[Added 3-28-1989 STM by Art. 3; amended 6-18-1990 STM by Art. 8; 6-4-1996 STM by Art. S4; 10-28-1997 STM by Art. S5; 4-26-1999 ATM by Art. 22; 10-15-2001 STM by Art. S8]
The purposes of this article, Conservation Subdivisions, are:
To encourage the permanent preservation of open space, agricultural and forestry land, other natural resources, including water bodies and wetlands, and historical and archeological resources;
To encourage a less sprawling and more efficient form of development that consumes less open land and conforms to existing topography and natural features better than a conventional or grid subdivision;
To protect the value of real property;
To promote more sensitive siting of buildings and better overall site planning;
To perpetuate the appearance of Marion's traditional New England landscape;
To facilitate the construction and maintenance of streets, utilities, and public services in a more economical and efficient manner;
To allow for greater flexibility and creativity in the design of residential developments.
The following terms shall have the following definitions for the purposes of this article:
- CONSERVATION SUBDIVISION
- A residential development in which the buildings are clustered together with variable lot sizes and frontage. The land not included in the building lots is permanently preserved as open space. A conservation subdivision is the preferred form of residential development in the Town of Marion.
- CONTIGUOUS OPEN SPACE
- Open space suitable, in the opinion of the Planning Board, for the purposes set forth in § 230-10.12 herein. Such open space may be separated by the road(s) constructed within the conservation subdivision. Contiguous open space shall not include required yards.
- A unit of real estate located in a single building on a single lot, where said building contains more than one but not more than four units of real estate located in one row of houses connected by common walls, and where are combined fee simple title to the unit and joint ownership in the common elements shared with other unit owners.
In accordance with the following provisions, a conservation subdivision project may be created from any parcel or set of contiguous parcels held in common ownership and located entirely within the Residence A, B, C or D Districts.
A conservation subdivision may be authorized upon the issuance of a special permit by the Planning Board. A pre-application meeting between the Planning Board and the applicant is strongly encouraged.
Applicants for a conservation subdivision shall file the following with the Planning Board at the appropriate times:
Seven copies of both a preliminary subdivision plan and a conservation subdivision sketch plan. One of the purposes of this submission is to determine the number of lots possible in the conservation subdivision.
Seven copies of the definitive conservation subdivision plan. The definitive conservation subdivision plan shall show: location and boundaries of the site, proposed land and building uses, lot lines, location of open space, proposed grading, location and width of streets and ways, parking, landscaping, existing vegetation to be retained, water supply, drainage, proposed easements, stormwater management systems, and methods of sewage disposal. The plan shall be prepared by a team including a registered civil engineer, registered land surveyor and a registered landscape architect.
An existing conditions plan. An existing conditions plan shall accompany the definitive conservation subdivision plan. The existing conditions plan shall depict existing topography, wetlands, water bodies and the one-hundred-year floodplain, all existing rights-of-way, easements, existing structures, location of significant features such as woodlands, tree lines, open fields or meadows, scenic views, watershed divides and drainage ways, fences and stone walls, roads, driveways and cart paths. The existing conditions plan shall also show locations of soil test pits and percolation tests with supporting documentation on test results. Applicants shall also include a statement indicating the proposed use and ownership of the open space as permitted by the bylaw.
The Planning Board may also require as part of the development plan additional information necessary to make the determinations and assessments cited herein. Applicants should refer to the Subdivision Rules and Regulations for provisions regarding preparation and submittal of plans.
Each development plan shall follow the design process outlined below. When the development plan is submitted, applicants shall be prepared to demonstrate to the Planning Board that this design process was considered in determining the layout of proposed streets, house lots, and contiguous open space.
Understanding the site. The first step is to inventory existing site features, taking care to identify sensitive and noteworthy natural, scenic and cultural resources on the site, any historical districts in the vicinity, and to determine the connection of these important features to each other.
Evaluating site context. The second step is to evaluate the site in its larger context by identifying physical (e.g., stream corridors, wetlands), transportation (e.g., road and bicycle networks), and cultural (e.g., recreational opportunities) connections to surrounding land uses and activities.
Designating the contiguous open space. The third step is to identify the contiguous open space to be preserved on the site. Such open space should include the most sensitive and noteworthy resources of the site, and, where appropriate, areas that serve to extend neighborhood open space networks. Open space shall be planned as large, contiguous areas whenever possible.
Location of development areas. The fourth step is to locate building sites, streets, parking areas, paths and other built features of the development. The design should include a delineation of private yards, public streets and other areas, and shared amenities, so as to reflect an integrated community, with emphasis on consistency with Marion's historical development patterns. The maximum number of house lots, compatible with good design, shall abut the open space and all house lots shall have reasonable physical and visual access to the open spaces.
