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A new approach to conservation subdivisions?

NHPlanner

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I saw a presentation from Bob Baldwin of Qroe Farm at the NH Planners Association Conference a week ago, dealing with Low Impact Development. His firm has done several projects conserving good chunks of open space in a different manner.

Typically, the conservation subdivisions I've seen have clustered, smaller lots, and large parcels of protected open space. The Qroe approach is different in that the entire subdivision is in private ownership, but the open space is protected through a variety of conservation/farming and cross-easements.

It's an intreguing approach, which becomes challenging when communities have large frontage requirements, and wide road standards. The following link is an atricle abot the approach, and some sample projects.

http://www.qroefarm.com/pdf/mbavinger.pdf

So, Throbbing Brain[size=-2]TM[/size], what do you think? Is this a viable way to do conservation subdivisions? Or will the stingy municipal engineers prevent this from becoming a widespread approach?
 

Chet

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Yes, I thik its a viable alternative. The County I work in has been promoting this for some time, and one Town that I am updating a Master Plan for has the implementation tools in its zoning ordinance and mapped districts.

It is a great concept, but the viability of farming on the urban fringe is reduced each year as the support services are disappearing (grain elevators and implement sales and service, etc). Eventually the farm belts will revert to protected green belts, but in the mean time, they are serving the intended purpose.
 

SGB

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I think it's viable, too. Although I tend to be skeptical about the long term green/farmbelt management prospects by multiple property owners.

In their presentation, did they give any indication what advantages their easement approach has over donation or sale of easements to a land trust or municipalite?
 

NHPlanner

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SGB said:
In their presentation, did they give any indication what advantages their easement approach has over donation or sale of easements to a land trust or municipalite?
A lot of it has to do with stewardship of the easements. Many, many easements or conservation lands in this part of the country are not managed at all. Plus, from the "marketing" side of things on the development end, they are able to sell larger lots (though the majority of of the lots are under the easements). I'll look back at my notes to see what else I had jotted down.
 

SGB

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Their website indicates their looking for ways to integrate commercial development into the concept as well.

Was there any discussion about if or how affordable housing can be provided in their projects?

From the Qroe Farm website:

The housing type is by no means limited to high-end homes. Often it provides heavily for the year-round, existing residents of the community. It can include [my emphasis] a meaningful, affordable housing content and where this is done, it is typically scattered in such a way as to be unidentifiable. Where it is in the interest of saving more land and providing for special housing needs, attached housing may be a component of the mix. During the planning phase of the project, extensive discussions are held with the community officials and private sectors to determine what the optimal housing mix should be. The design is then tailored to accomplish that mix insofar as feasible and consistent with conservation and farming goals of the QROE Farm.
Given the market region they develop in, is suspect they haven't included affordable housing options in their projects to date.
 
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NHPlanner

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SGB said:
Given the market region they develop in, is suspect they haven't included affordable housing options in their projects to date.
Right on the mark. They haven't done it yet, but say they'd like to. We'll see. Much easier said than done around here. They're working on getting support from my neighboring town (Derry)....but they're still in the conceptual stage, and dealing with the myriad of waivers and variances they'd need for the concept to work under the Derry Zoning and Subdivision Regs.
 

Suburb Repairman

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I've been contacted by a guy in my area that had a great idea for maintaining the open space as active ranchland in a conservation subdivision. The area high school has a kick ass FFA Agriculture program and the development is just down the road from it. While the open space would be owned by the HOA, the high school ag folks would use it to run their cattle,goats, etc. I thought it provided a unique opportunity to maintain the ranchland for a while.
 

Gedunker

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Who'da thunk that Indiana has steep slopes that require protection? Well, we have escarpments known as "knobs" that are layers upon layers of slate often 20 to 30' above limestone (our bedrock), making them unsuitable for most types of construction. In addition, our proximity to the Ohio River makes us a giant ponding area when there are flood conditions on the Ohio. We do not have the resources to acquire, conserve and maintain these lands in the public interest, so we have utilized "vegetative maintenance" areas to prohibit building in these areas. In most instances, this has been through the plat and restrictive (prohibitive) covenants -- but in some, these lands have been placed under the joint ownership of the HOA. So far, so good. Those subdvisions that have included these restrictions have been very popular (so the developers have earned their profit) and -- based on building permits -- the lots encumbered with these restrictions or closest to them, have often been among the first to develop.
 

ssc

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NHPlanner said:
A lot of it has to do with stewardship of the easements. Many, many easements or conservation lands in this part of the country are not managed at all. Plus, from the "marketing" side of things on the development end, they are able to sell larger lots (though the majority of of the lots are under the easements). I'll look back at my notes to see what else I had jotted down.
It seems to me they must work with local land trusts to hold the easements - or did I miss something in the article? It is an interesting approach. Our local land trust actually works with landowners to a similar end - they negotiate joint easements that cross property lines resulting in large tracts of protected land.
 

