New home construction in large subdivisions in the Adirondack Park would be friendlier to wildlife, forests and water quality under legislation introduced by Assembly Conservation Committee Chairman Steve Englebright.
Four Adirondack conservation groups are praising the introduction of a bill that would amend the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Act to require conservation-oriented design for large subdivisions in the Adirondack Park. The Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Council, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve and Protect the Adirondacks support the legislation, calling it the most important set of reforms to the APA Act since it’s enactment in 1971.
Conservation subdivision design seeks to prevent rural sprawl from large-lot subdivisions that fragment forest lands through road construction, house construction and utility corridors. Conservation-design subdivision seeks to protect ecosystem functions, wildlife corridors, and forest systems, while minimizing human-wildlife conflicts.
This legislation would require that all projects of five lots or more on lands classified as Resource Management (areas zoned for a maximum of 15 principal buildings per square mile), 10 lots or more in areas zoned Rural Use (areas zoned for a maximum of 75 principal buildings per square mile), and 25 or more lots in areas zoned Low Intensity (areas zoned for a maximum of 200 principal buildings per square mile) will require conservation design standards.
The first step in this new process is an ecological assessment of the proposed subdivision lands. The second step is the preparation of an “ecological preservation and forest stewardship plan” prepared by a qualified expert. Once the assessment and the preservation plan are completed, the subdivision will be planned to cluster roads and building locations in areas with the least ecological impacts and in a way that protects forest lands.
This legislation does not change zoning densities under the APA Act, but requires that 75% of lands in subdivisions that require conservation design must be sustained as open space forest lands.
Conservation-design subdivision planning has long been recognized across the U.S. as the gold standard for rural subdivision and land use planning. Conservation subdivision design yields more than ecological benefits, advocates say, including requiring less infrastructure construction and maintenance.
Illustrations: Above, The final design for the 1,100 acre subdivision around Hines Pond and Woodworth Lake; and below, Side-by-side comparison of original subdivision plan in the Town of Horicon (left) and the Conservation Subdivision Design approved by the APA (right), illustrations provided by Protect the Adirondacks.