Date of Award

1997

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Community Planning (MCP)

Department

Community Planning and Area Development

First Advisor

Rolf Pendall

Abstract

In Charlton, Massachusetts, the current open-space subdivision option doesn't work well for the benefit of people or wildlife, but rather allows the developer to cut costs without giving a more beneficial design in return. Open space "islands" are being created that have no connectivity with one another, making them little more than buffers of undisturbed land within and among developments. While these buffers are somewhat useful from an aesthetic perspective, better regulations and design guidelines would be helpful in creating more useable "corridors" for wildlife and trails for people, which in return will help to preserve wildlife biodiversity and provide meaningful recreational opportunities for residents. Fragmentation of contiguous wildlife habitat is a major cause of local declines in wildlife species. Continuing along with the status quo would perpetuate inefficient stewardship of natural resources, continue the building of subdivisions where people are separated from nature, and force local wildlife into either finding new habitat or into facing decline and eventual extinction through genetic degeneration.

This study utilizes a multi-layered methodology to understand the issues: case studies of existing open-space developments in the town of Charlton; the latest research from the preservation of biological diversity; an adapted Ian McHarg environmental overlay analysis method; and the Conservation-Subdivision design method recently put forward by Randall Arendt. These methods are then used in concert to look at a current Charlton subdivision project, Schofield Heights, to field-test the learnings from the project. Feedback is then utilized from the new designs to compare Charlton's existing open-space development regulations with the theoretical knowledge having been gained, whereby final recommendations for Charlton's regulations are made. The study concludes that if support from the local Planning and Conservation offices is provided to ease the extra design work inherent in these projects, that the benefits derived from this type of open-space subdivision planning exceed the costs for all involved.

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