Planning commission halts ‘conservation subdivisions,’ reviews r - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Planning commission halts ‘conservation subdivisions,’ reviews regulations

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Stand of trees near proposed Covington By The Park subdivision Stand of trees near proposed Covington By The Park subdivision

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Louisville Metro Planning Commission has stopped reviewing “conservation subdivisions” in Jefferson County while it looks into whether regulations approved in 2008 achieve a goal of saving green space.

The move affects four subdivision applications, including a proposal near the Parklands of Floyds Fork that has drawn the ire of neighbors for its size and unauthorized logging. Covington By The Park envisions nearly 1,400 single-family homes on 448 acres off Taylorsville Lake Road south of Taylorsville Road.

The planning commission made the decision at its March 3 meeting, two days after Metro Councilman James Peden wrote a letter to the commission’s chairman questioning whether the regulations are “in fact accomplishing the objections and expectations we as (a) community initially set forth for them….”

The rules are meant to keep large swaths of land intact. A conservation subdivision must set aside at least 30 percent of a proposed project; in return for preserving land, developers can add more lots.

But as far back as 2009, when the city’s first such plan was approved, critics have questioned whether the designs meet the original intent of preserving land.

“It became quite apparent that all developers were doing, as far as green space goes, was utilizing steep slopes and karst ground in places they couldn’t build anyway,” Peden, R-23rd District, said in an interview.

“I was told by some planning commissioners what they envisioned was park space in the middle and flat ground in places to throw a ball with your kid and all of that – that’s not what you’re getting,” he said.

A task force that includes planning commission chairman Donnie Blake, Peden and representatives of neighborhood groups, developers and Metro government planning staff has begun reviewing the regulations and hopes to complete its work this summer.

“We really just need to tweak this thing,” Blake said.

He said one of the group’s first discussions was about which land features qualify for the minimum conservation requirement.

In general, developers may be open to better using open space and eliminating strips of land behind lots that “really don’t do anything more than serve as an extra buffer,” said Bill Bardenwerper, a land-use attorney on the task force.

In recent years, he said, nearly all of the proposed subdivisions in Jefferson County have sought to become conservation subdivisions.

Bardenwerper said he wouldn’t support increasing beyond 30 percent the amount of land that must be left untouched.

“We’ve got to be careful not to change it so much that no one’s going to use it anymore,” he said.

Developers of four conservation subdivisions have agreed to place their projects on hold. They include Covington By The Park; the 167-home Hidden Forest on Mt. Washington Road near Preston Highway; Hawthorne Woods, which proposes 215 lots on 86 acres off Independence School Road; and Fisher Farm, which calls for 204 lots on 70 acres.

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, Mayor Greg Fischer’s top economic development official, said the review is a “natural evolution.”

“They’re meeting the numbers, they’re meeting the letter of the law, but are we really seeing the kind of conservation and preservation of our green space, our open space, in the way that would be used by the folks that live in those communities?”

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