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County officials mull flexible subdivision ordinance

Article Date: 
13 September, 2013 (All day)

In the absence of ordinances long since repealed, Morgan County officials are considering a new flexible subdivision ordinance that would make way for the clustering of building lots and preservation of open space.
Charlie Ewert, Morgan County planning and development services department director, administered a survey to both the Morgan County Council and Morgan County Planning Commission asking for their input on new subdivision options.
Such options could appeal to a hypothetical land owner who has zoning for 20 homes, but a portion of his property is on a steep, undevelopable hillside.  Using a flexible ordinance could allow him to preserve the hillside as open space, and still get building rights for the 20 homes that would be clustered on smaller lots. 
The now defunct PUD and PRUD county ordinances allowed for such, but have since been repealed.
“Clustering density for open space is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on who you are and what you want to see in your environment,” Ewert said.
The survey posed questions to the council and planning commission about private lanes, minimum and maximum lot sizes, flag lots, gated communities, maximum road lengths, minimum project size, light pollution controls, hillside and ridgeline protection, bonus density and road standards.
Central to the question, and a sticking point in developments that used the PUD and PRUD, is who would maintain the open space and private roads.  
“The conservation easement in the previous ordinance wasn’t working,” said Council Chairwoman Tina Kelley.  “I understand viewshed protection.  But if you want your view protected, buy the property yourself.”
Kelley also noted that a number of subdivisions with deteriorating private roads have come before the council asking for the county to accept and maintain the roads.
“The roads are not in the condition we want to take on,” she said.
The council leaned away from accepting more private or public parks, but expressed some interest in allowing gated communities.
“I don’t want horrible, unintended consequences,” Councilman Ned Mecham said.  
Ewert said the current subdivision ordinance could be amended to address flexible options, rather than creating a whole new ordinance.