Lot lines. The final step is simply to draw in the lot lines (if applicable).
The Planning Board encourages applicants for a conservation subdivision to modify lot size, shape, and other dimensional requirements for lots within a conservation subdivision, subject to the following limitations:
Lots having reduced area or frontage shall not have frontage on a street other than a street created by the conservation subdivision; provided, however, that the Planning Board may waive this requirement where it is determined that such reduced lot(s) are consistent with existing development patterns in the neighborhood.
At least 50% of the required side and rear yards in the district shall be maintained in the conservation subdivision.
The basic maximum number of dwelling units allowed in a conservation subdivision shall not exceed the number of lots which could reasonably be expected to be developed upon the site under a conventional plan in full conformance with all zoning, subdivision regulations, health regulations, wetland regulations and other applicable requirements. The proponent shall have the burden of proof with regard to the design and engineering specifications for such conventional plan.
The conservation subdivision may consist of any combination of single-family, two-family and townhouse residential structures. A townhouse structure shall not contain more than four dwelling units. The architecture of all multifamily buildings shall be residential in character, particularly providing gable roofs, predominantly wood siding, an articulated footprint and varied facades. Residential structures shall be oriented toward the street serving the premises and not the required parking area.
The principal roadway(s) serving the site shall be designed to conform to the standards of the Town where the roadway is or may be ultimately intended for dedication and acceptance by the Town of Marion. Private ways shall be adequate for the intended use and vehicular traffic and shall be forever maintained by an association of unit owners or by the applicant.
Each dwelling unit shall be served by two off-street parking spaces. Parking spaces in front of garages may count in this computation.
A minimum of 50% of the parcel shown on the development plan shall be contiguous open space. Any proposed contiguous open space, unless conveyed to the Town or its Conservation Commission, shall be subject to a recorded restriction enforceable to the Town, providing that such land shall be perpetually kept in an open state, that it shall be preserved for exclusively agricultural, conservation, forestry, educational or recreational purposes, and that it shall be maintained in a manner which will ensure its suitability for its intended purposes.
Purposes. Open space shall be used solely for agricultural, conservation, forestry, educational or recreational purposes by residents and/or the public. Where appropriate, multiple use of open space is encouraged. At least half of the required open space may be required by the Planning Board to be left in a natural state. The proposed use of the open space shall be specified in the application. If several uses are proposed, the plans shall specify what uses will occur in what areas. The Planning Board shall have the authority to approve or disapprove particular uses proposed for the open space.
Recreation lands. Where appropriate to the topography and natural features of the site, the Planning Board may require that at least 10% of the open space or two acres (whichever is less) shall be of a shape, slope, location and condition to provide an informal field for group recreation or community gardens for the residents of the subdivision.
Leaching facilities. Subject to the approval of the Board of Health, as otherwise required by law, the Planning Board may permit a portion of the open space to be used for components of sewage disposal systems serving the subdivision, where the Planning Board finds that such use will not be detrimental to the character, quality, or use of the open space and enhances the site plan. The Planning Board shall require adequate legal safeguards and covenants to insure that such facilities are adequately maintained by the lot owners within the development.
Accessory structures. Up to 5% of the open space may be set aside and designated to allow for the construction of structures and facilities accessory to the proposed use of the open space, including parking.
Wetlands. The percentage of the contiguous open space which is wetlands shall not normally exceed the percentage of the tract which is wetlands; provided, however, that the applicant may include a greater percentage of wetlands in such open space upon a demonstration that such inclusion promotes the purposes set forth in § 230-10.5A, above. In no case shall the percentage of contiguous open space which is wetlands exceed 50% of the tract.
Underground utilities. Underground utilities to serve the conservation subdivision site may be located within the contiguous open space.
Ownership of contiguous open space shall be governed by the following conditions:
Conveyance. The contiguous open space shall, at the developer's option and subject to the approval of the Planning Board, be conveyed to:
The Town of Marion, to be placed under the care, custody and control of the Open Space Acquisition Committee or its successor, or the Conservation Commission;
A nonprofit organization acceptable to the Town, the principal purpose of which is the conservation of open space and any of the purposes for such open space set forth above;
A corporation or trust owned jointly or in common by the owners of lots within the conservation subdivision. If such corporation or trust is utilized, ownership thereof shall pass with conveyance of the lots in perpetuity. The developer is responsible for the maintenance of the open space and other facilities to be held in common until such time as the homeowners' association is capable of assuming such responsibility. Maintenance of such open space and facilities shall be permanently guaranteed by such corporation or trust, which shall provide for mandatory assessments for maintenance expenses to each lot. Each such trust or corporation shall be deemed to have assented to allow the Town of Marion to perform maintenance of such open space and facilities, if the trust or corporation fails to provide adequate maintenance, and shall grant the Town an easement for this purpose. In such event, the Town shall first provide 14 days' written notice to the trust or corporation as to the inadequate maintenance, and if the trust or corporation fails to complete such maintenance, the Town may perform it. Each individual deed, and the deed or trust or articles of incorporation, shall include provisions designed to effect these provisions. Documents creating such trust or corporation shall be submitted to the Planning Board for approval, and shall thereafter be recorded.
