Rural Cluster Subdivisions


The following outline for a rural cluster subdivision text amendment is the result of initial discussions and research. It should be understood that these are subject to change and are not complete and that the relationship between clustering and phasing has not bee fully explored.  The current schedule for processing this text amendment is to begin in April 2006, after the phasing of development is completed, and referred to the Planning Commission in April 2007. 


Many standards contained in the existing Rural Preservation Development (RPD) ordinance (Section 10.3.3) section also would be included in the new cluster subdivision ordinance. 


As these would be the standard "mandated" form of subdivision in the Rural Areas with unique standards, we are recommending that the name be changed from Rural Preservation Development to Rural Cluster Subdivisions.  


In order to expedite the review of the standards for Rural Cluster Subdivisions, staff is requesting policy direction on some of the key focus points early in this process. These key focus points are in italics. 


A.        Intent

Rural cluster subdivisions are intended to provide a more effective land use pattern that preserves and protects the County's scenic and natural resources, water supply resources, and agricultural and forestal land.  Cluster developments would be designed to minimize the amount of land used for residential development in order to maximize the amount of land that is available for these resources. Therefore, the preservation and protection of these resources are the principal objectives of these regulations and rural cluster subdivisions will be the primary method of subdivision in the Rural Areas. 


Focus Point: 

            The right to subdivide has not been altered; however, the intent of rural cluster subdivisions gives the protection of resources precedence over residential development.  This policy is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.


B.        No-build Areas

Areas that contain resources to be preserved and/or protected would be identified using the County's maps.  Construction of improvements to support the residential development such as residential structures, roads, drainfields, and driveways would be prohibited from these "no-build" areas.  The "no-build" areas would be included in the preservation parcel whenever possible.  


1.      Identify resources that will be preserved and protected from development, including prime, important and unique soils, critical slopes, debris flow areas, flood plains, public drinking water supply tributaries and watershed, public drinking water impoundments, historic and scenic settings, and natural resource areas within the parcel to be developed or adjacent to the parcel.  Areas that include these resources are no-build areas.

2.      Whenever possible, no-build areas will include areas adjacent to properties that are under easement (conservation, or similar) or that is a publicly owned land.

3.      No structures may be located within no-build areas.


Focus Point:

            As with current regulations, the number of lots that can be obtained is theoretical.  There are no guarantees that all properties will yield the maximum number of lots that could be achieved mathematically. 


C.        Preservation Parcel

Restricting residential parcels to a maximum size, rather than the current minimum size, inevitably results in more land that could be placed in preservation parcels.   Minimum size and/or minimum percentage restrictions for preservation parcels would not be practical, in all circumstances. 


1.      The preservation parcel and cluster lots will be located to minimize impacts on adjacent farming and forestry operations.

2.      A maximum of one preservation parcel per cluster subdivision.

3.      Avoid fragmentation of areas to be preserved.

4.      Preservation parcel to maximize to the extent possible the contiguity of other preservation parcels, areas under easement, parcels under easement, and publicly owned lands.

5.      Preservation parcel to incorporate no-build areas as much as possible.

6.      Recordation of the preservation parcel required with the first phase.

7.      No further subdivision of the preservation parcel will be allowed.

8.      Access provided to the preservation parcel required with the first phase.

9.      Preservation parcel shall count as one of the lots permitted on 12/10/80.

10.  One primary dwelling would be allowed on each preservation parcel.


Focus Points:

            One preservation parcel is recommended per cluster, as there would not be a minimum size for the preservation parcel and multiple preservation parcels containing dwellings could be used as estate lots.  

            As the importance of establishing the preservation parcel, consideration of when the recordation of the parcel would take place must be determined.  In addition, access to the preservation parcel should be a requirement of the first phase.   


D.        Cluster Parcels


1.      A maximum of two acres permitted for each cluster parcel.

2.      Cluster parcels sited to retain rural character, distance from farm operations, forestry operations, public roads, and other factors to minimize impact.

3.      Access and dwelling orientation shall be from internal road, unless it can be determined by the Zoning Administrator that the protection of resources contained in no-build areas would be served.

4.      No more lots than were permitted 12/10/80.

5.      No more than 20 cluster lots within a cluster subdivision.


Focus Points:

                        Under what circumstances would exceptions to maximum lot size be acceptable?

                        How many dwelling units should be permitted within a single cluster subdivision? The concerns regarding large clusters of residential units are the possible creation of a de facto village, traffic problems, and a possible demand for services. However, since clusters will be mandated, larger parcels or groups of parcels that form a cluster subdivision may have large numbers of potential lots.   A solution that may mitigate some of these concerns could be cluster "nodes" or groups of lots that could be permitted in a single cluster subdivision.  


E.  Exceptions

1.      Family Divisions

2.      Subdivisions of a minimum amount of acres, with no further divisions possible on the lots created after the adoption of this ordinance is being considered.  


Focus Points:

                     There are several variables to consider when determining whether a parent parcel should be subject to clustering:  the number of potential lots; the size of the preservation parcel that can be achieved; and the contribution of the resources within the no-build areas. The parent parcel would retain development rights. 


F.  Application


                 Mandatory pre-application conference to identify no-build areas; the applicant would need to prove that the requested number of lots would not exceed the number permitted on 12/10/80.

                 Preliminary Plat - all lots would need to be shown on the preliminary plat, regardless of the ability to record all the lots due to phasing

                 Final Plat - preservation parcel would need to be recorded with the first             phase


G.  Monitoring

            A monitoring process to track the cluster development/phasing would need to be established.



H.                Application Process

1.           Mandatory pre-application conference to identify no-build areas

2.           Preliminary Plat

-         Show all lots on the preliminary plat

3.           Final Plat

-         record preservation parcel with first phase




I.       Monitoring Process

                  A monitoring process must be established.



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