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Township of Middle Smithfield, PA
Monroe County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
The purpose of the Conservation Development Option is to allow flexible development of areas with sensitive natural features in such a way as to:
A. 
Avoid severe soil erosion and sedimentation;
B. 
Avoid severely increased stormwater flows and speeds;
C. 
Steer development to those areas that are more physically suited for it;
D. 
Avoid construction of steep roads that are difficult, time-consuming and expensive to maintain and snowplow;
E. 
Avoid increased use of steep roads and driveways that are dangerous to drive upon in snow and ice;
F. 
Conserve forested areas that are an important part of the ecological cycle, providing for groundwater recharge, air pollution reduction and wildlife habitats;
G. 
Reduce construction costs;
H. 
Allow each property owner a reasonable use of his or her land, related directly to the natural features and location and accessibility of the land;
I. 
Provide for the preservation of significant areas of preserved open space; and
J. 
Recognize that groundwater supplies and the ability of the ground to treat sewage wastes are limited and may become overtaxed if the entire Township is developed in one-acre-minimum lots from end to end.
This article allows an applicant the option to reduce the minimum lot areas on a tract of land if the applicant proves, to the satisfaction of the Township, that all of the requirements of this section will be complied with. These provisions are intended to allow flexibility in the placement of individual dwelling units in order to locate homes away from important natural areas and other community assets and to preserve open space.
A. 
The term "conservation development" shall mean a residential development that meets the requirements of this section and which is approved as a conservation development.
(1) 
Uses. Except as specifically allowed otherwise, a conservation development shall only include the following uses: single-family detached dwellings, conservation open space, Township-owned recreation and their customary permitted accessory uses. A mobile/manufactured home shall not be allowed in a conservation development, and a mobile/manufactured home park shall not qualify as a conservation development.
B. 
A tract may be eligible for approval for a conservation development if it includes a minimum of four acres of lot area in common ownership, except that such minimum shall be increased to 10 acres in the RR District. Such land area shall be contiguous, except that portions of the tract may be separated only by existing or proposed streets or creeks. This chapter (Table of Use Regulations)[1] shall govern when a conservation development is allowed in a zoning district.
(1) 
The minimum amount of conservation open space shall be based upon the total tract area. However, only 50% of land area with slopes greater than 25% shall count towards the minimum amount of conservation open space. Only 50% of land area that includes wetlands shall count towards the minimum amount of conservation open space. Only 50% of land area that is within the one-hundred-year floodplain shall count towards the minimum amount of conservation open space. Therefore, for example, if 10 acres of conservation open space is required, the natural features of the proposed conservation open space must be considered. If the applicant proposed to meet this requirement with 10 acres of land with a slope of over 25%, that would be insufficient. This is because the 10 acres with a slope of over 25% would only be counted as being equal to five acres of conservation open space. As a result, the applicant would need to provide an additional five acres of conservation open space that does not have slopes greater than 25%, is not wetlands nor within the one-hundred-year floodplain.
(2) 
Areas that were preserved by a conservation or agricultural preservation easement prior to the submittal of the subdivision shall not be counted towards the tract area or adjusted tract area in calculating conservation open space or allowed density.
(3) 
Areas used for a principal nonresidential use (other than uses approved by the Township to be part of the conservation open space) shall not be included within the tract area used to calculate allowed density. Note: Other provisions of this section address when a golf course may be included in the conservation open space.
(4) 
Conservation easements shall be established on lots to prevent further subdivision, as necessary, to make sure that the maximum density requirement is met over time. Such conservation easements shall prevent the resubdivision of lots in a manner that would violate this section.
[1]
Editor's Note: The Table of Use Regulations is included at the end of this chapter.
C. 
A conservation development shall be designed as a unified, coordinated residential development and shall be approved within a development plan controlled by a single development entity. After final subdivision approval and within an approved development agreement(s), a developer may sell individual lots to different builders or home buyers, provided that the developer or his/her successor remains responsible for ensuring compliance with the approved development plan.
D. 
The application shall be provided to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for review of zoning compliance.
E. 
See the site design process in the SALDO chapter[2] to guide the applicant in the layout of the conservation development.
[2]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 170, Subdivision and Land Development.
A. 
Density bonuses.
(1) 
The maximum number of dwelling units allowed on the tract through conservation development shall be no more than 25% greater than would otherwise be allowed if:
(a) 
All dwelling units on the tract would be permanently limited in occupancy to at least one person age 55 and older, with no residents under age 18; or
(b) 
All dwelling units on the tract would be permanently limited to being time-share units that are owned by a minimum four different landowners, with no person residing on the premises more than 100 days per year, other than a manager and his/her family.
(2) 
The maximum number of dwelling units allowed on the tract through conservation development shall be no more than 10% greater than would otherwise be allowed if the amount of conservation open space equals at least an additional 10% of the adjusted tract area beyond what would otherwise be required. For example, if 50% conservation open space is required in a district, then the density may be increased by up to 10% if at least 60% conservation open space would be provided.
