Growth and Development
Compact, cluster, or open space development is defined as a development pattern where buildings are concentrated in Priority Funding Areas to minimize infrastructure and development costs while still having the same number of buildings. Concentration of roads and other infrastructure, and reduced total lengths of these, will also reduce future maintenance costs. This approach allows for the preservation of natural open space, environmentally sensitive features, and valuable natural resources, such as agricultural lands (see prime farmland map later in this chapter). Currently, in the Coastal Bays watershed, land near Berlin and Showell are targeted areas for future growth, while Ocean City, West Ocean City, and Ocean Pines can expect infill of existing lots or conversion of existing structures.
Sustainable land management uses environmentally sensitive practices
Buildings consume nearly a third of America’s energy—much of it wasted— while land-use decisions influence another third by limiting choices for transportation. Development, therefore, can offer abundant opportunities for saving resources, reducing waste, and restoring damaged land. Future generations will be affected by today’s choices.
Existing regulations to protect wetlands, forests, shorelines, and other natural features are prescriptive and mainly negative (‘thou shall nots’), directing what should not be done. This established an unintentional path of least resistance leading to urban sprawl, traffic congestion, unnecessary environmental damage, and disjointed, disconnected communities. To create well-designed, sustainable, and diverse neighborhoods, a revised approach using simple, long-held principles of urban design is needed. Examples of these principles include the tradition of shop owners living above their businesses in urban areas, or walkable neighborhoods where children can safely reach schools away from traffic corridors.
Conservation development and low-impact site design will minimize land consumption, preserve open space, and improve community interaction to protect existing features as well as provide opportunities to restore damaged sites. Natural processes can be used to manage stormwater, energy consumption, and pollutant reduction. Architectural designs can reduce energy and non-renewable material consumption, while promoting a sense of place and cohesiveness.
Low Impact and Conservation Development
The seaside qualities of the Coastal Bays attract people, necessitating consideration of sustainable development principles. Low-impact development is the practice of using techniques in building and construction that minimize stormwater runoff and the effect that development will have on the quality of the surrounding environment.
Conservation development, also known as conservation design, promotes sustainable development while protecting the area’s natural environmental features in perpetuity, including preserving open space and view sheds, protecting farmland or natural habitats for wildlife, and maintaining the character of rural communities. A conservation development is usually defined as a project that dedicates a minimum of 50% of the total development parcel as open space. The management and ownership of the land are often formed as a partnership between private landowners, land conservation organizations, and local government. It is a growing trend in many parts of the country.
Development does not inherently damage the environment. However, its form and pattern must be designed to protect natural resources and processes. Today’s technology joined with improved scientific understanding and commitment to environmental protection can create more compatible and livable neighborhoods and communities. Using these basic principles and working with natural features, rather than considering them obstacles, can produce development that enhances the quality of life and our built environment.
Recommended model development principles for Worcester County
The Worcester County Local Site Planning Roundtable, made up of a diverse cross-section of local government, civic, nonprofit, environmental, homebuilding, development, and other community professionals, participated in a nine month long consensus process in order to recommend development principles for Worcester County. The consensus process reviewed existing development codes and identified regulatory barriers to environmentally sensitive residential and commercial development at the site level. Members adapted the National Model Development Principles to specific local conditions resulting in general and specific code and ordinance revisions that would increase flexibility for site design standards and promote the use of open space and flexible design development in Worcester County. The National Model Development Principles refined by the Worcester County Local Site Planning Roundtable meet the following objectives:
• Reduce overall site impervious cover.
• Preserve and enhance existing natural areas.
• Integrate stormwater management.
• Retain a marketable product.
