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How scarce is developable land? by Pat Dunlavey, July 2008 an imperative for smart growth.

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Presentation on theme: "How scarce is developable land? by Pat Dunlavey, July 2008 an imperative for smart growth."— Presentation transcript:

1 How scarce is developable land? by Pat Dunlavey, July 2008 an imperative for smart growth

2 What got me started… “Depending on how you do the calculations we have already protected between 48.9% and 81% of town” – an opposing the proposed wetlands bylaw “…restrictions on development, especially in Williamstown, limit the number of families and add pressure on the residential tax base.” – Mt Greylock Long Range Financial Planning Committee Report

3 Protected Land Land that is (permanently) excluded from residential or commercial development for purposes of agriculture, conservation or recreation Upland Conservation District Protected Open Space * Hopkins Forest and Clark Art are not actually protected, but we’re counting them anyway

4 Constraint CategoryArea in CategoryArea AddedArea Accumulated acrespercentacrespercentacrespercent Protected Open Space8,19727%8,19727%8,19727% Town Owned Open Space1,3595%1,3595%9,55632% Hopkins Forest1,990*7%1,9907%11,54638% Clark Art Inst.1270%1270%11,67339% Upland Conservation District11,58939%4,25514%15,92853% 53% of Williamstown is protected * within Williamstown

5 What about “space for people?” We have 1.7 acres of non-protected land per-capita. (1) We rank 135 th out of 351 towns in this measure. (2) If we omit WC students, we have 2.2 non- protected acres per-capita, ranking 116 th in the state. 1.Clark Art and Hopkins Forest were counted as protected open space census figures; protected open space data for other towns from MassGIS, 2008

6 1998 UMass Build Out AnalysisDunlavey 2008 v1 Coverage Acres Removed % of Total Acres Removed % of Total Williamstown, Massachusetts30,005Land- Rivers Protection Act 100' Buffer1,4365%9913% Surface water and 100 year floodplains30%6382% Wetlands Buffered to 100'80%2811% Chapter 61B Recreation Land*1561%00% Solid Waste Facilities1110%370% Slope Greater than 20%16,43655%13,65145% Permanently Protected Open Space2,2798%2,91210% Developed Land2,5318%2,4758% Roads1350%980% Upland Conservation Overlay District1,1134%8803% Removed Land24,20881%21,96373% Net Usable Land Area (NULA)5,79719%8,04227% * Doesn't include Waubeeka Golf Course And the 81% “protected” figure ?

7 What is a Build Out Analysis? Quantify the impacts of various constraints, individually and in combination, on potential for (expansive) growth in each zoning district Forecast growth trends Project build-out dates for various zoning districts Identify zoning that does not match demands for growth (too little - or too much - capacity)

8 The Parts of the UMass BOA “Net Usable Land Area” in various zoning districts (Total area – “unusable” areas) Land area that is partially constrained Calculation of number of units that could, in theory, be built (before each zone is “built-out”) Forecast future build rates, and project build-out dates for each zone Conclusions

9 NULA: UMass 1998 vs Dunlavey 2008 (v1) UMass 1998 Dunlavey 2008

10 46% of Williamstown has slopes >= 20% (13,915 acres out of 30,005); 38% has slopes >= 24% (11,456 acres) [Slope (Percent)]=tan(deg2rad(slope([DEM (Meters)],3)))*100 SELECT * FROM [Slope (Percent)] WHERE [Height (I)] >= 20 SELECT Count(*) * as Acres FROM [SelectedAreaImage] WHERE [Selection (I)]

11 Average Site Area Slope 8% or less 10% 12% 14% 16% 18% 20% 22% 24% or more Maximum Impervious Coverage 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% (zoning bylaw; development standards; environmental protection) (4) Impervious coverage. (a) Except in the Village Business District, which is exempt from this limitation, impervious coverage shall not exceed the following percentages of site area, where "impervious coverage" is the area covered by building roof area plus paved areas, "site area" is the smallest single rectangle enclosing the area within which ground vegetation is removed for excavation, grading, drives, lawns or gardens and average slope is measured prior to site preparation.

12 30% of this site area has impervious cover (roof, paved driveway). Average slope in the site area as delimited here is 25% With these numbers, according to our bylaw, this house and driveway should not have been built!

