Conservation Design Development

What is Conservation Design Development? 

Conservation Design Development is a creative form of residential subdivision designed to conserve open space in rural areas and protect environmental features. The basic principle of the design is to locate homes on the portion of the site best suited for development while retaining the remainder of the site as open space. Conservation Design is the way in which large scale residential subdivisions comprising of more than 8 new lots may be considered in rural communities today.

Rural Subdivision 
New policies and regulations were established in 2006 to preserve open space, prevent sprawl, maintain rural character and protect residents from poor access and road maintenance. Today, rural residential subdivision may occur in three ways:
1.    Infill development – where new lots have frontage on an existing public road;
2.    8 new lots and a remainder lot – where a new public road is constructed with 8 or less new lots; and,
3.    Conservation Design Developments – where more than 8 new lots or dwelling units are created.

For each of these options, there are criteria and requirements the existing lot and proposed lots need to satisfy, which may be different based on the property’s location. It is highly recommended that you contact Planning and Development prior to submitting a formal application or purchasing a property. 


Is my property eligible for Conservation Design?
To be considered for a Conservation Design Development, the property should meet the following criteria:

1.    The area of land needs to be within the following Regional Plan Designations  (a) Agricultural, (b) Rural Resource, (c) Rural Commuter, or (d) Harbour Designation outside the Urban Settlement Area and must be located (a) outside Schedule J of the Regional Subdivision By-law, (b) the Rural Designation of the Eastern Passage/Cow Bay Plan Area and (c) the NEF 30 Contour shown on Map 3 of the Planning District 14 & 17 (Shubenacadie Lakes) Municipal Planning Strategy. 

2.    The area of land was also in existence as of April 29, 2006 and has a minimum of 20 metres of continuous frontage on a publicly owned and maintained street/road.

3.    A property located within one of the Rural Growth Centres (Maps 13A to Map 13G of the Regional Plan) is not subject to the requirements listed above. Also Conservation Design Developments in a Rural Growth Centre may be considered for a higher density than outside a Rural Growth Centre and townhouses are a permitted housing form in a Rural Growth Centre.

Types of Conservation Design Developments 
Two types of Conservation Design Developments may be considered within rural areas of the Municipality. These forms include the Classic Conservation Design Development and the Hybrid Conservation Design Development. 

Classic Conservation Design features clustered development and a common open space component held in single ownership by a condominium or land trust. 

Classic Conservation Design Image

Classic Conservation Design


Hybrid Conservation Design preserves open space on individual lots by restricting the area for lawns, pavement and buildings. 

Hybird Conservation Design

Hybird Conservation Design


Maximum density and minimum open space requirements for Conservation Design Developments are determined by calculating net developable area. Net developable area means the area of land remaining after the area containing riparian buffers, wetlands, slopes in excess of 30% and floodplains have been removed. Maximum density and minimum open space are also dependent on whether the property is located within or outside a Rural Growth Centre. More information on how to calculate maximum density and minimum open space is available in the Guide to Conservation Design Development and under policies S-14A to S-17A of the Regional Plan.


What is the process? 

A Conservation Design Development may be considered through a two-staged Development Agreement Process. A development agreement is a contract between a property owner and the Municipality outlining the requirements for development on a specific property. It can include requirements for subdivision of land, new streets, land uses, parkland and building design.

Stage 1: Site Analysis is a preliminary site design process intended to determine open space areas to be preserved and potential areas for development. In this stage, conservation features are identified to calculate the net developable area and determine the maximum density.

Stage 2: Conceptual Design  involves the delineation of roads, private driveways, lots and other physical design features of the development. In this stage, conceptual designs and technical studies are required.  The Stage 2 plan required approval by the applicable community council in the form of a development agreement. If approved, the Stage 2 plan is used as final design approval for future subdivision and permit applications.


What technical information is required?
In addition to survey plans and design drawings, the following technical studies are required when submitting an application for a Conservation Design Development:
•    Traffic Impact Statement prepared in accordance with HRM’s Guidelines for the Preparation of Traffic Impact Studies
•    Level 1 & 2 Groundwater Assessment Report prepared in accordance with the Nova Scotia Environment Guide to Groundwater Assessment for Subdivisions Serviced by Private Wells
•    Hydrogeological Assessment prepared by a qualified professional if the proposed development is to be serviced by a groundwater supply
•    Proposed sewage treatment system prepared with a sufficient level of information for Nova Scotia Environment to conclude that it is feasible to service the development
•    Archaeological Assessment if required by the Nova Scotia Museum
•    Conceptual Stormwater Management Plan
•    Conservation Design Management Plan for the long-term restoration and management of open space areas
•    No Net Increase in Phosphorous Assessment if required by a Secondary Plan 

The technical studies help determine where the conservation features are located on the property, the maximum density that can be considered, if the proposed development is capable of being serviced and if it will pose a traffic hazard to the existing community.


Approval ?

Approval of a Conservation Design Development requires consideration and approval by the respective Community Council. Before a development agreement for a Conservation Design Development can be approved, a public hearing before a Community Council must be held to receive public feedback on the proposed development. The decision of community council to approve or refuse a Conservation Design Development is subject to a period for appeal before the Utility and Review Board.

The development agreement only takes effect after the appeal period has lapsed or any appeals have resulted in an approved agreement, after the agreement has been signed by the applicant and the Municipality, and after the agreement is registered at the Land Registry. Following registration of the agreement, applications may be made for final subdivision approval pursuant to the agreement and the Regional Subdivision By-law.


How do I apply? 

Contact the municipal Planning and Development Office before preparing plans and studies for a Conservation Design Development application: 

Planning Services Office 
5251 Duke Street, 3rd Floor, Halifax, NS, B3J 3A5