TEMPERANCE - In terms of marking communal maturity, they may be better harbingers than either birthday candles or tree rings.
But a relative explosion in the number of applications for Planned Unit Developments in Bedford Township over the last year probably has more to do with the fact that Toledo's biggest suburb is getting older than any notion that PUDs might be the key to open up local development riches.
"We're going to start seeing more and more problem parcels out there, because the easily-developed parcels are pretty much gone," said Dennis Jenkins, Bedford Township's Planning and Zoning Coordinator. "We seem to be getting more [PUD applications] over the last year than we've had for a long time."
First created nearly four decades ago as an answer for what was thought at the time to be a looming national housing shortage, Planned Unit Developments provided a compromise to strict zoning requirements that set the size and scope of allowable construction.
PUDs gave both developers and local officials something they coveted: for developers, it was a means to squeeze more profit from a single piece of property, while local government got a greater degree of control over what was to be built in their community.
The process, at least in Bedford Township, works like this: potential developers present an initial conceptual plan to the township board before any earth is moved.
If the board approves or makes changes with which the developer agrees, the developer then proceeds forward with a site plan through the remaining planning process and then back to the board for final approval.
Already this year, Bedford Township has approved two PUD conceptual applications, one for the Gateway Farms at Smith and Secor roads and another for a self-storage facility planned for land at the intersection of Crabb and Sterns roads.
The two PUD applications were the first to cross the township's transom in more than two years.
Mr. Jenkins said the two applications are probably the first of many that developers will present as they try to find profit in land that has "issues" such as large tracts of wetlands, multiple zoning districts, or a lack of access to section roads.
"Right now, the development has pretty much mirrored the zoning that was envisioned back in 1977. Now what we're having is a lot of 'in-fill' development," Mr. Jenkins said.
Bedford Township's first experience with Planned Unit Developments occurred 30 years ago when Forester and Wehrle developed the Crosscreeks subdivision on 59 acres near the intersection of West Sterns and Jackman roads.
When it was unveiled in 1974, the Crosscreeks mixture of single-family, multi-family, and clustered housing with what was supposed to be a strip of commercial development was revolutionary in metropolitan Toledo, marking the first PUD development anywhere in the area.
It should be noted, however, that PUDs had been increasingly used elsewhere in the country.
"PUDs have been popular in this country for some decades now. It's been a national trend for maybe 20 years," said John McIlwain, senior resident fellow for housing with the Urban Land Institute in Washington, DC.
Mr. Jenkins said that many of the 11 successfully completed PUDs that Bedford Township has approved over the last dozen years have included some component of condominiums, which have become popular ways to attract older, more affluent buyers.
Since 1993, the township has approved construction of almost 300 condominiums and has scores more on the books or in the development pipeline, Mr. Jenkins said.
Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: