2008-11-13 / News

Commission considers conservation zoning

By Sam Bari

When conservation planner Randall Arendt spoke at the Nov. 3 Conservation Commission meeting, he emphasized the importance of involving conservation planning methods in Jamestown's zoning and planning ordinances to preserve the desirable features that will quickly disappear from the island if steps are not taken to control the use of land.

Mark Baker, chairman of a conservation sub-committee assigned to study the merits of conservation planning and how Jamestown can benefit from the technique, arranged for Arendt to address the Conservation Commission at its Monday meeting.

Arendt, who described himself as a conservation planner, " . . . which means I'm a town planner with a conservation bias," spoke to the commissioners and answered questions for nearly two hours on the methodology, implementation, and benefits of conservation-minded zoning and planning.

Specifically, he introduced methods of controlling population density and preservation of open space through planning techniques that are supported by zoning ordinances.

"Conservation zoning is what makes us honest with our comprehensive plans," Arendt said. "Comprehensive plans talk about a lot of green things and wonderful visions, but they are nothing more than nice documents when people want to build. Zoning is what really controls development."

Chairman Chris Powell asked how the commission could be involved when writing zoning ordinances was not in the commission's jurisdiction.

Baker suggested that the commission actively contribute to the process of zoning ordinance revision by hiring a consultant to generate recommendations for conservation zoning specific to Jamestown. Then the commission could present the recommendations to the Planning Commission for consideration and inclusion in the current process of revising the zoning ordinances.

After discussion, the commissioners continued to listen to Arendt as he shed new light on alternatives to conventional planning. They agreed that making recommendations to the Planning Commission was more than a good idea; it was a necessary and prudent idea that would work in the best interests of preserving the valuable natural assets of the island.

Baker said that Arendt had written a recommendation for the town's zoning ordinances in 2004 that was funded by the Department of Environmental Management, but it wasn't clear what happened to the work. Baker said that since Arendt was familiar with the town's ordinances and needs, he would be the obvious choice to help the commission with recommendations to planning.

Baker clearly emphasized that he thought planning was doing a good job on a monumental task. He said that the recommendations to the Planning Commission should be introduced after they have finished with the downtown commercial district.

"I am not suggesting that our recommendations should confl ict with the work that planning is presently doing in any way," Baker said. "They are doing a marvelous job. Our suggestions should complement their efforts, and I think Randall could be a tremendous help in assisting us with this task," he added.

Baker said the commissioners " . . . should consider ways in which the zoning ordinances may be able to enhance environmental protection."

Chairman Powell said that planning was going to give the commission a copy of the ordinance draft when it was completed, so they (Conservation Commission) would have an opportunity to give some input.

The commissioners agreed to explore the costs of hiring Arendt as a consultant and discuss the matter further at the next meeting.

Randall Arendt is an author, lecturer, educator, and site designer specializing in land conservation through more compact development design. He is the author of numerous articles and four volumes on this subject.

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