Zoning code needs open space

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 12, 2006

Open space is an element of urban and rural planning. People like having neighbors, but they also need open spaces to enjoy, public and private: parks, trails, habitat refuges, golf courses, lakefront, wetlands, knolls, groves, fields. Many cities have open space as a zoning designation. Albert Lea does not.

On the wall in the newsroom at the Albert Lea Tribune, we have have a zoning map. It is a handy reference. Albert Lea has the following zones:

– Neighborhood business district.

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-&160;Community business district.

-&160;Central business district.

-&160;Freeway interchange zone.

-&160;Limited industrial district.

-&160;Industrial district.

-&160;Diversified industrial district.

-&160;Multi-family residential office district.

-&160;Single-family residence.

-&160;One to four family residence.

-&160;Multi-family residence.

-&160;Residential preservation district.

-&160;Planned development district.

-&160;Agricultural district.

-&160;Interstate development district.

Forward-thinking cities often include open space as a zone. It is a means to protect treasured landscapes. Obvious places such as parks are protected but, if there’s a tax incentive that often accompanies opting for open space, many landowners who own vacant tracts request the zoning.

And because open spaces increase the values of properties adjacent to it, developers opt for it when drawing plans.

Albert Lea indeed notes open spaces in its comprehensive plan. Adding the designation in zoning will make the comp plan and zoning compatible.

The Tribune favors sensible development, but in order to call it sensible, Albert Lea needs to protect the treasured places. Adding open space would add a tool to its development toolbox.