‘Clustering’ once again a topic of county planning

Published 11:10 am Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The term “clustering” continues to be a common theme at the Lafayette County Planning Commission and the definition of what is and what is not the clustering of units within a development.

The county subdivision regulations that were adopted two years ago does not allow clustering, which county officials define as more than four units per acre. Some developers, however, believe clustering a development is beneficial in allowing more green space and is more aesthetically pleasing if fewer trees are removed and better for the environment.

During Monday night’s monthly county planning commission meeting, Wellington Place — a 68-unit development on 17 acres off Anchorage Road — was presented for preliminary and commercial site plan approval by Precision Engineering.

Engineer Paul Koshenina told commissioners there would be a good mixture of single-family detached units, as well as duplexes and four-plexes, with walking trails and a nature area.

“We’ve worked hard on this project to get a good mixture of units,” Koshenina said.

Koshenina was quickly asked if the development met the density requirement of four units per acre.

He said the definition of clustering was “subjective” and was not even mentioned within the regulations, while commissioners Ray Garrett — who favors the idea of clustering — and TJ Ray both explained that the regulations clearly define that a development cannot have more than four units per acre.

In the subdivision regulations, under Article II, Section 1, B1 it states that “The development will be allowed to develop up to Four (4) units per Contiguous, non-averaged, acre with a maximum number of Bedrooms per unit of Four (4).”

During the ongoing discussions of the comprehensive plan update, the idea of clustering residential developments to make the most practical use of land has been brought up and many believe it may be included if zoning regulations are adopted.

Koshenina explained that the developers were attempting to distribute their infrastructure across the site.

“Our position is that we are under the four units per acre regulation and not really clustering the site, but redistributing across the site,” Koshenina said.

Ray said that if you took the average of the 17 acres the development is under the four units per acre regulation, “but if you measure the occupied area, you’re clustering.”

“In my eyes, from an engineering perspective, this is not clustering,” Koshenina said. “If we had all these units on half this property or a third of this property, I could see the argument for calling this clustering.”

During last month’s planning commission meeting, another developer tried to make the same argument as Koshenina and was denied. Developer J.W. McCurdy asked for a variance to cluster 20 duplex units on less than four acres near Tuscan Hills subdivision so that trees on the site would not have to be removed. The development was originally approved for 36 units on 8.6 acres.

The development has been tabled at the request of engineer Jeff Williams with Williams Engineering.

Ray told Koshenina the same thing he told Williams last month in that he was not about “bend the rules” on the four units per acre regulation.

Ray suggested the development have fewer units overall.

“I’m not an economic genius, but it seems to me that if you build fewer units it won’t be as crowded,” Ray said.

That is not an option for developer Will Ashley.

“That would be unfair,” Ashley said when asked if he would consider fewer units. “This is one of my biggest assets and it would really mess me up.”

Ashley was given the option of having the development tabled or voted upon by the commission.

“Approve it or deny it and if you deny it, we’ll take further steps,” Ashley said.

The commission voted to deny the development.