03/02/06 — County weighs allowing clusters

View Archive

County weighs allowing clusters

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on March 2, 2006 2:13 PM

Wayne County officials are considering amending the county subdivision ordinance to permit cluster subdivisions.

The county planning board has recommended the county Board of Commissioners approve the addition of cluster subdivisions in the ordinance. A public hearing on the issue will be held by county commissioners at their meeting March 21 at the county courthouse. The hearing will start at 9:15 a.m.

According to current subdivision regulations, a certain amount of green space is required for each residential lot.

Cluster subdivisions take the amount of green space within a specific group of homes and lump it together to create a larger tract for playgrounds, parks or other non-residential uses. Normal setback distances for individual home lots are reduced to create the additional green space.

County Planning Director Connie Price said the new style of subdivision would provide residents with more available green space that could be used for playgrounds or parks. A cluster subdivision does not require a minimum setback from property lines. Price said that gives the cluster subdivision more flexibility in using available land.

The advantage of these kinds of subdivisions is having environmentally-sensitive land preserved for the enjoyment of the property owners, the public and wildlife, Price said.

"You'd have the same amount of open space as a regular subdivision, but all of it would be in one spot," Price said.

Children could benefit from having a nearby play area in the open space instead of playing in the street, while senior citizens would have less yard space to maintain, Price said.

The changes could be made possible by reducing the required lot size by size, he said. Every two homes in a cluster subdivision would share a wall, like a townhouse, limiting the amount of yard space for each but creating more open space for the subdivision to share.

According to the Planning Department's report, 25 percent of the subdivision's land should be dedicated as permanent open space. Price said the land can only be reserved as open space if it conserves historical or environmentally-sensitive land, provides a recreational activity or retains farmland or forest.

"You wouldn't want someone to build a complex with indoor tennis and call it an open space area. It defeats the purpose," Price said.

An additional benefit, Price said, could be the preservation of more farmland, which could be set aside to help meet the open-space requirements. Also, he said, with the same number of lots on less space, a buffer of land could be established between the homes and farm fields.

Price added that more compact home lots could encourage efforts to establish mass transit, bikeways and walking trails. A commuter rail or bus system requires a certain density of population near a transit stop and that could be achieved through cluster subdivisions, he said.