The county planning department's traveling road show, Comprehensive Rezoning of the West, is expected to face its toughest audience yet tomorrow night in Clarksville.
Until now, the department has aired its one-hour slide presentations before groups friendly or at least neutral to the idea of replacing the current rural three-acre zoning with clustered development.
Tomorrow night's audience, Howard Countians for Responsible Growth, is not likely to share such neutrality.
In the past, the group and its president, John W. Taylor, have been adamant in their demand that the current zoning remain unchanged. To many of the group's members, clustered development is anathema.
Taylor said that although he still believes the county would be better off keeping the existingzoning and further implement the farmland preservation program, he hopes people will "turn out in droves to judge for themselves the planning department's proposals."
Taylor said he has not promoted thismeeting in the same way he did a Rural Land Use Study Commission hearing earlier this year.
Then, his group distributed anti-cluster fliers to 1,800 western county households for three days prior to a public hearing in which the commission planned to air several clustering concepts.
The fliers, issued last June, suggested that septic fields needed by clustered housing developments could contaminate ground water. It also indicated that land saved by clustering would be only temporarily preserved -- views Taylor and many members of his organization still hold.
"We have not taken a formal position yet," said board member Susan Gray. "But I don't think anyone is any happier now than then."
The planning department's proposal is to rezone 49,579 rural acres still uncommitted to development. The idea is to keepnew development as close as possible to existing development, and clustering is the centerpiece.
"Development in the current R-rural zone, with its three-acre minimum lot size, has consumed agricultural land for residential purposes at an alarming rate," county planners say in their draft report.
The best chance the county has of preserving the remaining agricultural land, the report says, is through cluster zoning.
To accomplish this, the west would be divided into two districts -- rural residential and rural conservation. Clustering would be encouraged in portions of the residential district and required for parcels of 20 acres or more in the conservation district.
The cluster option would allow developers to build at a density of onehouse per five gross acres and cluster them on 33,000-square-foot lots -- each lot being approximately three-fourths of an acre -- if thelots share a septic system. Shared septic systems would be maintained by the county.
The minimum size for clustered lots that don't share a septic system would be 40,000 square feet, or slightly less than an acre. An acre is 43,560 square feet. The maximum lot size in a clustered development would be 60,000 square feet or 1.4 acres.
Every subdivision, whether clustered or not, would have to keep 5 percent of the acreage as open space or pay a fee. Under current zoning, the developer of a 100-acre parcel is required to set aside five acres as open space, but can build approximately 21 units on the remaining 95 acres. Other than the open space land, nothing is left over.