13 But add a bit of lawn to the plan to increase regulated site area, dropping impervious cover to 20%, and average slope to 20% (Note that impervious cover outside of the property is counted)

14 site and disturbed area boundaries are not accurate

15 Two problems with impervious cover bylaw Objective is unclear –Much latitude for gaming the regulation –Given enough available site area, you can build on almost any slope – favors large sites Off-parcel impervious cover counts if it’s in the site area –Neighbor’s activity may limit the amount of impervious cover you can have on your land, and vice-versa. –Partial solution: regulated site area = site area intersected with parcel boundary

16 Calculated area is high by ~3,000 acres Counting local slopes over 20% as unbuildable does not make sense –We have examples of developments approved with local slopes well over 24%. –A site area with 20% average slope may have up to 20% impervious cover, yet the UMass study says it is unbuildable. The UMass study’s unbuildable slopes - problems with accuracy and rationale…

17 Area with slopes >= 20% 5m resolution DEM No filter No inner-buffer 13,915 acres

18 Area with slopes >= 24% 5m resolution DEM No filter No inner-buffer 11,456 acres

19 Area with slopes >= 24% 5m resolution DEM Median filtered (5x5; ten passes) Inner-buffered 25 meters 8,942 acres

20 Other 100% Constraint Categories Roads Developed Land Protected Open Space River Protection Act 100’ Buffer 100 Year Floodplain Surface Water, Wetlands, Wetlands Buffer Upland Conservation District

21 Protected Open Space Town-owned: 1,359 acres Other owners: 8,197 acres Unprotected Open Space Hopkins Forest: 1,990 acres* Clark Art Institute: 127 acres * within Williamstown

22 Upland Conservation Overlay District 11,589 acres

23 Hydro constraints… Surface water: 361 acres RPA 100’ Buffer: 991 acres 100 Year Floodplains 1,056 acres

24 All 100% Constraint Categories 20,846 acres NULA = 9,159 acres, or 31%

25 Constraint CategoryArea in Category Area AccumulatedArea Added acrespercentacrespercentacrespercent Roads4181%4181%4181% Developed Land3,10410%3,28911%2,87110% Protected Open Space*8,19727%11,39138%8,10227% Surface Water (Pond, River, Wetland)3611%11,66739%2761% Upland Conservation District11,58939%17,40958%5,74319% Hopkins Forest1,9907%18,57762%1,1684% Clark Art Inst.1270%18,67762%1000% RPA 100' buffer9913%19,13664%4592% 100 Year Floodplains1,0564%19,41765%2811% >24% slope (-25m buffer)8,94230%20,37168%9543% Town Owned Open Space1,3595%20,84669%4752% Remainder (NULA) 9,15931% NULA: Dunlavey 2008 (v2) * Excluding town-owned

26 Development Potential in NULA Total Parcels Unbuilt TotalAcres ,159 Max ANR LotsMax SubDivLots w/Frontage Max SubDivLots 9602,5573,575

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29 BOA: Partial constraints in RR2 Rivers FloodTempWaterAquifer ZoneProtectionZone 2Zone AOpenResrcProtectSlopeTOTAL 200' Buffer and AESpaceDistrictArea15-20District total acreage % constraint10% 90% 20% remaining area free of all constraints1561 sum of areas free to develop2992 Comments: 1.I don’t agree that “temporary open space” (Chapter 61 land) is a constraint – certainly not 90%. 2.Percent constraint values are not to be considered accurate or reliable. 3.“Area free of all constraints”: was it calculated by subtracting “remaining acres” from “sum of areas free to develop”? 4.“Sum of areas free to develop” is not demonstrated anywhere in the report – presumably it is total acres in zone minus 100% constraints in zone

30 Partial Constraints and Costs Slopes >= 15% 17,531 acres Water Resources Districts 1 & 2 (minus sewer buffer) 4,734 acres Wellhead Protection District 1,177 acres Stream buffers 9,284 acres RPA 200’ buffer 1,767 acres

31 Constraints have a cost dimension Cost Surface: 1.Slopes (proportional) 2.Water Resources Districts 1 & 2 (minus sewer buffer) 3.Wellhead Protection District 4.RPA 200’ buffer + Stream 100’ buffers

32 Subdivided Lots New growth records from 1996 to 2007 with property class of 130 or 132 (new residential lot) joined to the parcels map of 2004

33 The cost surface model correlates with where new subdivision happened ActualCountAvg Modeled CostStDev Subdivided Not Average modeled cost on 22 new subdivided parcels compared with all other parcels in NULA t=3.58, df=22.78, p<0.002 Modeled cost on parcels showing new growth compared to those without (in NULA) ActualCountAvg Modeled CostStDev New growth Not t=1.51, df=286, p<0.2 (It doesn’t predict where overall new growth happens)

