ARTICLE 4   SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS

 

4.1          Conservation developments

 

4.1.1       Definition and purpose

 

4.1.1.1    A Conservation Development is a type of subdivision that uses prescribed site planning techniques to conserve open land, protect site features and provide flexibility in the siting of structures, services and infrastructure.  The provisions of Ch. 18.41 of the zoning ordinance apply to Conservation Developments. A residential Conservation Development is not entitled to a greater number of lots or dwelling units than a conventional subdivision would be entitled to unless ordinance provisions with incentive bonuses for certain types or conditions of development apply.

 

4.1.1.2    The purposes of a Conservation Development are:

 

a)   To conserve large contiguous areas of open land;

 

b)   To preserve historical and archaeological resources and scenic views;

 

c)   To provide greater design flexibility and efficiency in siting of buildings and infrastructure in order to reduce length of streets and the amount of impervious surfaces;

 

d)   To provide for a diversity of lot sizes, building densities, and housing choices to accommodate a variety of residential preferences, so that the population diversity of the community may be maintained;

 

e)   To implement municipal policies to conserve a variety of irreplaceable and environmentally important resources identified in the comprehensive plan;

 

f)   To provide reasonable incentives for the creation of greenway systems;

 

g)   To implement land use, transportation and community service policies identified in the Comprehensive Plan;

 

h)   To protect areas with productive agricultural soils for continued or future agricultural use by conserving blocks of land large enough to allow for efficient farm operations; and

 

i)    To create neighborhoods with direct visual and physical access to open land.

 

4.1.2       Applicability

 

4.1.2.1    Every major and minor subdivision shall be designed as a Conservation Development unless the Planning Board finds that a conventional design would be more appropriate because of the location or characteristics of the site or the proposed use or uses.

 

4.1.2.2    The Planning Board may require commercial, industrial, or mixed-use land development projects to be designed as Conservation Developments. When an application for a land development project does not propose creation of individual lots, the buildings, streets and other pervious surfaces, recreational facilities, and open space areas should be located using Conservation Development principles.

 

4.1.2.3.   The provisions of Sections 4.1.2.1 and 4.1.2.2 do not apply to Residential Compounds, administrative subdivisions or to subdivisions of land that do not create lots for present or future development.           

 

4.1.3       Design process

 

               A Conservation Development is designed in the steps described in the following sections. For residential developments, Section 13.2 of these regulations, entitled "Residential Site Design" also applies.

 

4.1.3.1    The applicant prepares two plans for use during the pre-application conference and the Planning Board's site walk:

 

a)   An Existing Conditions and Resources Plan.

 

b)   A rough sketch of the development. This plan should not be an engineered site plan; its purpose is to illustrate the applicant's basic proposed development design. It may be a transparent overlay to the Existing Conditions and Resources Plan or to an aerial photograph of the site.                      

 

4.1.3.2    The Administrative Officer schedules a pre-application conference at which the Planning Board members and the applicant may informally discuss the proposed development. During the pre-application conference, the Planning Board makes arrangements with the applicant for a site walk so the Planning Board members may become familiar with the property.

 

4.1.3.3    Based on the site walk and the pre-application conference, the applicant prepares a Development Overlay Plan for the master plan application for a major subdivision or the preliminary plan application for a minor subdivision. The location of the open space, buildings, streets, and lot lines are determined according to the following criteria:

 

a)   The provisions of Ch. 18.41 of the zoning ordinance determine the amount of open space required.

 

b)   The provisions of Ch. 18.41 of the zoning ordinance determine the minimum dimensional requirements for individual building lots. The requirements are intended to provide flexibility in area, frontage, and shape so lot lines will harmonize with the site's natural features and topography.

 

c)   If a lot has reduced area or frontage, its frontage must be on a street created as part of the development, unless the Planning Board finds that the lot is compatible in size and frontage with existing development patterns in the neighborhood.