A Shore for Tomorrow
Worcester County has been at the forefront of wise planning in Maryland and is actively promoting smart growth policies and regulations. A recent report by the Maryland Department of Planning—A Shore for Tomorrow— encourages Eastern Shore counties to maintain their traditional landscape and resource-based economies through proper planning and land management. In addition to illustrating growth trends over the last three decades, this report presents two future growth scenarios: “Current Policies” and “Smart Growth.” The purpose of these scenarios is to illustrate future growth alternatives resulting from different land management policies. The Shore is expected to add nearly 160,000 additional people over the next 25 years. This population will be more diverse than in the past, creating many challenges and opportunities for planning in the future. Eastern Shore citizens can evaluate which of the alternatives can better create the Eastern Shore they envision for the future.
What would Delmarva look like if it were completely developed according to current zoning regulations?
Due to the close geographic nature of Delmarva—which encompasses parts of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia—it is nearly impossible for the actions of one state or county to not affect neighboring areas. With rapid population increases in coastal communities, steps taken to promote sustainable planning practices are of utmost importance to successfully and simultaneously balance natural resources with future land use to ensure Delmarva’s long-term viability.
Coastal development, emergency preparedness, infrastructure planning, tourism, groundwater, agriculture, and wildlife habitat corridors are just some of the shared issues that cross state boundaries. Each state has different means for tackling these quality-of-life issues and there is a need for larger scale planning as well as opportunities for sharing technology and ideas. Responding to this need, in January 2005 the Maryland Coastal Bays Program gathered planners and elected officials from Sussex (DE), Worcester (MD), Accomack (VA), and Northampton (VA) Counties to convene the Delmarva Coastal Communities Planning Conference. There, the group shared both tools and needs and began brainstorming for what is now called the Delmarva Atlantic Watershed Network (Dawn)—a tri-state effort to create a technology network and promote regional collaboration among decision-makers on issues related to coastal conservation.
In 2007, Dawn gathered planning staff and more than 150 citizens from Sussex, Worcester, Accomack, and Northampton Counties and the Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Coastal Zone
Management Programs to determine what the region would look like at build-out if development continued under current zoning regulations. Maps were developed to visualize existing versus potential development density. Changes in nutrient inputs, land consumption, population, and even school enrollment were measured and shown graphically. These illustrations also provided a glimpse of what Delmarva could lose—prime agricultural soils, green infrastructure, and rare and endangered species’ habitats. Additional pollution inputs would further exacerbate water quality problems and losses of seagrasses and other living resources.
What came out of the efforts was the sobering fact that in just a few decades, with current laws, not much would be left of the Eastern Shore as we know it. With strong agricultural zoning and a comprehensive plan that keeps most new growth adjacent to existing infrastructure and out of forests, wetlands, and floodplains, Worcester County serves as the model to which to aspire. At build-out, Worcester County should have less than 100,000 full-time residents—about twice the current population. In stark contrast, Sussex County’s 223,000 (550,000 acres) have no agricultural zoning. At the permitted two lots per acre and after extracting wetlands, built lands, and protected lands, the county is facing a build-out of around 2 million residents sprawled across the county. This is more than 10 times its current population of 184,000 people. At its current pace, the county will lose close to 80% of its forests, 80% of its agricultural land, and is looking at a four-fold increase in nutrients over much of the western and northern parts of the county.
Maryland Department of Planning’s 10 Principles of Smart Growth
1. Mix land uses.
2. Take advantage of compact building design.
3. Create housing opportunities and choices.
4. Create walkable communities.
5. Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place.
6. Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas.
7. Strengthen and direct development toward existing communities.
8. Provide a variety of transportation choices.
9. Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost-effective.
10. Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions.
Sustainable Planning Recommendations
• Integrate open space requirements for new development with the green infrastructure plan to provide maximum wildlife connections.
• Require low-impact development techniques for new and re-development.
• Produce and adopt an illustrated development guidelines document.
• Require new development to meet ecological function and restoration goals.
• Include integrated pest management and xeriscaping into new development covenants and design guidelines. (Xeriscaping uses plants adapted to local conditions and other methods to minimize irrigation needs.)
• Ensure that all new county buildings are environmentally friendly by designating staff to facilitate the county’s adoption and implementation of a green building program.
• Foster the use of green building techniques in the private sector.