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“Open Space” Zoning: What It Is & Why It Works

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The conventional approach to development results in the entire parcel being covered with houselots and subdivision streets. Communities which have had a lot of experience with this type of development ultimately realize that, as one parcel after another is eventually developed, their formerly open landscape evolves into a network of “wall-to-wall” subdivisions.

The beauty of open space zoning is that it is easy to administer, does not penalize the rural landowner, does not take development potential away from the developer, and is extremely effective in permanently protecting a substantial proportion of every development tract. It does not require large public expenditures (to purchase development rights), and allows farmers and others to extract their rightful equity without seeing their entire land holding bulldozed for complete coverage by houselots.

graphic to go with open space zoning article

This pattern of down-sized houselots and preserved open space offers distinct economic advantages to all parties. Developers can reduce the costs of building roads and, if applicable, water and sewer lines. Local governments save on snowplowing and on periodic road re-surfacing. And home buyers often pay less because of these cost savings. …

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