Water: Polluted Runoff
Open Space Development
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Explore Model Ordinances
Open space development, also called "cluster development," is an alternative site planning technique that concentrates dwelling units in a compact area to reserve undeveloped space elsewhere on the site. In this technique, lot sizes, setbacks, and frontage distances are minimized to allow for open space. The typical open space development creates less impervious cover and reduces the need to clear and grade 35 percent to 60 percent of the site. Open space areas are often used for neighborhood recreation, stormwater management facilities, or conservation purposes. Open space preserved in a natural condition needs little maintenance and helps to reduce and sometimes to treat stormwater runoff from development.
The model open space ordinance is intended to be a guide. It contains language that fosters development that is substantially consistent with many local zoning standards yet allows for modifications from the original standards to ensure appropriate, fair, and consistent decision making. The model ordinance sets guidelines for management of open space and the amount of open space required on a site, but it is not intended to be a "one size fits all" document.
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Certain issues are not covered in this ordinance because many localities provide for them in other ordinances or they are too specific to each community. For example, language on road widths is not included because it is often a part of subdivision or other ordinances. Although most ordinances contain a section on the development review process, such language was not included because the review process varies widely by locality.
In addition to the model ordinance, this section includes other information you might find useful in drafting an open space development ordinance:
- Open Space Development Ordinance from Calvert County, MD (PDF) (31 pp, 114K)
An example of a mandatory open space ordinance.
- Land Preservation District Model Zoning from Montgomery County, PA (PDF) (8 pp, 33K)
This ordinance would also require the preservation of open space certain districts.
- Open Space Ordinance from Hamburg Township, MI (PDF) (13 pp, 46K)
This ordinance incorporates commercial land uses (e.g., mixed use) for projects of a certain size, and provides an example of the application procedure for one community.
Although open space development is desirable, there are challenges to applying open space development criteria in every community. For open space development to be successful, the ordinance needs to be crafted in a way that fosters development that is both marketable and environmentally sensitive. The ordinance needs to effectively address issues such as maintenance, liability, and emergency vehicle access. In addition, the community needs to be prepared to manage the space or to dedicate open space to a responsible organization. Finally, decisions about when and where open space development is desired need to be made early.
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