 

4.1.4       Residential density

 

               The provisions of Ch. 18.41 of the zoning ordinance determine the basic maximum number of dwelling units in the subdivision or land development. In subdivisions or land developments that propose alterations to freshwater wetlands, the applicant may propose an initial maximum number contingent on R.I. Department of Environmental Management approval of the wetlands alteration.

 

4.1.5       Open space 

 

               The provisions of Ch. 18.41 of the zoning ordinance determine the amount of open space required. The provisions of Ch. 18.38 of the zoning ordinance determine how open space may be owned and used. The Planning Board shall approve plans for the use, management and maintenance of all open space areas.

           

4.1.5.1    The minimum required area of open space shall be in addition to any area used for stormwater drainage facilities, provided, however, that the Planning Board may allow an area occupied by stormwater drainage facilities to count toward the minimum required open space area if it finds that the drainage areas are designed as a fully integrated part of an overall open space landscape plan that incorporates trails, active or passive parks, landscaped site features, streambelts or greenways, and are designed to facilitate infiltration and recharge of water, and that such facilities are not in conflict with the intent and purpose of a Conservation Development or with the general purposes of these regulations.

 

4.1.5.2    The natural contours of the land, existing natural vegetation, and significant natural or man-made features shall be maintained to the greatest extent possible. Open space may be disturbed to create or enhance landscaped areas, parks, recreation, conservation, forestry or wildlife habitat only with Planning Board approval, and any such alteration shall be shown on the final plan. The restrictions in this subsection do not apply to Conservation Developments in the Agricultural Overlay zoning district.

 

               No commercial earth removal shall take place in the open space during or after the construction of the development. If the plan approved by the Planning Board includes removal of earth materials for regrading the open space, the final plan shall describe the area to be regraded and the volume of material to be removed.

 

               Buildings, structures, parking areas or other impervious improvements that are accessory to and subordinate to a permitted open space use may be located on any open space lot provided that they occupy no more than five percent (5%) of the total open space area. The restrictions in this subsection do not apply to Conservation Developments in the Agricultural Overlay zoning district.

 

4.1.5.3    All open space shall be protected against further development and unauthorized alteration in perpetuity by appropriate deed restrictions and by the grant of a conservation or preservation restriction. The perpetual maintenance of all open space shall be guaranteed by appropriate deed restrictions and by the grant of a conservation or preservation restriction.

 

               The Planning Board or Administrative Officer shall approve the form and content of all deed restrictions before final plan approval. Every deed restriction providing for maintenance shall contain the following provision:

 

               If the owners, or their successors or assigns fail to maintain the open space, the Town may perform any necessary maintenance and enforce the payment for such costs, including reasonable attorneys' fees, by an action at law or in equity against the owners or their successors or assigns.

 

4.1.5.4    An open space use plan shall be submitted with the master plan application for major land developments and major subdivisions, and with the preliminary plan application for minor land developments and minor subdivisions. The plan shall show:

 

a)   the general location and area of all proposed open space;

 

b)   the general proposed use or uses of the open space;

 

c)   existing topography and existing ground cover of open space areas;

 

d)   the location and purpose of existing structures, and the location of stone walls or other unique natural or historic features;

 

e)   areas of open space from which existing vegetation will be removed or in which existing vegetation will be altered, and areas to be graded or otherwise disturbed, excavated or altered from their existing natural state;

 

f)   generalized proposals for the regrading, revegetating and landscaping of disturbed areas;

 

g)   the location and purpose of any proposed structures, parking areas or roadways, impervious areas, recreation areas, or gardens, and

 

h)   areas that will remain undisturbed.

 

               A more detailed open space use plan shall be submitted with the preliminary plan application for major subdivisions and land developments. The open space use plan may be combined with a grading plan, landscaping plan, soil erosion prevention plan, or stormwater management plan. 

