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Green Development

Benefits & Basic Elements

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Conservation Subdivision

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Green Development Conservation Subdivision Design

Conservation Subdivision Design (CSD) is a green development strategy that can help communities preserve open space and natural areas in residential housing developments. By reformulating the approach to conventional subdivision design, CSD strategically concentrates home construction on the development site in order to protect sensitive and valuable open space, habitat, and other environmental resources. A study by the Atlanta Regional Commission revealed the following benefits of CSD:

  • Protected water quality
  • Protected wildlife habitat
  • Reduced infrastructure construction costs
  • Reduced maintenance costs
  • Reduced demand for publicly funded greenspace
  • Means for expanding public trails and greenways

CSD is gaining popularity throughout the nation yet is restricted from use in some areas due to outdated and inflexible zoning ordinances. The following resources provide access to articles and research papers, project examples, and model ordinances that are designed to help communities modify zoning laws in order to benefit from CSD developments.

Links and Articles

Growing Greener: Conservation by Design
Describes a four-step process municipalities can use to achieve conservation subdivision design, based on a Pennsylvania program. (large PDF file)

"An Innovative Tool for Managing Rural Residential Development: A Look at Conservation Subdivisions"
This article from The Land Use Tracker reviews the purpose and process of achieving effective CSD in rural residential development.

"Conservation Subdivision Design: A Market-Friendly Approach to Local Environmental Protection"
Reviews how communities may find CSD to be an effective tool in their efforts to balance local economic growth with the preservation of environmental resources and community character. An article from Reason Public Policy Institute.

"Sustainable Suburbia"
This Conscious Choice article describes how progressive developers using CSD are responding to buyers' demands for open space and the presence of nature near their home sites.

Codes and Ordinances

Growing Greener - Putting Conservation Plans into Local Codes and Ordinances
A workbook that presents a new look at designing subdivisions while preserving green space and creating open space networks. It shows readers how to design residential developments that maximize conservation without reducing overall building density, thus avoiding the political and legal problems associated with "down-zoning".

"Open Space Zoning: What it Is and Why it Works"
Poses the question to local planners and officials as to whether to continue implementing "conventional zoning," or whether to refine their existing land-use regulations to ensure the preservation of open space through creative development design. A Planning Commissioners Journal article.

The Conservation Subdivision Design Project: Booklet for Developing a Local By-law (PDF)
A Metropolitan Area Planning Council publication provides a wealth of background and commentary in order to elevate the use of CSD as a commonly accepted and utilized land development technique, by serving as an educational tool particularly for Town Planners, Planning Boards and developers in Massachusetts.

From Policy to Reality: Model Ordinances for Conservation Subdivision
Reviews a model ordinance for CSD as well as other ordinances for green development, from the Minnesota Planning Environmental Quality Board. (large PDF file)

Conservation Subdivision - Quality Growth Toolkit, Atlanta Regional Commission
Provides local governments with guidance in developing effective conservation subdivision ordinances. (PDF file)

Case Studies

Prairie Crossing
Includes 362 home sites on 677 acres and has been designed to combine development with the preservation of open land and easy commuting to Chicago by rail.

Tryon Farm
Approximately three-quarters of the 170-acre landscape at Tryon Farm will be preserved as rolling pasture, meadows, woods and ponds in rural Michigan.

Hidden Creek at the Darby
Homesites of 2 to 5 acres overlook breathtaking views of ravines, creeks, forest, lakes, and wild flower meadows. Over 230 acres have been set aside as a protected, private nature preserve along Little Darby Creek, a National Wild and Scenic River.

Selected Examples of Conservation Subdivisions in Pennsylvania
Profiles Farmview and Garnet Oaks conservation subdivisions in Pennsylvania.

The Woodson Place
Provides information on a project with 38 home sites on 66 acres east of Dallas/Ft. Worth. Over half of the land is preserved for open space and wildlife habitat.

See Green Development Success Stories for more examples.


Conservation Design for Subdivisions - A Practical Guide to Creating Open Space Networks
A published handbook that presents a simple step-by-step approach to designing subdivisions around the central organizing principle of protecting open space, and shows how communities can adopt new standards in their plans and ordinances to ensure that future developments follow this design approach in a way that will ultimately produce an interconnected network of conservation lands throughout their land areas.

Growing Greener-Conservation By Design (PDF file)
Summarizes how municipalities can use the development process to their advantage to protect interconnected networks of open space: natural areas, greenways, trails and recreational lands. A publication of the Natural Land Trust.

Conservation Design Portfolio: Preserving Minnesota Landscapes Through Creative Development (PDF file)
Showcases new residential developments that were specifically designed to minimize impacts on the lands and waters that surround them and to positively contribute to the character of the greater community.

Last updated: January 26, 2004

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