Create quality and useable open space for all developments over one acre.
Open space is key for livable, sustainable communities. Whether a commercial development or residential neighborhood, how people will interact and move within a space needs to be considered. Successful, usable open space requires both private and public open space areas, designed and incorporated intentionally into the fabric of all development. Currently, “usable” open space is subjective, and there needs to be a diligent effort to establish criteria to define such a space. In practice, any non-paved/built area is permitted to be considered open space. Truly usable open space needs to be appropriately sized and needs to address different users’ demands through design. A public open space within an assisted living facility is not necessarily the same type of open space that is most suitable for a mixed-use development. During the design of a property’s development, the best open space design needs to be considered for the projected user.
Ordinance-based text needs to be updated in order to ensure implementation of usable open space. The current definition for open space is lacking emphasis on its importance, and because of this, open space is not always implemented in the most purposeful way. A definition that emphasizes the many benefits and necessary characteristics of open space is needed. These benefits and characteristics include social interaction, recreation and leisure, health, safety, education, natural or cultural resource protection, sense of place and economic vitality. These benefits and characteristics will vary by user group and will need to be assessed and personalized for each development.
When it comes to reviewing development, an updated definition is key, but more regulations would provide staff, developers and community members guidance as to what to expect for the provision and design of open space. These regulations should address size requirements, the provision of both public and private open space, and user-tailored design, as well as restrictions, exclusions and exceptions to a development’s provision of open space. Providing a more clear vision for what constitutes usable open space will result in a livable, sustainable community that serves the needs of all people.