Buy the best, zone the rest…
Using development to save land sounds like a contradiction. But this is exactly what 42 municipalities throughout southeastern Pennsylvania are doing, since they adopted Growing Greener: Conservation by Design ordinances developed by Natural Lands Trust. These “conservation subdivision” ordinances plan development around natural resources and set aside at least half of every development parcel as open space, accelerating land conservation in growing communities at little public cost.
In addition to unbuildable areas like floodplains, wetlands, and very steep slopes, conservation subdivision can protect woodlands, hedgerows, significant large trees, trails, prime agricultural lands, scenic views, and historic landscapes. In most cases, they contribute to a larger, community-wide system of interconnected open space.
Conservation subdivisions provide economic benefits as well. Land can be added to community open space networks at little or no cost to the community. Since these developments concentrate home construction within a smaller portion of the developmet parcel, they generally require less earth moving and shorter utility systems, which saves developers money.
And because conservation subdivisions allow for the same number of homes as traditional subdivisions, they preserve open space with no loss of tax revenue to the community—often a concern when land or easements are purchased outright. In fact, studies indicate that tax revenue and property values are often higher in developments that incorporate preserved open space.
Conservation subdivisions have proven to be an effective tool for municipalities wishing to manage their growth. When coupled with selective land acquisition, easements, and other planning tools, this approach can help municipal planning officials lighten the footprint of development within their communities.