WRITTEN BY PJ WADE
Are you often deeply surprised or shocked when construction begins on what was a treasured piece of neighborhood nature?
You love your local green spaces. They may even define quality of life for you and your family. Do you keep an eye on what’s planned for these spaces, or are you among the last to know the green space is being developed?
Whether your “green corner” is a park, a treed cemetery, or a golf course, existing green space may be a target for real estate development. If this is the landowner’s intent, by the time you see bulldozers, it may be too late to do much about this environmental loss.
One community was shocked to discover that the iconic, almost 300-acre golf course that residents believed defined their community was slated for real estate development. Acres of greenery will be transformed into more than 3200 homes, 9 apartment buildings, and thousands of square feet of commercial/industrial space. As the community fought this development, politicians and residents were surprised to learn that the owner of the golf course has every right to undertake this land-use transition for its business, subject to local building and development codes.
Green spaces, especially those with large mature trees, look permanent, but they may be vulnerable to change.
Golf courses look permanent, but they are businesses ready to respond to changing markets.
Unless the golf course deed contains a conservation or deed restriction stating that the land cannot be used as anything but a golf course, the owner is free to pursue changes in land use. In the example above, the owner believed greater financial gain lay in real estate development rather than in operating a golf course.
Buyer Tip: Those interested in an estate house, vacation town-home, or condominium on or near a golf course should verify with their lawyer that golf course land use is protected in the deed. Gated and master-plan communities are often built around golf courses and individual house or condominium real estate values are related to location relative to the golf course. If the course builds additional houses or towers, real estate values for some existing homes may suffer.
Cemeteries seem permanent, but that may not be true.
Who owns the cemetery? Does the deed restrict land use to that of a cemetery? Addition of crematoria or enlargement of parking lots can affect adjacent properties. Older cemeteries can be consolidated or moved to make way for new roads and developments. Many cemeteries are beautiful green spaces, prized beyond their main function by locals as places to walk, run, and commune with nature. If proximity to this type of green space enriches the value of your home to you and in real estate terms, check with municipal offices to be sure about the future.
Parks are believed to be permanent, but changing politics may be a threat.
Government mandates have recently become more fluid, so keep in touch with your government representatives at all levels to be sure your green spaces are not vulnerable to development.
What’s Happening In Your Community?
You may have discovered a great green space near home, but have you investigated other close-by options? Walk or drive the area or check out a good map to find a new “green corner” to explore and enjoy.
Many cemeteries, parks, and green spaces have “Friends of” groups that work to protect and preserve these cherished areas. Does your favorite have such a support group? If you want to get involved in preserving local green spaces and, perhaps, real estate values, too, here are a few starting points:
#1. Golf Courses
Audubon International (AI), not related to the National Audubon Society although inspired by the same naturalist, has carved out an impressive environmental niche. AI has enrolled over 3,000 properties (including golf courses, parks, ski areas, housing developments, hotels, colleges, and many others) and entire communities in its rigorous environmental-sustainability certification programs, which include the following:
This award-winning education and certification program helps golf courses in the United States and internationally protect the environment, preserve the game of golf, and improve their bottom line. AI’s Standard Environmental Management Practices and approaches are applicable to all golf courses and help manage mosquitos, landscape naturalization, water use efficiency, and much more.
This is an international, science-based certification program that guides communities “through a customized journey to become healthy and vibrant places in which to live, work, and play.”
The history of cemeteries shadows the history of urban development. Cemeteries were the first American urban parks and have continued to evolve into interactive environments where people share nature and much more:
• Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery achieved arboretum status to draw more birders and build up the cemetery as a historic attraction.
• Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery is a vibrant space filled with gardens, history, art, music, and architecture. Events bring thousands together to keep Atlanta’s history alive.
• Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery is even larger than Green-Wood and approximately 300 of its 733 acres, which include a wooded preserve, are undeveloped.
Large parks can be amazing places to live in or near as I explained in “Should You ‘Park’ Yourself In a National Park?” Your local park may not be on this scale, but explore and you may find connections to green spaces that enrich your life and your community.