 

4.1.5.5    To the greatest extent possible, the following areas should be included in the open space:

 

a)   Stream channels, floodplains, wet soils, swales, springs, and other freshwater wetland areas, including adjacent buffer areas that protect them;

 

b)   Special aquatic sites, vernal pools and significant natural areas with species listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern, such as those listed in the Statewide Natural Heritage Inventory;

 

c)   Moderate to steep slopes, particularly those adjoining watercourses and ponds, where disturbance and resulting soil erosion and sedimentation could be detrimental to water quality;

 

d)   Healthy woodlands, particularly those performing important ecological functions such as soil stabilization and protection of streams, wetlands, and wildlife habitats;

 

e)   Areas where precipitation is most likely to recharge local groundwater resources because of topographic and soil conditions affording high rates of infiltration and percolation;

 

f)   Hedgerows, groups of trees, large individual trees of botanic significance, and other vegetation features representing the site's rural past;

 

g)   Active agricultural uses, pastures, croplands;

 

h)   Prime farmland soils and farmland soils of statewide importance;

 

i)    Historic structures and sites;

 

j)    Visually prominent topographic features such as knolls, hilltops and ridges;

 

k)   Geologic features such as eskers or kettle holes;

 

l)    Scenic viewsheds visible from public roads (particularly those with historic features); and

 

m)  Existing trails connecting the parcel to other locations.

 

4.1.5.6    Except in the Agricultural Overlay zoning district, the open space intended for common use by occupants of the development shall comply with the following standards:

 

a)   It shall be free of all structures except historic buildings, stone walls, and structures related to open space uses;

 

b)   It shall be directly accessible to the largest possible number of lots or dwellings in the development.  Lots that do not abut the open space shall be provided with safe and convenient pedestrian access to the open space;

 

c)   It shall be suitable for active or passive recreational uses without interfering with the use of nearby dwelling units, parking areas, driveways, and streets;

 

d)   Wherever possible, it shall be connected to open space on adjacent property to provide a continuous network of greenway lands;

 

e)   It shall provide buffers to adjoining parks, preserves or other protected lands;

 

f)   It shall have pedestrian pathways for use by the residents of the development. Consideration shall be given to providing for public access on such pathways if they are linked to other publicly accessible pathway systems.

 

g)   Whenever possible, it shall be undivided by public or private streets except where necessary for safe traffic circulation;

 

h)   Its landscape shall protect open space resources;

 

i)    Its use shall be consistent with the Comprehensive Community Plan;

 

j)    It shall be accessible for maintenance and emergency purposes.

 

4.1.5.7    An applicant may voluntarily donate land to the Town for public recreation facilities in addition to the required open space in a subdivision or land development. The Planning Board shall approve the location and use of the land. The Town Council must accept the land donated for public recreation before it is so depicted on a recorded plat.

 

4.1.6       Perimeter buffer areas 

 

4.1.6.1    The Planning Board shall have the authority to require a buffer area of one hundred (100) feet or less on all or on any part of the perimeter of the subdivision or land development. The perimeter buffer area shall be part of the open space and shall not be located on any individual building lot.

 

4.1.6.2    When determining whether to require a buffer, the appropriate width of the buffer and whether new vegetation must be provided, the Planning Board shall consider whether individual building lots will be located near the perimeter, and shall consider the characteristics of the property adjacent to the development, including:

 

a)   Its current and proposed uses;

 

b)   Its physical characteristics;

 

c)   Its zoning district(s); and

 

d)   Its designation(s) on the Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Map.

 

4.1.6.3    The buffer area shall be vegetated where it is necessary to provide a visual or auditory screen. Existing trees and bushes should be preserved when feasible. Where there is little or no existing vegetation along an existing public street, consideration shall be given to creation of a foreground meadow between the existing public street and new streets in the development. (See Figure 13-G).

