Natural resource management professionals and planners throughout the Lake Erie Basin recognize the significance of open space or conservation design development for resource protection and stormwater control. Open space or conservation design development is the subdivision of a parcel so as to cluster building units and preserve at least 40% of the parcel as open space. This approach enables developers to avoid riparian areas and wetlands, to minimize impervious cover, and to significantly reduce stormwater runoff and management costs.

Wastewater management and treatment is a significant hurdle to the widespread implementation of conservation design development. To date this pattern of development has been most successful in areas with access to central sewers. However this approach has its greatest applicability in more rural areas with large tracts of unsewered land where homes are generally treated by on-site sewage treatment systems. Current Ohio EPA and Ohio Department of Health regulations allow for the use of innovative/alternative sewage treatment facilities but place significant and often expensive requirements on developers proposing such facilities. Local zoning also generally hinders the application of conversation design development in unsewered areas.

To address these concerns and to increase the application of conservation design development, CRWP researched most recent alternative sewage treatment options for small clusters of homes to develop case studies of areas where such alternative treatment and site design have worked with a focus on areas with similar soils and climate to Northeast Ohio. This research and the potential application of these techniques in the Chagrin River watershed was extensively discussed with local health departments, Ohio Department of Health, and Ohio EPA.

This project and the subsequent report, Alternative Sewage Treatment Systems and Conservation Design in Unsewered Areas Distributed Storm Water Management in the Chagrin River Watershed, Ohio (January 2006, pdf 2.6MB), will benefit the Chagrin River watershed and the region as a whole by expanding options for land development by enabling alternative site design without sewer expansion. This will facilitate open space protection, riparian and wetland protection, and reduced impervious cover.

This report was prepared by the Chagrin River Watershed Partners under award NA03NOS4190052 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Office of Coastal Management. The statements, findings, conclusions and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, or the Office of Coastal Management.