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Growing Greener: Conservation Subdivision Design

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Subdivision regulations are one of the principal tools for shaping our communities. It is through the subdivision review process that communities most directly assure that residential development is designed in a way which promotes community objectives such as the preservation of open space and natural areas.

But to back up a step, why should we be concerned about protecting open space? In a nutshell, by preserving open space we protect streams and water quality, provide habitat for plants and animals, preserve rural “atmosphere,” provide recreational areas, protect home values, and reduce costs of municipal services. In short, land conservation makes our communities better places to live.

As you will see on the following pages, the conservation subdivision approach involves small, but significant, changes to the subdivision design and review process. When integrated with comprehensive plan and zoning provisions which encourage the preservation of open space, a community can — over a period of years — protect an interconnected network of conservation lands. Developers can easily become the community’s leading conservationists, as each new subdivision adds another link to an area-wide open space system. …

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Editor’s Note: The article also includes excerpts from Randall Arendt’s Model Ordinance for Conservation Subdivision Design, along with discussion of several key issues — including the economic impact of this approach, and whether it is fair to developers. Also addressed are questions such as who will own and maintain the conserved land, and stormwater management impacts.

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