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Old 07-07-2014, 11:58 AM
 
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Near my home in Fairfax VA developers have bought a large wooded site and plan to build a very large apartment complex. Because the site is completely wooded with 100 feet tall trees many residents would rather see the land turned into a park, but that is not going to happen. Instead, there is talk about keeping fifty percent of the site in open space. The developers think this is a waste and will cost them lots of money because it will limit how many apartments would be allowed on the site. They are promoting the new urbanism and want to use 90% of the site and make it very dense with little land in trees or grass.

They argue that by limiting the buildable land to 50% of the site it just pushes the sprawl out further, because now less people will be able to live there and those potential residents will be forced further out of the city.

What do you think? Should governments be able to require a large amount of the property be kept in open space?
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Old 07-07-2014, 12:24 PM
 
Location: Michigan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I'm Retired Now View Post
The developers think this is a waste and will cost them lots of money because it will limit how many apartments would be allowed on the site.
This is silly. Why not just build taller apartments? If density really is their goal, that is.
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Old 07-07-2014, 12:32 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Originally Posted by animatedmartian View Post
This is silly. Why not just build taller apartments? If density really is their goal, that is.
You may have a point here, but the local zoning may preclude this. And if they are already building at around six stories, it would necessitate moving from stick-and-drywall to steel construction, which is much more expensive. The local market might not be able to sustain the rents needed to recoup the loss in that particular area.

Still, I concur with the developers more overall here, provided they're talking about dense apartment blocks and not "garden apartments." I'm a big fan of open space, but considering the tradeoffs involved, adding another few hundred units in a second-ring suburb provides more benefit than the open space does to the small amount of people nearby who can walk to it.
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Old 07-07-2014, 01:03 PM
 
Location: Michigan
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
You may have a point here, but the local zoning may preclude this. And if they are already building at around six stories, it would necessitate moving from stick-and-drywall to steel construction, which is much more expensive. The local market might not be able to sustain the rents needed to recoup the loss in that particular area.

Still, I concur with the developers more overall here, provided they're talking about dense apartment blocks and not "garden apartments." I'm a big fan of open space, but considering the tradeoffs involved, adding another few hundred units in a second-ring suburb provides more benefit than the open space does to the small amount of people nearby who can walk to it.
If that was the case, then their assertion that they would lose money by not building enough apartments would be contradictory. How tight would the market have to be to give them that little of room between number of apartments and cost of construction? And if there's such demand that zoning laws would need to be changed, then it is the zoning that is causing sprawl and not the open space that may or may not be required. It just seems like a weak argument by the developer.
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Old 07-07-2014, 01:49 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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I think 50% is quite a lot of green space, depending on the context it could be more than necessary. What's nearby? Are there other parks nearby or would this park be the only one nearby and get use by residents outside the development?

Is this place appropriate for infill? Is there transit? Is it walkable? Not all potential development sites in 2nd ring suburbs are created equal. Also depends on what the zoning and development regulations were when the developers bought the site. If they allowed the developer to do what they want and now they're looking at retroactively changing it that's not very fair. If the developer is trying to get existing regulations changed to allow them to leave less greenspace that's different.

And btw, yes, I do think the market can be that tight.
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Old 07-07-2014, 01:59 PM
 
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How much impact should the existing 100 foot tall trees have on the entire site have on the amount of open space required? If all other things were equal, should there be more pressure to conserve a forested site vs. one where there was just grass? Should the current forested status make any difference in the land use plan? (The site is completely flat)
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Old 07-07-2014, 02:09 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Originally Posted by I'm Retired Now View Post
How much impact should the existing 100 foot tall trees have on the entire site have on the amount of open space required? If all other things were equal, should there be more pressure to conserve a forested site vs. one where there was just grass? Should the current forested status make any difference in the land use plan? (The site is completely flat)
I'm not sure what you're asking here. If you mean in terms of zoning, I'm guessing zero impact. If you mean morally, the state isn't equipped to make that kind of call.

I can say however that ecology has found that big unbroken bands of habitat are far more important in terms of species preservation than isolated pockets. Many large animal species tend to go extinct in smaller national parks, for example, because there's just not a big enough area to support a breeding population. So there's no question that as far as animals are concerned those ___ acres are in fact far more useful if they remain undeveloped as part of a forested fringe that goes on for hundreds of square miles than if they exist as a little pocket nestled deep in suburbia.
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Old 07-08-2014, 05:54 AM
 
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
I'm not sure what you're asking here. If you mean in terms of zoning, I'm guessing zero impact. If you mean morally, the state isn't equipped to make that kind of call.

I can say however that ecology has found that big unbroken bands of habitat are far more important in terms of species preservation than isolated pockets. Many large animal species tend to go extinct in smaller national parks, for example, because there's just not a big enough area to support a breeding population. So there's no question that as far as animals are concerned those ___ acres are in fact far more useful if they remain undeveloped as part of a forested fringe that goes on for hundreds of square miles than if they exist as a little pocket nestled deep in suburbia.
It is a very logical and serious question. Is saving open space more important if the site is heavily wooded with large trees covering the entire site vs. just a field of grass?
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Old 07-08-2014, 07:05 AM
 
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Originally Posted by I'm Retired Now View Post
It is a very logical and serious question. Is saving open space more important if the site is heavily wooded with large trees covering the entire site vs. just a field of grass?

Like most of your questions, that can't be answered. Not all mature woods are equal and not all fields are equal. Is it second growth? Are there issues with invasives? Are there rare/protected species? Is there a dense enough core to allow nesting opportunities for declining forest interior bird species? Trained botanists / ecologists / foresters (and often other specialists) are needed to compare the attributes of each.
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Old 07-08-2014, 08:46 AM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Just based off the OP, knowing nothing about the site or the development, I would say the compromise would be 75-80% buildable with the rest being used towards open space. Though that doesn't mean save the trees that are there now because they might not work in a park like setting. It would also depend on if this site was a part of a larger forest where protecting the trees would create a buffer zone for the protected forest.

Lots of variable to look at but little information given.
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