34 Brightest Red = parcels whose modeled development cost is less than the 10 year average of actual subdivided parcels 25% of NULA has a modeled constraint cost under the observed average for the subdivided parcels Total Parcels Unbuilt TotalAcres ,318 Max ANR LotsMax SubDivLots w/Frontage Max SubDivLots ,233

35 Ch61 Acres within NULA: 3,384 (37%) Subtracting Ch61 from NULA… Chapter 61 Land (2007) 7,060 acres Total Parcels Unbuilt TotalAcres ,307 Max ANR LotsMax SubDivLots w/Frontage Max SubDivLots 6251,6232,407

36 Lowest Hanging Fruit: Parcels <=1.155 in modeled constraint cost, minus Chapter 61 land Total Parcels Unbuilt TotalAcres ,335 Max ANR LotsMax SubDivLots w/Frontage Max SubDivLots Bright red = less than modeled cost Shades of pink = less than 1.7 modeled cost (one standard deviation)

37 Mount Greylock Long Range Financial Planning Committee Final Report says: “As there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is no such thing as free open space. It comes at a cost—that of forgone income. … As Mt. Greylock needs to face squarely the tradeoffs in its budget, so does the community need to face more squarely than it has the tradeoff between open space and the quality of municipal services, including education. If we as citizens want open space, as a majority in Williamstown clearly seem to, we must be willing to increase revenue by other means.”

38 Chapter 61 Land = Open Space Most of the value that has recently been taken out of the tax base is through Chapter 61 tax shelters for working land, not permanently protected Open Space It is not a community decision to shelter working land from taxation It is not community policy to provide these tax shelters Chapter 61 land is private land in every sense of the word – it is not open space

39 What is Chapter 61 about? We reward people for not developing their working land –Neutralizes financial pressure to convert agriculture, forestry and recreation lands to residential use –But, tax burden is shifted to other property owners Does not foreshadow intention of property owner with respect to future development –If you really wanted to save taxes and had no intention to ever “sell out” you would be better off to set up a permanent CR or APR –But Ch61 can be considered a cost factor against selling for development (you have to pay up to 5 years back taxes if you pull out)

40 Development-potential: Four scenarios + BOA Development Potential in NULATotal Parcels Unbuilt ParcelsAcres Lots buildable with ANR Maximum subdividable lots on parcels w/frontage Maximum total subdividable lots Entire NULA , ,5573,575 Excluding Chapter 61 Land , ,6232,407 ‘Low cost’ parcels only185732, ,233 ‘Low cost’ and excluding Ch , UMass BOA2,0321,546

41 A little reality check… What zoning and other constraints allow does not mean it will happen quickly, or even at all! Build Out Dates from UMass study: –RR2: 2175 –GR1: 2089 –GR2: 2348

42 Why so slow? If constraints and costs were inhibiting growth in the face of real demand, shouldn’t we expect to see the lowest hanging fruit go more quickly? (There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit out there.) But the difference in subdivision rates, correlated to the cost surface, does suggest some degree of market sensitivity to costs/constraints, which should reduce the rate of new development. Dumb answer: It’s probably a combination.

43 What is this “growth imperative?” 1.Levies (to fund town, schools) need to increase ~$500K/year to maintain services, or about 4.5% 2.Proposition 2½ restricts increasing tax revenues from the existing tax base to 2.5% annually - new growth exempted 3.To the extent that we can cover this shortfall with new growth, we’re happy 4.~$17M in annual new growth can cover the average budget shortfall Result: a certain rate of new growth becomes a political imperative

44 New growth = increases in property value due to actions of the owner Improvements to existing buildings (decks, pools, remodeling, finish attic or basement, tear-down and rebuild, etc) Subdividing land New construction

45 Two kinds of residential growth Expanding out: –Build on unbuilt parcels –Subdivide and build on open land Mature growth – in the existing footprint: –Improvements (same density) –Infill (increase density) Low hanging fruit gets harder to reach Higher environmental impact Changes community to an “exurban” model Sustainable over long term Lower environmental impact Maintains relationship between village and countryside

46 New growth = free money Proposition 2½ assumes that new growth produces offsetting costs (which explains the exemption for new growth) The growth imperative relies on growing in a way that doesn’t generate new costs –Expensive retirement and 2 nd homes (on large lots) = ‘good’ –Family-friendly growth = ‘bad’ Even if successful in short-term, relying on expansive growth is a questionable strategy for the long run –As low hanging fruit is depleted, costs inhibit further demand –Changes community character

47 New growth valuations 1998 to 2007 Subdivisions averaged19% of annual new growth Could we satisfy “the growth imperative” without expansive growth?

48 This slide show can be downloaded at


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