Residential Open Space: Designation and Management Language of Florida’s Land Development Regulations

[tweetmeme Dara M. Wald  and Mark E. Hostetler of the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida have published a new paper titled „Conservation Value of Residential Open Space: Designation and Management Language of Florida’s Land Development Regulations.“ In the paper, they recognise that conservation value of open space depends upon the quantity and quality of the area protected, as well as how it is designed and managed. This study reports the results of a content analysis of Florida county Land Development Regulations. Codes were reviewed to determine the amount of open space required, how open space is protected during construction, the delegation of responsibilities, and the designation of funds for management. Definitions of open space varied dramatically across the state. Most county codes provided inadequate descriptions of management recommendations, which could lead to a decline in the conservation value of the protected space.

The introduction to this worthwhile paper reads:

Throughout the United States, sprawling development patterns consume excessive amounts of land and result in a pattern of haphazardly arranged, unplanned, car-dependent communities. Direct results of sprawl include increased pollution and congestion, the loss of farmland and open space, and the destruction of rare habitats. To combat sprawl, cities and counties are adopting new practices, policies, and solutions that minimize sprawl by emphasizing resource conservation and low impact development techniques as an alternative to conventional suburban development.

Florida is by no means immune to sprawl or its impacts. Over the next quarter century, an additional 12 million people will become Florida residents. This rapidly increasing human population will spark increased growth, demand for energy, water, and new homes. Florida communities have adopted a number of different methods to manage growth. Typically, these methods include regulations (e.g., required wetland protection) or incentives (e.g., increased development density for natural area protection). The Growth Management Act, adopted in 1985, is one example of a statewide regulatory mechanism designed to manage growth. The Act requires that each county and city in Florida implement a Comprehensive Plan that includes transportation and housing elements, as well as guidelines for the preservation and protection of open space. Florida state statutes require that cities and counties explain “specifically” in a “detailed” manner how they designate and regulate open space. To do this, cities and counties employ Land Development Regulations (LDRs), which explain how the land development elements, included in the comprehensive plan will be implemented locally.

Open space is one of the many elements addressed in county LDRs. Open space can include natural habitats such as forests, fields, and wetlands as well as areas for passive recreational activities such as biking and walking trails. The conservation value of open space is contingent on its design (i.e., the quantity or quality of habitat protected), impacts from nearby areas (e.g., subdivisions), and long-term management. Here, we define conservation value as protecting natural resources, such as wildlife habitat, water bodies (e.g., streams, lakes, and wetlands), and native plant communities. Policies regulating open space often focus solely on design while neglecting management. Without comprehensive policies requiring effective open space management, the conservation value of protected areas may be lost or degraded. Following a review of the challenges of conserving valuable open space, we provide examples of critical elements that maximize the conservation value of protected areas. Finally, we will use a content analysis to explore how Florida county LDRs address open space conservation. This content analysis will identify (1) how much open space is required by each county, (2) how open space is defined, and (3) how much open space management language is included in the LDRs. Because Florida statutes require that LDRs address open space, we expect each county to have a definition of open space. However, because the Florida statue is open to interpretation, we expect open space designation and management requirements to vary greatly between counties. The results of the content analysis will be used to develop an open space index and management index that will enable us to compare the extent to which open space designation and management elements are included in county policies.

Read the entire paper here in PDF format.

Citation: Wald D.M.,Hostetler M.E. Conservation Value of Residential Open Space: Designation and Management Language of Florida’s Land Development Regulations. Sustainability. 2010; 2(6):1536-1552


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