Neighborhood playgrounds endorsed during workshop

Friday, May 4, 2007
Photo by Clint Confehr Dr. Ray Wakefield, left, a member of the county planning commission, and Isaac Zimmerle, a home builder, discuss how subdivisions can be more user friendly.

Changes are being proposed for Marshall County regulations on housing subdivision standards as county leaders and local developers are working together to improve appearances and their bottom line.

They're not incompatible goals, according to Don Nelson, the county's building official who's organized an on-going series of workshops for the public, officials and businessmen since a seminar was conducted in Shelbyville.

"We're looking at ways of having user friendly subdivisions with open spaces so you don't have to drive your kids somewhere else to play," County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett said.

Open spaces provided in subdivisions can be as simple as a field for football, soccer, baseball, other field games or just flying a kite. They're frequently seen as amenities that may become the property of a homeowners association. Ownership, however, raised a question about property tax payments.

"Can a deal be cut for no tax on the green space so a homeowners association does not have to pay taxes," developer Isaac Zimmerle asked.

Liggett replied that state law would have to be researched. The several county commissioners, county officials, developers and others at the workshop discussed the issue, but had no solution that night.

"This is one of the reasons to have these -- to hammer these things out," Nelson said of the workshops that will continue and are open for public participation. No votes are taken during workshops, but officials deliberate ideas toward what may eventually become a decision.

Landscape architects and development specialists have advocated open space developments over other subdivision designs that, as they see it, isolate people who frequently find themselves having to drive everywhere, instead of walking.

Nelson and others presented a simplified explanation of an open space residential development design at the workshop. A developer with 100 acres might put 100 homes on 60 acres, and leave the balance of the land as a forest, or open field for a neighborhood playground.

With 100 homes on only 60 acres, the number of homes per acre could be calculated with the 100-acre figure to meet land use zoning codes, which may require one home per acre. However, such regulations will have to be changed for such development. It's the purpose of the workshops.

Advantages of having more homes on smaller lots include shorter pipes and other utilities, lower development costs and while homes are closer together, children can go somewhere nearby to play, instead of being driven by their parents.