(3) 
Density bonuses in Subsection A(1)(a) and (b) above may be added together. Therefore, if a development qualifies for both density bonuses, then the maximum density would be 35% greater than would otherwise be allowed. The increase in density can be no higher than 35%.
B. 
Within a conservation development, except where specifically provided otherwise in this section, the only allowed dwelling units shall be single-family detached dwellings. The following minimum lot areas shall apply, provided that the total maximum density for the tract is not exceeded:
(1) 
"On-lot" means on-lot well and sewage systems; "W&S" means service by both Township-approved central water and sewage systems; "sf" means square feet.
Minimum Lot Areas
Zoning District
For Conventional Development: Minimum Lot Area Per Dwelling Unit*
(For information purposes. See actual requirements elsewhere in this chapter.)
For Conservation Development: Average Minimum Lot Area Per Dwelling Unit*
(For purposes of determining maximum number of dwelling units, see site capacity calculations in this chapter.)
For Conservation Development: Minimum Lot Area Per Dwelling Unit
(Without both W&S)
For Conservation Development: Minimum Lot Area Per Dwelling Unit
[With either central sewer (Alternative 1) or both W&S (Alternative 2)]
For Conservation Development: Minimum Percentage of Total Tract Area Required To Be In Conservation Open Space
RR Rural Reserve District
5 acres
2 acres
1 acre**
21,780 square feet
50%
R1 Residential Density
2 acres
1 acre
32,670 square feet**
Alternative 1: 21,780 square feet
50%
Alternative 2: 15,000 square feet
R2 Residential District
1 acre without central W&S; 21,780 square feet with both W&S
1 acre without W&S; 15,000 square feet with both W&S
32,670 square feet**
Alternative 1: 21,780 square feet
50%
Alternative 2: 10,000 square feet
NOTES:
*
The maximum number of dwelling units on a tract of land shall be determined based upon the adjusted tract area as provided for elsewhere in this chapter. [Note: To determine the adjusted tract area, percentages of certain features of land are deleted, such as percentages of areas with very steep slopes. The resulting land area is then divided by the minimum lot area (or multiplied by a maximum number of units per acre) to determine the number of allowed dwelling units on the tract.] When determining the minimum lot area per dwelling unit in a conservation development, the required conservation open space is not deducted from the adjusted tract area. The requirement of the adjusted tract area as provided for elsewhere in this chapter is in addition to proving that each lot meets the minimum lot area requirement (which does not by itself require consideration of adjusted tract area).
**
See the subsection below concerning lot sizes and location requirements for septic and sewage systems.
C. 
Reduction of setbacks and lot widths.
(1) 
The following minimum lot widths shall apply for single-family detached dwellings within a conservation development:
Required Minimum Lot Area
(square feet)
Minimum Lot Width at Minimum Front Yard Setback Line
(feet)
43,560 or larger
150
21,780 to 43,559
120
15,000 to 21,779
100
10,000 to 14,999
70
(2) 
The following minimum yards shall apply for single-family detached dwellings within a conservation development:
Required Minimum Lot Area
(square feet)
Minimum Yard Widths
(feet)
Front
Each Side
Rear
43,560 or larger
40
20
40
21,780 to 43,559
30
15
40
15,000 to 21,779
30
15
30
10,000 to 14,999
30
10
20
D. 
Attached dwellings in a conservation development.
(1) 
In the R1 or R2 Residential Districts, in addition to single-family detached dwellings, townhouses and duplex dwellings shall also be allowed if they will be served by Township-approved central water and central sewage services. In such case, the townhouses and duplex dwellings shall meet the requirements that are listed in the Table of Area and Dimensional Requirements for Certain Residential Uses in this chapter, except that the following additional requirements shall apply:
(a) 
In the R1 district, a minimum of 75% of the total tract area shall be permanently preserved in conservation open space. To determine the maximum density within the subdivision or land development, the adjusted tract area as calculated by this chapter shall be divided by 32,670 square feet to determine the maximum number of dwelling units.
(b) 
In the R2 district, a minimum of 60% of the total tract area shall be permanently preserved in conservation open space. To determine the maximum density within the subdivision or land development, the adjusted tract area as calculated by this chapter shall be divided by 21,780 square feet to determine the maximum number of dwelling units.
E. 
Utilities. Any lot of less than 32,670 square feet shall be served by Township-approved central sanitary sewerage service. While a central water system is recommended for lots less than 32,670 square feet, they are not required until lots are less than 1/2 acre (21,780 square feet).
(1) 
A community septic system drain field shall not be allowed within the conservation open space. Said system must be located on a separate lot that is owned by a community association made up of those lots that are served by the community system. The system shall be professionally operated and maintained, with each homeowner legally bound to fund such system.
(2) 
Community water supply wells may be located within the conservation open space. Proper easements shall be required if any community well will be within the conservation open space.
(3) 
Spray irrigation or drip irrigation for a community sewage system may be located within the conservation open space, provided the system is professionally operated and maintained.
(4) 
Land occupied by a wastewater or water supply treatment plant or storage tank or treatment lagoon shall not be located in the conservation open space. Said facilities must be located on a separate lot that is owned by a community association made up of those lots that are served by the community system.
F. 