 

4.1.7       Conservation Developments in the Agricultural Overlay zoning district

 

               Because the purpose of the Agricultural Overlay district is to reserve prime agricultural soils for agricultural uses and to recognize the economic benefits of farms and agricultural operations, a Conservation Development in the Agricultural Overlay zoning district should be designed to preserve prime agricultural soils as a natural resource.

 

               The provisions of Ch. 18.46 of the zoning ordinance apply to Conservation Developments in the Agricultural Overlay zoning district. In addition, the following regulations apply:

 

4.1.7.1    In addition to open space lots containing farmland and residences, open space lots may be created to accommodate stormwater management features, fire cisterns, or areas with environmental constraints.

 

4.1.7.2    One principal residential structure and one accessory structure containing an accessory dwelling unit may be located in the one-acre area of a farm lot that is reserved for residential use.

 

4.1.7.3    When calculating the number of acres of open space in the development, the one-acre area on any lot reserved for residential use shall not be considered.

 

4.2       Residential Compounds

 

A Residential Compound is a type of conventional subdivision intended to preserve the rural character of the Town by permitting low-density residential development on large parcels of land while relieving the applicant from compliance with the design and improvement standards applicable to other types of residential development. A Residential Compound contains lots for single household dwellings at an average density of no greater than one dwelling unit per five (5) acres of land suitable for development. A Residential Compound shall contain no more than seven (7) lots or dwelling units.

 

A parcel may be developed as a Residential Compound unless the Planning Board determines, based on the location or characteristics of the parcel, that Conservation Development would be a more appropriate method of development. The Planning Board shall make that determination no later than the first stage of project approval.

 

The provisions of Ch. 18.45 of the zoning ordinance apply to Residential Compounds. In addition, the following regulations apply:

 

4.2.1       Density calculation

 

               The maximum number of dwelling units in a Residential Compound shall be determined by the following method:

 

a)   Land unsuitable for development shall be subtracted from the total acreage of the parcel.

 

b)   The remaining area of the parcel, expressed in square feet, shall be divided by 217,800 sq. ft. (five acres).

 

c)   The resulting figure is the maximum number of residential building lots permitted. Fractions shall be rounded downward to the next lower whole number.

                                   

4.2.2       General requirements

 

4.2.2.1    A parcel proposed for development as a Residential Compound shall have frontage on a public street or shall have access to a public street by a private right-of-way. If access to a public street is by a private right-of-way, the provisions of Section 13.1.4 of these regulations apply. A private right of way that provides access shall be shown in its entirety on the final plat.

 

4.2.2.2    No parcel that has been developed as a Residential Compound shall be further subdivided or reduced in size except in conformity with these regulations. This shall not prevent the development of a Residential Compound in sections as long as future sections to be developed are designated on the final plat.

 

4.2.2.3    No building lot shown on a Residential Compound final plat that has been recorded in the land evidence records shall be further subdivided or reduced in size.

 

4.2.3       Open space 

 

4.2.3.1   Land in excess of that needed to create the proposed number of residential building lots may be part of one or more of the residential building lots, or it may be used to create one or more open space lots.

 

4.2.3.2    An open space lot shall be used for agriculture or for active or passive recreation. Stormwater management facilities, on-site wastewater treatment systems, and wells may be located on open space lots if the Planning Board finds that the location of the facility is compatible with nearby uses.

 

4.2.3.3    Ownership of the open space shall comply with Sec. 18.38.030 of the zoning ordinance.

 

4.2.3.4    Open space lots shall be protected against further development and unauthorized alteration in perpetuity by appropriate deed restrictions or by a conservation or preservation restriction. The perpetual maintenance of all open space shall be guaranteed by appropriate deed restrictions or by the grant of a conservation or preservation restriction. The Planning Board or Administrative Officer shall approve the form and content of all deed restrictions at final plan approval.

 

4.2.3.5    This Sec. 4.2.3 does not apply to Residential Compounds in the Agricultural Overlay zoning district.

 

4.2.4       Improvement standards

 

4.2.4.1    Streets in a Residential Compound shall be privately owned and maintained.  The applicant shall submit the documents required by Article 3, Sec. 3.5 of these regulations.

