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Open space issue to get further study

by Larry S. Chowning

The Middlesex County Planning Commission has asked county supervisors to provide some direction as to how they want the commission to deal with open space issues in subdivisions.

Middlesex County currently requires that 30 percent of land in a major subdivision remain in open space. A planning commission proposal in June recommended that 50 percent be required.

The commission also has recommended that some areas formerly used by past developers to meet their open space requirements not be allowed in the future. Under the planners’ proposal, areas that would not count as open space include “bodies of water, existing utility easements, drainfield lots, storm-water retention basins, Resource Protection Areas (RPA), wetlands, and slopes greater than 25 percent.”

For instance, developers in the past have been allowed to use ponds to go toward their percentage of required open space.

In June, after the planning commission had spent months working on a plan, several large landowners and developers convinced supervisors to not change the current open space rules.

These businessmen felt the 50 percent open space requirement is unreasonable, and would severely limit the ability to develop land in the future. 

At a September 2 board of supervisors meeting, Saluda District supervisor and planning commission member Jack Miller said the commission “needs direction as to where the board wants to go with this matter.”

Board chairman Kenneth W. Williams said he understands both sides of the issue and he suggested that the subcommittee working on the issue get large landowners and developers involved in the process.

“There are people who are very concerned about open and green space in Middlesex County and we hear it all the time,” said Williams. “But, I also understand completely how developers and landowners feel. They own the property and are the ones who will be most impacted by this [proposed law change]. They need to have a voice in the matter.”

posted 09.18.2008

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