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Preserving natural features: A GIS-based evaluation of a local open-space ordinance

Publication Abstract

Taylor, J.J., Daniel Brown, and L. Larsen. 2007. "Preserving natural features: A GIS-based evaluation of a local open-space ordinance." Landscape and Urban Planning, 82(1-2): 1-16.

To study the influences of a local land-use policy on the preservation of natural features, two sets of ten local-scale landscapes, divided in time by a land-use policy shift in Fenton Township, Michigan, were examined. The new policy implemented a ‘sliding scale’ for open-space in all new developments within designated zoning classifications. Land-cover data were created to represent pre- and post-development conditions for twenty sites, ten developed before the policy was implemented, and ten after. The magnitudes of the mean change in landscape characteristics from pre- to post-development were compared for the before- and after-policy groups.

According to this analysis, the policy's objectives of preserving natural features and rural character were not fully achieved. This failure may be explained by a lack, within the policy, of several key points: a definition of natural features; a requirement that they shall be preserved; and a spatial context for design decisions. The only significant effect of the policy was that which was clearly defined by it—to increase open or non-developed space. Empirical observations and recommendations were presented to planning officials at Fenton Township. The open-space policy was subsequently updated, based on the findings of the presented research, in an attempt to achieve the broader policy objectives.

DOI:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2007.01.013 (Full Text)

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