 

4.2.4.2    Gravel streets are permitted in a Residential Compound. If a street is gravel, the stormwater management improvements for the street shall be designed to accommodate the runoff from paved streets.

 

4.2.4.3    If the Residential Compound is connected to a public street by a private right of way, the Planning Board shall determine whether the right of way is adequately improved to accommodate traffic to and from the compound. If the Board determines that the right of way is not sufficiently improved to protect the health, safety and welfare of compound residents, the Board shall have the authority to require specific improvements to the right of way as a condition of final approval of the application.

 

4.2.4.4    Utility lines, including but not limited to electrical and telephone lines, may be installed above ground unless the Planning Board determines that the utility lines should be installed underground for the protection of the health, safety and welfare of the compound residents.

 

4.2.5       Residential Compounds in the Agricultural Overlay zoning district    

 

4.2.5.1    In a Residential Compound located in the Agricultural Overlay zoning district, all the lots shall be farm lots of at least eleven (11) acres.                        

 

4.2.5.2    Parcels that are not in the Agricultural Overlay zoning district may be developed as Residential Compounds according to the requirements of this section 4.2.5 if they are at least fifty (50) acres, contain prime agricultural soils, and have been in active agriculture at any time within the previous five (5) years.

 

4.3          Minor subdivisions that do not create or extend a street

 

4.3.1       If the preliminary plan proposes a subdivision that creates two, three, or four lots in addition to the original lot, and does not require creation of a new street or extension of an existing street in order to provide frontage or access, and if the parcel to be subdivided does not have sufficient area for further subdivision, the Administrative Officer may forward the application to the Planning Board with a recommendation for preliminary plan approval without further review. The Administrative Officer may recommend conditions of approval.

 

4.3.2       If a preliminary plan proposes a subdivision that creates two, three, or four lots in addition to the original lot, and does not require creation of a new street or extension of an existing street in order to provide frontage or access, and if the parcel to be subdivided has sufficient area to create additional lots, the Planning Board shall consider the following criteria when reviewing the application:  

 

a)   The impact that further subdivision may have on the lots;

 

b)   Whether the street provides adequate access to the lots, including access for emergency vehicles.

 

c)   If the street is a State-designated scenic highway, whether conditions should be imposed to preserve scenic features;

 

d)   Whether the lots are consistent with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan to discourage the development of residential lots with direct frontage on major streets and to preserve visual quality and rural character on major streets.

 

e)   Whether access to the new lots will conflict with existing nearby driveways, buildings, intersections, curves, or other physical features of the area.

 

f)   The sight distance from the proposed driveways.        

 

4.3.1       Conditions that may be imposed  

               As a result of consideration of the criteria in Sec. 4.3.2, the Planning Board may impose conditions or requirements on approval of a two-lot subdivision relating to the following:

 

a)   The number of driveways and their location;

 

b)   Creation of a common driveway;

 

c)   Landscaping to screen the lots from the street;

 

d)   Preservation of unique natural features such as trees or stone walls.

 

4.3.4       If the applicant proposes lots with frontage on an existing arterial or collector street, the Planning Board may require the applicant to submit alternate plans to demonstrate the feasibility of creating other types of subdivisions that would eliminate the need for lots fronting on arterial or collector streets. If the Planning Board finds that any such alternate plan is feasible, the Board has the authority to require the applicant to develop the property using an alternate plan.

 

4.3.5       If at any time in the future the original lot or any of the new lots is further subdivided for the purpose of development, the application shall be reviewed under the regulations that would apply if the subdivision consisted simultaneously of the original lot, previously-created additional lots, and the newly-proposed lots.

 

(Adopted 9/9/03, amended 1/13/09, 8/11/09, 10/12/10, 10/27/15)

 

 

 

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