Lee Nellis

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Something along these lines is beginning to happen pretty frequently in western ranching landscapes and seems to be a viable way to keep ranches operating. It is all high end, of course, and probably should be, since the homes are nowhere near jobs.
 

VonTed

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I just stumbled across this outfit and I am in the process of trying to find out more about the QROE idea and business. Anyone else have any expereince with them, live on one, done business with them, etc....?
 

NHPlanner

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VonTed said:
I just stumbled across this outfit and I am in the process of trying to find out more about the QROE idea and business. Anyone else have any expereince with them, live on one, done business with them, etc....?
QROE tried to do a project in a neighboring community, but the plans were denied, due to the unwillingness of the Planning Board to grant a multitude of waivers to regulation requirements.

To their credit, though, the community is looking at revising regulations to make this kind of development (or some form of it) possible.
 

boilerplater

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Since you say that the entire subdivision is in private ownership, I assume that means the streets as well, and so they would be exempt from engineering standards. Of course that places a big burden on the community (the conservation subdivision) for maintenance and eventual rebuilding of the road in 30 years or so. What might happen is something I read of recently on developments that were built around man-made lakes. Eventually they need repair and the HOA's can't afford it. Since the damn breaking would be a flood hazard for homes/businesses downstream, the state ends up coming in with a grant or something to make the repairs.

Still, it seems like a viable method of preserving farm/ranchland character. Maybe it would be good paired with a cohousing community (See here that is actively interested in farming or livestock. Another option is an equestrain community. I've met some people who are into horses and their passion for them is infectious. I think they would gladly give up large lots and paved roads to be close to horses. They also need help with boarding the horses, so some on-site apartments would be in order, rather than having the workers drive miles from the nearest town.
 
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NHPlanner

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boilerplater said:
Since you say that the entire subdivision is in private ownership, I assume that means the streets as well, and so they would be exempt from engineering standards.
Nope. We (and most NH communities) require that private streets be built to Town Standards in the (however unlikely) event that the streets are ever petitioned to be taken over by the Town (has happened on at least 3 projects here, in the Town Meeting days [we are now a council form of government] a critical mass of those in the "private" neighborhood got the town to take over the streets. Since then, all private roads are now required to be town standard).

Same situation in the neighboring community, the road standards waivers were the area the Planning Board wasn't willing to waive.
 

boilerplater

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With the open space in private ownership, doesn't that suggest a redefining of the term "open space"? Would I be able to camp or hunt there? Would it have "Freedom to Roam" laws applying like in Scotland, which allows one to hike across private property? What kind of restrictions can they place on it? I am also curious as to why they chose this method versus deeding the open space to the town or other governmental body. Is it for sales appeal, so that the buyer feels like they are actually buying several acres, even though they can't do anything with them? Might they petition to sell undeveloped land 20 years down the road when they are strapped for funds for maintenance?
 

VonTed

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Yes I have been curious about this as well, why buy the 5 acres if you cannot control it all? Could we have horses on the property? ATV's? Would you be responsible for road that travels across your land via the easements? (and some of the easements look downright odd)
 

NHPlanner

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VonTed said:
Yes I have been curious about this as well, why buy the 5 acres if you cannot control it all? Could we have horses on the property? ATV's? Would you be responsible for road that travels across your land via the easements? (and some of the easements look downright odd)
Just noticed your location....in the Town next to mine (where I work).

Were you involved at all in the Planning Board review process on the QROE process? I've only seen the QROE idea at a conference, and did not see the proposal from Derry....
 

VonTed

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NHPlanner said:
Just noticed your location....in the Town next to mine (where I work).

Were you involved at all in the Planning Board review process on the QROE process? I've only seen the QROE idea at a conference, and did not see the proposal from Derry....
Not at all. I basically just moved in to Derry a few months ago, and stumbled across this QROE while surfing the 'net for land. "Running Brook" or something like that is the one being done in Derry.
 
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