Defining Open Space

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Thursday October 04, 2012

While the Planning Commission was in agreement at Tuesday night’s meeting about their desire to preserve remaining open land for agriculture and wildlife, the challenge of how to implement and enforce this goal spearheaded a lengthy conversation and brought up myriad concerns.

Sophie Quest presented the Town of Stowe’s LDRs (land development regulations) for review by the Commission, pointing out their attention to regulations regarding PUDs and density. She proposed that planned unit development (PUD) open space in the SEQ District constitute no less than 50 percent of the parcel area. While this potential permanent change was supported by the Commission in theory, it also initiated a density issue discussion.

Commission Vice Chair Bill Stuono wondered if property owners were required to set aside 50 percent of their land for open space, if that would only encourage them to construct multi unit buildings within close proximity on the remaining half of their property in an effort to maximize density. City Council Chair Rosanne Greco reminded the Commission that the City does not want to encourage density in a location that they are trying to preserve nor do they want to support development off of transit lines since the entire idea behind moving toward sustainability is to live where you work.

Greco pointed out that other municipalities set a limit to their city’s annual growth and plan their infrastructure around those projections. “What is the end point?” Greco asked, “and if one isn’t defined, how do we know when we’re there?”

Commissioner Chris Cole mentioned that the City continues to see development coming in to the City, so the question they need to address is what is the best way to preserve the open land that’s remaining. Also, he felt that research needs to be done about who has been successful in achieving this and what different tools are available to help articulate this goal.

Most of the members of the Commission voiced their support of the 50 percent proposal, but before moving forward, both Cole and Commissioner Tracey Tapley expressed their desire for more detailed information. Tapley wanted to see precise language and hear from legal counsel about the implication of implementing an LDR such as this. Cole also wanted to hear about the legality around unintended consequences and to get clarity about what the Commission is asking. He wants to see if other communities have PUD restrictions and how they fared with them.

Stuono recommended that Quest and Conner draft language regarding a breakdown and analysis of this issue with potential implications for the October 23 meeting. Conner said he could have some materials ready for the October 9 meeting.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent