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Design standards adopted in Antrim Township

May 31, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

GREENCASTLE, PA.

Antrim Township, Pa., has adopted Conservation by Design standards that aim to preserve open space during the development process.

The guidelines split the board of supervisors but were enacted Tuesday with the approval of James Byers, Robert Whitmore and Scott Diffenderfer. Dissenting votes were cast by Sam Miller and Curtis Myers, who had asked for more time to review the ordinance amendments.

Antrim Township began looking at Conservation by Design in 2003 and becomes the first municipality in Franklin County, Pa., to adopt the practices. They are under review by the Washington Township (Pa.) Supervisors.

In Antrim Township, developers will be required to preserve between 30 and 70 percent of their development's land as open space. The tradeoff is that they are then allowed to reduce the lot size for houses.

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More than 3,000 lots are in the process of review, 676 have been approved since April 2003 and the potential for 554 more houses exists in phases of developments already approved, Township Zoning Officer Angela Garland said while pointing to a nearly 7-foot-high map.

"We just can't keep up with the map," she said.

"We just know we're being inundated by rapid development," Whitmore said.

Conservation by Design is a tool to manage the look of that development, proponents say.

When in effect starting early next week, it will apply to all the residential zones in the township and give developers four options, according to Tim Cormany of engineering firm Martin & Martin of Chambersburg, Pa.

Two of those options are to build a basic development or a high-density hamlet/village, which allows businesses, Cormany said.

The other two options, estate and country lots, are similar and allow for houses to be built on larger lots like a small farmette, he said.

"The open space actually becomes part of these big lots," Cormany said.

Otherwise, the open space will be grouped and either provide active or passive recreation. Working with a $5,000 grant from Natural Lands Trust, Martin & Martin, township personnel and several elected officials identified and mapped flood plains, wooded areas, water sources, wildlife habitats, sinkholes, trails and historic resources.

"An important part of working through this Conservation by Design process is to identify the resources the township has that are worthy of conservation, preservation or protection," Cormany said during a public hearing Tuesday.

Agriculture also factored into the maps, he said.

"It became clear that's a first priority for Antrim Township - preservation, protection of farmland resources as development continues to come into our area. Farmland came to the forefront, followed by protection of our water resources," Cormany said.

"The goal of Antrim Township, particularly in these agricultural areas, is to wind up having 50 percent of each property permanently preserved or some feature, whether it be farmland, whether it be woodland, whether it be water resources," he said.

Conservation by Design will only apply to developments on more than eight acres with more than 24 lots, Cormany said.

Conservation by Design evoked mixed feelings from residents and businesspeople attending the public hearing. The supervisors said they are willing to make amendments, especially in the next six months.

"The township will become home to expensive sprawl," Steven Spray of PenMar Regional Association of Realtors said. The association was originally in favor of the concept, but does not approve of how it has been detailed in the township, he said.

"I think it takes a lot of courage to stand in the face of developers," resident David Rutherford said. "Really, this issue you take before you tonight is about our children and our children's children."




What is it?



Conservation by Design is a method of development that rewards developers who preserve open space by allowing them to build at a higher density. Natural Lands Trust, a regional land conservation organization, has described Conservation by Design developments as a golf course community without the golf course.

"It's the same number of homes, half the land," Ann Hutchinson of Natural Lands Trust said earlier this year.

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