Monday, January 14, 2008

EDITORIAL: East Hempfield TND May Benefit From Adjustments

Traditional Neighborhood Development ordinances have come into vogue in recent years. They are an attempt to recapture some of the design aspects of cities and towns from the past. Yet they can unnecessarily increase construction costs, generate high maintenance expenses for municipalities and home owners, and undermine public safety.

Part of the problem is caused by the requirement of alleys between the rear of row houses to allow access to garages and for the storage and collection of refuse. This eliminates common back yards in which children can play and neighbors can visit.

Furthermore, it increases the cost of constructing streets and curbs by perhaps a third and creates additional paving to maintain. Additional paving means less grass for water percolation and more storm water run off, both detrimental to the environment.

And because of the minimal traffic through alleys, these narrow drives can become hang out areas and thus are potentially dangerous. Today's model TND may become a slum in two decades!

Planned residential developments often permit ten percent for neighborhood commercial space. Examples of allowed uses are Turkey Hills, dry cleaners, barber shops and beauty parlors.

By permitting 20% or more commercial use, there is a likelihood of neighborhood and even regional shopping centers, thus drawing traffic from afar, creating traffic that is dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists, and detracting from the residential ambience of the neighborhood.

It is difficult to accommodate more than eight row houses (or townhouses) per acre in a normal subdivision and only five or six are possible in a TND. In comparison, standard zero lot line housing (one side of the house is on the property line and the lawn and drive are on the other side) may also permit five or six dwelling units to an acre. Single family homes seldom are more than three to an acre.

Thus row houses lose their economic edge and reason to be in a TND if adequate residentially zoned land is available nearby.

In Pennsylvania, the power to plan and zone lies with a quilt work of municipalities ranging in size from cities to exurbia boroughs. The counties only have the power to recommend.

NewsLanc encourages professional planning, not fads. What is good for suburban Manheim Township where land is scarce may not be appropriate for a rural community. A variety of design alternatives can better fit market conditions.

Having decisions made by fragmented government bodies increases the chances of amateurism.