Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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Waterville proposes `green' development

Kirk Kern sketches a colorful blend: blueprints for development and greenprints for growth.

Concerned about land conservation, Mr. Kern and other Waterville officials have invited developers, township trustees, council members, and others to attend a workshop where they can learn about a land-use method that protects natural open space.

Mr. Kern, assistant administrator in the village of Waterville, is helping to organize the workshop, which is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at the Pinnacle in Maumee's Arrowhead Park. Featured speaker will be Randall Arendt, vice president of conservation planning for the National Lands Trust in Media, Pa.

The author of several books on conservation design, Mr. Arendt will talk about planning techniques that encourage clustering, or more compact forms of development.

The approach, Mr. Kern said, involves consolidating residential homes on a given site, such as by building the homes on smaller lots and setting aside a substantial portion of the site for parks, greenways, greenbelts, and bikeways.

Land conservation methods are being considered by Waterville as it updates its comprehensive plan. The idea for the workshop cropped up after planning commission members expressed interest in learning more about alternative approaches to development and planning.

New approaches might require some additional zoning regulations, a topic that will be discussed during the workshop by representatives of Poggemeyer Design Group of Bowling Green.

Poggemeyer and the Property Rights Coalition are involved in sponsoring the workshop.

Mr. Arendt's method of conserving natural areas is becoming an increasingly popular approach to developing land, Randy Mielnik, Poggemeyer's vice president, said. The method, he said, generally “breaks the rules in some ways.”

Because of that, communities and developers “are unclear about the best way to go about it,” he noted, adding that unfortunately, the conservation design principles “are easier said than done.”

Zoning regulations can be amended to encourage land-conservation design when development plans are drawn up, officials said.

Some townships across Ohio, particularly where rapid growth is occurring, are beginning to embrace the design plan.

A land-use survey in Waterville Township showed township residents would support a conservation design plan, said Mr. Mielnik, whose firm has worked with other Ohio townships to amend zoning regulations that accommodate the land-conservation approach.

Several township officials from the Toledo area, including about a dozen representatives from Perrysburg Township, plan to attend the workshop. About 500 people were invited; between 100 to 125 likely will attend.

Perrysburg Township is revising its zoning regulations. Some possible revisions involve clustering of homes in subdivisions, said Grant Garn, township zoning inspector.

Mr. Garn, zoning commission members, and members of the board of zoning appeals from the township signed up for the workshop. “We thought it would be good for our members to get some further course study on these types of subdivisions,” Mr. Garn said. “We are willing to look at new ideas.”

Subdivisions with flowing streams, hiking paths, waterfalls, park areas, and other interesting features offer a fresh approach to land use, compared with the typical cookie-cutter subdivisions that come complete with front yards, back yards, sidewalks, driveways, streets, and little else, officials said.

Using Mr. Arendt's approach, rows of houses in a subdivision could face each other. A sidewalk, where children play and parents chat, would separate the front lawns. People would park their minivans in the rear of their homes, just off alleys. Such a subdivision could feature gardens, green space, and a nice, homey “getting-to-know your neighbors” atmosphere.

“People might go back to sitting on their front porches. They could sit and watch their kids playing on the sidewalk,” Mr. Kern said. “It's going back to a concept of neighborhoods.”

That special “neighborhood feeling” is exactly what village officials want to promote - and maintain - as development continues in the area, said Tom Mattis, Waterville village administrator.

The village's small-town, rural flavor “is what we are trying to retain,” Mr. Mattis said. “Open spaces and green spaces are important to us as planners and important to the people who live here. We're trying as a town, as a municipality, to take the lead on land preservation.”

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