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Voters have final say on zoning changes designed to preserve open space

WINDHAM — Voters at the polls in March will have the final say on a series of new zoning amendments intended to encourage the preservation of open space while Windham grows.

The zoning amendments were discussed before the Planning Board Monday, where the board held a public hearing.

Board alternate Alan Carpenter said the amendments include a specific listing of all residential zones that the ordinance may regulate and a modification of definition for open space.The modifications to the Open Space Residential Overlay District amendment also allows for an option of dedicating privately owned open space land as conservation land and would amend development standards to set aside a required percentage of green areas for residential lots in Windham’s residential and rural zones.

Under the new amendment, all open space and conservation parcels would be have to be marked by placards, with the number and spacing to be determined by the board.

Carpenter said one goal is to address concerns that come with the construction of “cluster housing,” while maintaining green space along with the construction of future residences on smaller lots.

The warrant states that the change is intended to “encourage a smaller-scale neighborhood with a more clustered development pattern than is typical in a traditional subdivision.”By definition, an Open Space Residential Development would have a minimum 10-acre tract of single or consolidated ownership, where a number of single-family homes are grouped together with minimum lot area, its frontage and yard requirements specified in the ordinance.

Minimum lot size would be 20,000 square feet, with a minimum buildable area of 9,000 square feet. A minimum of 65 percent of the total area of development would be set aside as permanent open space.

“We’re creating neighborhoods that have a different look and feel to them,” Carpenter said. “I think we need to set the standard of what our expectation is.”

After consulting with the town’s attorney, Carpenter said the concept of encouraging developers and property owners to set aside space for conservation purposes might prove a more enticing option if the town offers them some type of incentive, though as it stands now there are none.

No one from the public commented during the one-hour public hearing.The board voted unanimously to move the proposed zoning amendments forward to the March town warrant. The item will appear on the March Town Warrant as Zoning Amendment No. 4.

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