Permanent restriction. In any case where open space is not conveyed to the Town, a permanent conservation or agricultural preservation restriction in accordance with MGL c. 184, § 31, approved by the Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen/Town Counsel and enforceable by the Town, conforming to the standards of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Division of Conservation Services, shall be recorded to insure that such land shall be kept in an open or natural state and not be built upon or developed for accessory uses. Restrictions shall provide for periodic inspection of the open space by the Town. A management plan may be required by the Planning Board, which describes how existing woods, fields, meadows or other natural areas shall be maintained in accordance with good conservation practices.
Encumbrances. All areas to be set aside as open space shall be conveyed free of any mortgage interest, security interest, liens or other encumbrances.
Monumentation. Where the boundaries of the open space are not readily observable in the field, the Planning Board may require placement of surveyed bounds sufficient to identify the location of the open space.
A buffer area of 100 feet shall be provided at the perimeter of the property where it abuts residentially zoned or occupied properties, except for driveways necessary for access and egress to and from the site. No vegetation in this buffer area will be disturbed, destroyed or removed, except for normal maintenance. The Planning Board may waive the buffer requirement for one of the following situations:
Where the land abutting the site is the subject of a permanent restriction for conservation or recreation so long as a buffer is established of at least 50 feet in depth which may include such restricted land area within such buffer area calculation;
Where the land abutting the site is held by the Town for conservation or recreation purposes;
The Planning Board determines that a smaller buffer will suffice to accomplish the objectives set forth herein.
The location of open space provided through this bylaw shall be consistent with the policies contained in the Local Comprehensive Plan and the Open Space and Recreation Plan of the Town. The following design requirements shall apply to open space and lots provided through this bylaw:
Open space shall be planned as large, contiguous areas whenever possible. Long thin strips or narrow areas of open space (less than 100 feet wide) shall occur only when necessary for access, as vegetated buffers along wetlands or the perimeter of the site, or as connections between open space areas.
Open space shall be arranged to protect valuable natural and cultural environments such as stream valleys, wetland buffers, unfragmented forest land and significant trees, wildlife habitat, open fields, scenic views, trails, and archeological sites and to avoid development in hazardous areas such as coastal and inland floodplains and steep slopes. The development plan shall take advantage of the natural topography of the parcel and cuts and fills shall be minimized.
Open space may be in more than one parcel, provided that the size, shape and location of such parcels are suitable for the designated uses. Where feasible, these parcels shall be linked by trails.
Where the proposed development abuts or includes a body of water or a wetland, these areas and the one-hundred-foot buffer to such areas shall be incorporated into the open space. Where it is appropriate, reasonable access shall be provided to shorelines.
The maximum number of house lots compatible with good design shall abut the open space and all house lots shall have reasonable physical and visual access to the open space through internal roads, sidewalks or paths. An exception may be made for resource areas vulnerable to trampling or other disturbance.
Open space shall be provided with adequate access, by a strip of land at least 20 feet wide, suitable for a footpath, from one or more streets in the development.
Where a proposed development abuts land held for conservation purposes, the development shall be configured to minimize adverse impacts to abutting conservation land. Trail connections shall be provided where appropriate.
Stormwater management shall be consistent with the requirements for subdivisions set forth in the rules and regulations of the Planning Board and shall comply with the requirements of the current edition of the Massachusetts Stormwater Management Handbook.
The Planning Board may approve, approve with conditions, or deny an application for a conservation subdivision after determining whether the conservation subdivision better promotes the purposes of § 230-10.1 of this Conservation Subdivision Bylaw than would a conventional subdivision development of the same locus.
The submittals and permits of this article shall be in addition to any other requirements of the Subdivision Control Law, or any other provisions of this Zoning Bylaw.
If any provision of this bylaw is held invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, the remainder of the bylaw shall not be affected thereby. The invalidity of any section or sections or parts of any section or sections of this bylaw shall not affect the validity of the remainder of Marion's Zoning Bylaws.