Green Neighborhoods: Open Space Residential Design (OSRD) is a method of planning residential development that conserves open space in a new subdivision. The same number of homes as would be permissible in a conventionally-zoned subdivision are allowed using OSRD. Municipalities using a "Special Permit" version of OSRD can allow density bonuses if desired.

Zoning bylaws that require new homes to be built on lots of one acre or more with the intent of controlling sprawling development actually encourage poorly designed subdivisions that consume and fragment large tracts of land. Although the lots may be large, the wildlife habitat and other environmental, recreational and aesthetic elements that open space provides are usually subsumed by lawns, driveways and other paved surfaces that contribute to environmental degradation and diminish community character. Conventional subdivision zoning offers little flexibility in the planning process and often leads to time-consuming, costly and antagonistic proceedings.

OSRD is not like older cluster bylaws and ordinances. The primary difference is the OSRD sets aside open space based on resource values, not by formula. OSRD unlike some cluster bylaws is written to ease the approval process, making the approval process for OSRD less cumbersome and on par with the approval process for conventional subdivisions.

OSRD offers an alternative, by using a four step planning process that reverses the typical subdivision planning process. First, the open space is designated; second, the houses are sited; third the roads and trails are planned; and fourth, the lot lines are drawn.

Flexibility, community and board involvement during the planning process and a desire to protect the most vital features of Massachusetts' remaining open spaces are key components of OSRD.

We hope the information in this website will encourage and help your municipality to adopt and implement OSRD. Please read more about the many benefits OSRD provides, including increased real estate value in OSRD subdivisions and decreased infrastructure costs to developers in addition to the environmental, aesthetic and recreational benefits of open space. You'll find model bylaws/ordinances, approved for Massachusetts cities and towns, and information about the Green Neighborhoods Alliance - a group of planners, realtors, developers and conservationists who support OSRD.

Return to Home Page