The first principle of better development is directing growth to areas where it is most appropriate and has existing infrastructure to support growth. Conserving natural, scenic, and environmentally sensitive areas may be achieved through land-use management techniques such as transfer of development rights, open space site design, and environmental protection programs.
Transfer of Development Rights
Transfer of development rights (TDR) is a land-use management tool that can be adopted to conserve high-value agricultural land, environmentally sensitive areas, and strategic open space. TDR is a voluntary, growth management tool where the development rights of a landowner in a “preservation” or sending zone are shifted to a receiving or “transfer” zone, where growth or development is more appropriate.
Open Space Site Design
Residential zoning ordinances in many communities have encouraged such traditional designs by requiring minimum lot sizes, uniform road frontage and lot setbacks, specific road standards, and other standard requirements. As a result of traditional development patterns, many communities have experienced “urban sprawl,” farmland loss, and encroachment on scenic vistas and open-space areas. To help address these issues, open space site design, also known cluster or conservation development, is a practice being adopted for use in many communities. Open space site design concentrates development in a compact area in one portion of the development site in exchange for providing open space and natural areas elsewhere on the site. In most cases, local ordinances and regulations must be updated to facilitate building conservation development subdivisions. Road frontages, lot size, setbacks, and other traditional regulations must be redefined to permit the preservation of environmentally sensitive areas, rural architecture, historical sites, and other unique characteristics of the parcel being developed. The minimum lot sizes, setbacks and frontage distances for the zone are relaxed in order to create the open space at the site. Benefits of open space designs include reducing impervious cover, stormwater pollutants, construction costs, grading, and the loss of natural areas and environmental features.
Delaware Environmental Protection Programs
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) is charged with protecting and conserving Delaware’s natural resources. DNREC has taken the lead in preserving a network of areas that support and protect our precious natural resources while allowing for Delaware’s continued economic growth and development. Delaware environmental protection programs are aimed at ensuring that the state’s natural areas are protected through:
An online publication, Our Waters, Our Towns: Local Governments’ Roles in Watershed Implementation Plans, discusses the critical role that local governments play in protecting and restoring the health of local watersheds. Local watershed implementation plans (WIPs) should be adopted that detail steps to be taken at the sub-watershed and local government level. Examples of actions include upgrading wastewater treatment plants, reducing urban storm water, requiring nitrogen-removal septic systems, planning and zoning to minimize sprawl, planting natural buffers, and addressing agricultural pollution.