December 09, 2021

New zoning ordinances encourage prairie land preservation

Planned Unit Development will allow flexibility for developers on county land

A new zoning ordinance will allow housing developers much more freedom in planning subdivision layouts to be more buyer, and nature, friendly.

During Tuesday’s Jasper County Board of Supervisors meeting, the supervisors heard a report from the county zoning and planning department regarding new ordinances that will allow Planned Unit Development, or PUD, within the county.

But first things first, what is PUD?

According to documents provided during the meeting, PUD is a specific zoning classification given to a development that offers both developers and zoning officials much more flexibility during the planning stage compared to standard zoning. While PUD’s can be used for various different purposes, the county would use them to allow several different kinds of zoning within a single housing development.

Les Beck, a consultant with more than 40 years of experience working with various county zoning and planning departments throughout Iowa, was hired earlier this year to assist,m Jasper County’s planning and zoning office in understanding the various changes that would be required to allow PUD within the county.

“Your county’s comprehensive plan’s section on land use provides a solid basis for PUD. It already has a specific section addressing non-traditional housing developments, but a few changes were needed,” Beck said.

One of Beck’s suggested changes was editing the wording of the comprehensive plan’s land use table.

In the plan’s current description of residential land a small section reads, “Innovative/non-traditional single-family forms may be allowed if compatibility standards are met.”

Beck’s proposed amendment would have that description changed to read, “Innovative/non-traditional single-family homes must conform to an approved Master Plan and Governing Plan.”

A Master Plan will help illustrate what the developer’s final product and vision truly is. This plan will help both the county and perspective home buyers to better understand the final goals of the development.

A Governing Plan will in turn provide all the exact details of the development for the county. This would include specific street and sidewalk measurements, storm water management plans, etc.

This change will also require any future non-traditional developments to work with planning and zoning to produce both plans.

“Allowing PUD’s will allow far more flexibility for future housing developments,” Planning and Zoning Director Kevin Luetters said.

The proposed amendment to the county’s zoning ordinances, 4.1.12 PUD Districts, already contain the standards that must be met to begin development on a new PUD.

According to the proposed standards, any PUD would require a minimum track size of 20 acres, with most houses being located on 1/4 to 1/2 acres. Any developer or HOA responsibilities, water supply and waste treatment plans, etc., would be spelled out and presented to the county for approval before any building began.

During the meeting supervisor Brandon Talsma clarified the county would mainly be using PUD’s for housing development’s using former agriculturally zoned land. By building 20 or more homes on smaller lots closer together, the development will preserve several acres for prairie land.

“Most people move to these housing developments for a more rural feel but a lot of them don’t like the idea of having to take care of two acres of land,” Talsma said. “By building the houses so close to each other there will be a larger sense of community compared to everyone living on their own two acre plots all spread out.”

The board approved both the new ordinances and an update to the county’s comprehensive plan unanimously.

Contact Abby Knipfel at 641-792-4687 ext. 6531 or aknipfel@shawmedia.com

Abby Knipfel

Abby "Adler" Knipfel

Journalist at Newton Daily News. Currently covering Jasper County and writing passionate opinion pieces. They/Them