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Preserve and Protect Open Space

New development should be designed to minimize the amount of land consumed, and open space should be set aside from development for use as public parks or as greenbelts/wildlife corridors. Compact development ordinances are one way of encouraging this type of open space preservation.

Open space is broadly defined as natural areas that provide important community space, habitat for plants and animals, recreational opportunities, agricultural lands, places of natural beauty and critical environmental areas such as wetlands and mountain views.  Open space preservation enhances local economies and improves quality of life, by preserving critical environmental areas and guiding new growth into existing communities. Preserving open space can maintain the natural environment that contributes to a community's sense of place and regional identity. 

There are many ways a community may choose to preserve open space. Some of these include creating an open space preservation plan and purchasing land based on the plan, conservation subdivision ordinances, transfer of and/or purchase of development rights programs, conservation easements and other incentive programs for open space preservation.  Another approach for preserving rural open space outside of the towns and cities is to zone these areas for Agriculture, with a minimum allowable lot or parcel size of 40 acres.

Well-managed open space can become a tourist destination for hikers, mountain bikers, fishermen, hunters, bird-watchers and countless other groups.  Providing outdoor spaces improves quality of life for residents because they can get exercise, meet their neighbors and simply enjoy the outdoors.  Access to open space can also make a community more attractive and comfortable, making it a more desirable place to live and work.


Best Practice Examples - *UNDER CONSTRUCTION*

Walker County, in northwest Georgia, has worked for years to preserve expansive amounts of their beautiful, historic mountain terrain. McClemore Cove, reaching across many local and even state jurisdictional boundaries, is a collaborative accomplishment connecting nearly 20,000 acres of conservation lands that has been made possible through the Georgia Land Conservation Program, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Open Space Institute, Inc., Walker County, Georgia, and other partners.

Residents of the Chattahoochee Hill Country, a 40,000-acre area in south Fulton County, and land planning experts created a master plan to preserve the area’s rural character while accommodating future growth. The resulting comprehensive land-use plan and overlay district guidelines that were adopted by Fulton County concentrate future growth in three 750-acre high-density, mixed-use and pedestrian friendly villages. The plan was made possible when Fulton County adopted a transfer of development rights ordinance in April 2003. Within the Chattahoochee Hill Country, the receiving areas are the three villages.  Transfer of development rights (TDR) protects land by transferring development rights from a "sending" area that is being protected to a "receiving" area designated for growth. Conservation easements are placed on agricultural lands, while higher densities are allowed in developing areas. The agricultural landowner retains existing use rights and receives compensation for the land's development value. The public costs of purchasing the easements are recovered from developers who receive the density increases. TDR programs are typically managed at the county level because of zoning requirements.

The City of West Point, on the Chattahoochee River, is taking a different approach, choosing to map existing greenspace and publicly owned land, and then planning to fill in gaps through trails, sidewalks, and easements to create a citywide network of spaces.

How Can My Community Do This?

  • Identify highly valued open space, farmland or habitats in your comprehensive plan
  • Use a variety of financing techniques to preserve valued open space
  • Create a Transfer of Development Rights process
  • Support local agriculture through farmers markets
  • Adopt conservation subdivision ordinances for rural areas
  • Promote open space and farmland protection by zoning such areas with a minimum lot size of 40 acres
  • Identify green infrastructure corridors and amenities
  • Promote the use of conservation easements on private land
  • Create and support land trusts by community stewardship organizations

 Where To Get Help

  • The mission of American Farmland Trust is to help farmers and ranchers protect their land, produce a healthier environment and build successful communities.
  • The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national, nonprofit, land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, community gardens, historic sites, rural lands, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. 
  • Rural Clustering/Conservation Subdivision Sample Ordinance. Conservation subdivisions are residential or mixed-use developments in which a significant portion of the site is set aside as undivided, permanently protected open space, while houses are clustered on the remainder of the property. A Conservation Subdivision Ordinance authorizes the development of new conservation subdivisions on sites proposed by a developer, provided the development plans meet certain criteria specified in the ordinance.