Conservation development shall not be combined with transfer of development rights.
G. 
Subdivision of only part of a tract. This subsection addresses a situation in which only part of a lot is proposed to be subdivided, and the applicant at the present time does not intend to subdivide for the maximum number of dwellings allowed by this chapter. In such case, the applicant shall provide sufficient conservation open space that corresponds to the portion of the tract that is being used to meet this ordinance requirements.
(1) 
See the SALDO chapter,[1] which may allow the required open space to be retained as part of the parent tract, using a conservation easement.
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 170, Subdivision and Land Development.
(2) 
The land under the conservation easement shall be a regular shape, such as a rectangle, and shall be located in such a manner as to allow it to adjoin land that could be added under a conservation easement in the future.
(3) 
For informational purposes only: The following hypothetical example assumes a lot includes 50 acres, and the calculations under this chapter determine that the applicant for a conservation development is allowed a total of 30 new dwellings. In this example, the applicant only wishes to subdivide lots for 10 new dwellings at the present time, which is 1/3 of the total number of allowed dwellings. In this example, 25 acres of conservation open space would have been needed if the entire tract was developed as single-family detached units. Because only 1/3 of the allowed dwelling units are being approved, then the conservation easement at this time would only need to apply to 1/3 of 25 acres, which is 8.25 acres. The 8.25 acres under the conservation easement would need to be placed on the tract at a location where it could be joined by the remaining 16.75 acres of land under a conservation easement if the applicant in the future decided to subdivide lots for the remaining 20 dwelling units that are allowed.
A. 
The applicant shall prove that the conservation open space will be suitable for its intended purposes and will comply with the conservation open space requirements.
B. 
The applicant shall prove that the proposed conservation development has been designed in full consideration of important natural features, including mature woodlands, creek valleys, steep slopes and wetlands. The applicant shall demonstrate that the site layout was prepared following the four-step design process as provided in the SALDO chapter.[1]
(1) 
At a minimum, the applicant shall prove that areas along perennial creeks shall be preserved in their natural state, except for landscaping, erosion control improvements, public recreation improvements and needed utility, street and driveway crossings.
(2) 
The natural features of the site shall be a major factor in determining the location of dwelling units and streets.
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 170, Subdivision and Land Development.
A. 
Conservation open space uses and design. Conservation open space shall meet the requirements for conservation open space in the SALDO chapter.[1] Land used to meet the requirements for the minimum amount of conservation open space shall also comply with all of the following standards:
(1) 
A conservation development is not required to meet the common open space land or recreation fee requirements of the SALDO chapter.
(2) 
Conservation open space shall be permanently deed-restricted or protected by an appropriate conservation easement to prevent the following: construction of buildings (other than as necessary to support maintenance of the open space or agricultural uses); use for any commercial purposes, other than agricultural uses or a golf course; or clear-cut forestry.
(3) 
Land approved as conservation open space shall only be used for noncommercial active or passive recreation, a Christmas tree farm, a golf course, a nature preserve, a wholesale plant nursery and/or Township-approved agricultural uses. Areas occupied by any buildings or parking lots shall not count towards the minimum conservation open space. In order for a Christmas tree farm or a wholesale plant nursery to count as the minimum open space, trees must be regularly replanted.
(4) 
The Township may require the use of conservation easements within a conservation development to limit the disturbance of natural slopes over 15%, wetlands, mature forests, creek valleys and other important natural features.
(5) 
Lots and open spaces shall be located to promote pedestrian and visual access to preserved open spaces whenever possible.
(6) 
Conservation open space shall not permit the use of motorized off-road recreational vehicles or firearm target ranges.
(7) 
Underground utility rights-of-way and easements may be located within the conservation open space. Aboveground electric transmission rights-of-way and street rights-of-way may traverse conservation open space but shall not count toward the minimum required conservation open space.
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 170, Subdivision and Land Development.
B. 
Conservation open space ownership. Land within a conservation development may be permanently preserved as public, semipublic or privately owned conservation open space.
(1) 
The Township shall only approve a conservation development if the applicant proves there will be an acceptable method to ensure permanent ownership, preservation and maintenance of land that will not be included in individual home lots.
(2) 
The method of ownership, use and maintenance responsibilities of conservation open space shall be determined prior to final subdivision or land development approval and shall be acceptable to the Township. Required conservation open space shall be owned by one or a combination of methods that is authorized by the SALDO chapter.
(3) 
Legal documents providing for ownership and/or maintenance of conservation open space shall be reviewed by the Township Solicitor and be subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors prior to approval and recordation of the final plan.
See provisions limiting alteration of steep slopes in the SALDO chapter.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 170, Subdivision and Land Development.
A conservation development shall have an interior street system that serves all lots/units within the conservation development.
The development shall include a phasing system that shall be approved by the Board of Supervisors. Such phases shall ensure that the requirements of this section would be met after the completion of any one phase and that the development could properly function without the construction of additional phases.
The Township may require that the developer provide a nonmotorized trail easement and/or construct a trail through conservation open space. If a developer is required to install a trail, it shall be completed prior to the final sale of any adjacent residential lots.