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Re: E-M:/ Open Space in Zoning(HB 4995) -- Townships should Get On Board!

Enviro-Mich message from kris olsson <olssonk@umich.edu>


I am generally in favor of this bill, but I'm wondering about the broad brush it
paints, for all townships and all villages and cities. In already-urbanized
townships and cities/villages, wouldn't we want to encourage more of a new
urbanist/walkable community type pattern of development and use all the space we
can for accomodating growth (with lots of  parks and  greenways., of course
throughout the neighborhoods)?  While I think open space developments are a good
option for rural townships that cannot realistically really truly preserve their
natural areas and farmland because they have already let the horse out of the barn
by already zoning their community for some kind of x-acre lot zoning, I'm not so
sure it's the panacea for all communities.  In fact, if done everywhere, won't it
just result in sort of a "sprawl of clusters," with the same impact on schools,
roads, increased commuting time, etc.?

I haven't actually read the bills, so maybe I should do that before writing this,
perhaps this issue is addressed already?

What do people think?

Kris Olsson

Anne Woiwode wrote:

> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Enviro-Mich message from "Anne Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Dear Enviro-Michers:
> I am troubled that the Michigan Townships Association is flat out opposing a
> bill that would allow for protection of open space by creating zoning
> districts that cluster houses in less dense residential zoning districts in
> exchange for designating at least 50% of the land as permanent protected
> open space.  As a township trustee, I have received the alerts from MTA that
> raise concerns about HB 4995 (sponsor Ruth Johnson) primarily because of
> interference with local control, but I think this shortsightedness is a
> serious mistake, and urge Township officials who care about sensible land
> use to speak up FOR HB 4995!  Two other bills (HB 5029 sponsored by Chris
> Kolb and HB 5028 sponsored by Randy Richardville) address the same issues in
> the municipal zoning act and county zoning act respectively.
> Below is a summary of HB 4995, which was crafted over a long time involving
> extensive debate and discussion among many interest groups who all, for very
> different reasons, see a benefit in actually encouraging protection of open
> space, farmlands, woodlands, natural areas, etc., by allowing for clustering
> of houses in low density residential areas if protection of the open space
> is guaranteed. Right now, in many communities, such clustering is very
> difficult to achieve -- often, as in my community of Meridian Township, the
> mechanism for providing for this clustering is only available under
> ordinances that impose additional steps on the proposer, making it in fact a
> significant burden to do clustering and protect open space, when it ought to
> be encouraged!
> So why should it be mandated at the state level?  Because, as our community
> can attest, even with the best of intentions this kind of simple, straight
> forward, intelligent design approach to land use often does not get put in
> place because communities have so many other priorities.  And this kind of
> zoning option is something that has benefit for all Michiganders --
> intelligent use of infrastructure through clustering, protection of wildlife
> areas, reduced paving for roads, protect farmland, and otherwise enhance our
> communities.  And, the bill allows communities six months to figure out how
> they would do this if they wish, but assures that the standard is in place
> in a timely fashion after it becomes law. And I would hope, if the Townships
> have ideas for how to improve the bill, they would bring those out, but
> right now they are simply piling on opposition in a "just say no" mode.
> HB 4995 is scheduled now to be up on the floor of the Senate next week, and
> I hope ANYONE who is concerned about really getting a handle on the loss of
> open space, including farmland, and woodlands to sprawl, will weigh in with
> your Senator NOW (see below for details).
> Anne Woiwode
> ---------------------------------------------------
> (Taken from the Senate Fiscal Agency analysis of the bills):
> House Bills 4995 (H-4), 5028 (H-4), and 5029 (H-4) would amend the Township
> Zoning Act, the County Zoning Act, and the City and Village Zoning Act,
> respectively, to require that local units with a zoning ordinance include
> certain open space provisions for residential development. These
> requirements would apply beginning six months after the bills' effective
> date.
> The zoning ordinances would have to allow a land owner to develop land zoned
> as residential by, in effect, clustering residences on one portion of the
> land and leaving the remaining land perpetually in an undeveloped state.
> (The bills would define "undeveloped state" as a natural state preserving
> natural resources, natural features, or scenic or wooded conditions;
> agricultural use; open space; or a similar use or condition. Land in an
> undeveloped state would not include a golf course but could include a
> recreational trail, picnic area, children's play area, greenway, or linear
> park, and could be dedicated to the use of the public.) These proposed
> ordinances would be known as the "Open Space Preservation" provisions.
> Under House Bills 4995 (H-4) and 5028 (H-4), township and county zoning
> ordinances would have to state that the land owner could develop a portion
> of the land with the same number of dwelling units currently allowed on the
> whole parcel of land. The remaining percentage of land, as specified in the
> zoning ordinances but not less than 50%, would have to remain perpetually in
> an undeveloped state by means of a conservation easement, plat dedication,
> restrictive covenant, or other legal means running with the land. House Bill
> 5029 (H-4) contains identical provisions for city and village zoning
> ordinances, except that the amount of open space preserved would have to be
> at least 20%. Land developed in this way would be subject to other
> applicable ordinances, laws, and rules, including rules relating to
> suitability of soils for on-site sewage disposal for land not served by
> public sewers, and suitability of groundwater for on-site water supply for
> land not served by public water.
> All three bills specify the conditions necessary for a land owner to
> exercise this development option. In addition to the percentage requirements
> above, they include requirements that the land be zoned at a density
> equivalent of two or fewer dwelling units per acre or, if the land were
> served by a public sewer system, three or fewer dwelling units per acre;
> that the development not depend on the extension of a public sewer or public
> water system, unless other development of the land also would depend on such
> an extension; and that the land not already have been developed in a similar
> way.
> After a land owner exercised the open space development option, the land
> could be rezoned accordingly.
> -------------------------------
> HB 4995 is slated to move on the floor of the Senate next week, so PLEASE
> AMENDMENTS (not sure who is your Senator? Connect to the Michigan Senate
> webpage and get that info, as well as phone #s, emails, fax numbers, etc.:
> http://www.senate.state.mi.us/
> We understand that at least two weakening amendments may be offered, and
> 1) OPPOSE EFFORTS TO REMOVE THE MANDATE:  The reality is that this will ONLY
> happen if it is required, and there are good, solid options for communities
> that wish to approach this in a different way.  This will NOT take away
> local control -- all zoning ordinances in the state are based on state law,
> and this provision is a key to much smarter growth.
> offered to use the open space for stormwater run-off, which would
> automatically guarantee less protection for farmland, open space, etc.
> Dealing with stormwater is something that is REQUIRED already, and giving a
> benefit to developers to do something they are already required to do is NOT
> a good idea.
> Senator Gougeon (R- District 34) also favor the above two measures. He
> really needs to hear that this is a good bill as is, and people do not think
> crafting an ordinance is a large local control issue) His office can be
> reached at 517-373-1777.
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