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Open Space Residential Design (OSRD)
Rural
Case Study

Locus map NewburyCaldwell Farm, Newbury, MA

Caldwell Farm is a 66-unit housing project built on an 125-acre site. The project developers, C.P. Berry Construction Company, chose to develop the property under Newbury's OSRD bylaw, resulting in 100 of the 125 acres being maintained as open space including fields, forest, freshwater, and saltwater wetlands adjacent to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). The Caldwell Farm development is an excellent example of how the often competing interests of developers, realtors, and local officials can be brought together to create a development that satisfies everyone's interests. The OSRD development has been recognized by several national awards, including "the Best Overall Community" by the National Association of Home Builders in May 2007.

Aerial view of Caldwell Farms

Photo provided by C.P. Berry Construction

Caldwell Farm, sited on beautiful rolling land bordering the Parker River and the Great Salt Marsh, received a "Best Overall Community" award from the National Association of Home Builders in 2007.

The Bylaw

Like many Massachusetts communities, Newbury was struggling with the dilemma of accommodating new residential development while preserving the Town's natural and historic character. To help cope with this problem, the Town worked with the Green Neighborhoods Alliance to adopt an OSRD bylaw (the first in the Commonwealth) that clusters development on a parcel in a way that conserves 50% or more of the land as open space. Under the Newbury bylaw, OSRD can be approved through a Special Permit process that is complementary to the standard requirements of the local Subdivision Rules and Regulations.

As an incentive to developers, the bylaw provides for density bonuses for historic preservation, creation of affordable housing, or protection of additional open space. The density bonus for the OSRD development cannot exceed 50% of the basic maximum number, which is determined by the basic 'by right" zoning regulations of the underlying district. Density bonuses can be awarded in the following circumstances:

  1. For each 10% of the site (over and above the required 50%) set aside as open space, a bonus of 5% of the basic maximum number may be awarded.
  2. For every dwelling unit set aside as affordable in perpetuity, one dwelling unit may be added as a density bonus.
  3. For every historic structure preserved and subject to a historic preservation restriction, one dwelling unit may be added as a density bonus.
Caldwell Farms site plan

Graphic and photo provided by C.P. Berry Construction.

Homes along entrance roadway
Caldwell Farm, shown on the site plan graphic above, maintains an open spacious feel as you drive in the entranceway.

Site Design Process:

Newbury strongly encourages those applicants proposing to develop under the OSRD bylaw to schedule a pre-application review with the Planning Department. The Planning Department invites the Conservation Commission, the Board of Health and the Historical Commission to attend this review. The purpose of the review is to minimize the applicant's cost of engineering and other technical experts and to commence negotiations with the Planning Board at the earliest possible stage in the development process. Applicants are encouraged to submit both a site context map and an existing conditions/site analysis map prior to the review, and to schedule a site visit.

Newbury's OSRD bylaw clearly outlines the design process in four steps:

  1. Identify all conservation areas to determine the potentially developable area.
  2. Locate housing sites.
  3. Align streets and trails.
  4. Draw in the lot lines, if the OSRD is not a condominium development.

Benefits:

At Caldwell Farm, 80% of the parcel remains as open space. A circa 1800 farmhouse on the property has been preserved. As an added bonus, walking trails cross the open space and provide pedestrian access to the saltwater wetlands. Because of the large percentage of open space preservation and the preservation of the historic farmhouse, the unit bonus provision of Newbury's OSRD bylaw allowed the developer to build 66 units versus the 62 units provided via by-right zoning. The developer also agreed to put in a shared wastewater treatment system that will be more protective of the environment than the minimum standards require and will take up less space. The open space amenities bolstered the market prices in the development, including a clubhouse, swimming pool, gatehouse, walking paths and trails throughout the property and adjoining conservation lands, where a 2-bedroom home starts at $635,000.

Link to OSRD Case Studies Link to OSRD model bylaw Link to OSRD slideshows Link to OSRD links