Warrant Article to Outline Proposed Conservation Subdivision

There will be two public hearings

By Andover Planning Board

 Suppose that you are the owner of a hypothetical 20-acre parcel in rural Andover and you wish to subdivide and develop that buildable parcel in a way that maximizes your financial return for housing development.

Today’s subdivision ordinance would tend to steer such a 20-acre landowner towards creating a “suburban” housing development of 10 two-acre lots. The Andover Master Plan points out that this kind of uniform-density development is not desirable from the viewpoint of preserving Andover’s appearance and character as a charming New England town. 

It is also true that this type of development can have negative consequences in terms of wildlife habitat, water quality, public services and maintenance costs, and non-local energy and resource consumption, as well as impacting natural spaces for outdoor activities such as forestry, hunting, and hiking, to name just a few.

Conservation Subdivisions offer an alternative way that a landowner/developer could realize an equally attractive financial return, but avoid the negative consequences of uniform-density “suburban” development. It also potentially lowers municipal expenses per residence (such as snow plowing) while strengthening the Town’s tax base and encouraging types of high-quality housing development suitable for young families.

The hypothetical 20-acre parcel could be developed in a number of different ways, but here is one scenario that illustrates how Andover’s proposed Conservation Subdivision guidelines can increase the maximum development potential, while also safeguarding qualities of concern in the Master Plan.

One Scenario

To begin with, the 20-acre parcel would be subdivided in such a way that 12 acres would be placed under permanent protection, to preserve the parcel’s most valuable natural environment, views, etc. If done correctly, this would increase the number of potential housing units to 11, situated on the remaining eight acres. 

One or two more housing units could be added, upon review by the Planning Board, by meeting the new regulation’s standards for energy efficiency, locally-sourced natural materials and labor, enhancing public hiking trails, etc.

The proposed Conservation Subdivision warrant article will have two public hearings, and copies of the warrant article’s language will be made available for inspection at the Andover Town Hall in the coming months.

While living in a Conservation Subdivision may not appeal to everyone, it will be attractive to many people. It combines having neighbors within reach with the privacy of undeveloped land all around.