriously look at sustainable development which may include an abandonment of the conservation subdivision as most know it. Instead we will likley stress urban types of develpment using Traditional Neighborhood Design-- with a catch. For a developer to do this kind of development, they will need to transfer development rights out of the rural areas. This is a ways off but may be a better approach to sustainability where conservation subdivsions seem to fall short.

    If you are part of a small Village, TND design coupled with mixed uses and the development of parks and community centers/gathering areas may seem more appropriate. Conservation subdivisons seem more suited to the really rural areas that want development and in some ways are a nice name for your typical 'cookie cutter' housing development.

    One the other hand it may be appropriate in your situation.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    A big selling point here is that with conservation subdivisions developers can build private roads/shared driveways rather than a full-blown public street. Getting rid of the cul-de-sac is a benefit to the developer and the town.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ruralplanner View post
    Another greetings from Wisconsin.

    Our county developed and abopted conservation subdivision ordinances about 1.5 years ago. Since that time we have not had any such developments occur. Our design requirments state that 60% of the original parcel can be developed while 40% must be preserved.
    I'd be interested to chat with you. I wrote a conservation subdivision ordinance (In Wisconsin) a few years ago that required 55% preservation. I now qwork with several municpalities (also in Wisconsin) that adopted a version of Randall Arendt's model requiring 64-65% open space.


    eberendt -- Google Randall Arendt

  11. #11
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    Conservation Design

    Thanks everyone for your responses. I think conservation design has it's place but I also see management problems, problems with shared space and the possibility of an excuse for development in places that should not be developed. If a parcel has limited buildable space due to protected natural features to begin with can that unbuildable space be used to meet the open space requirement for a conservation design development? And if so, then don't we end up with more density than we would otherwise. Do I understand this correctly?
    Also, do you see any difference in application of conservation design principals to commercial development as opposed to residential development.
    I have a friend living in Prairie Ridge in Grayslake and I frankly am not too impressed. There is one called Mill Run, or Mill Stream or something south of me that I want to go see.
    I will pick up the Arendt book thanks.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian ruralplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet View post
    I'd be interested to chat with you. I wrote a conservation subdivision ordinance (In Wisconsin) a few years ago that required 55% preservation. I now qwork with several municpalities (also in Wisconsin) that adopted a version of Randall Arendt's model requiring 64-65% open space.


    eberendt -- Google Randall Arendt

    Chet- PM me. It'll be my first so if I don't respond keep trying.

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