• Brownfield Redevelopment
     • Green Building Standards
     • Accessory Dwelling Units

     • Historic Preservation
     • Main Street Program

     • Alt. Energy Ordinances
     • Stormwater Management

     • Smart Growth Code Fixes
     • Form-Based Codes
     • LEED-ND
     • Transit Oriented Dev.
     • Zoning Ordinances
     • Scenario Planning

     • Agricultural Security Areas
     • Clustered Subdivisions
     • Official Map Ordinance

     • Access Management
     • Complete Streets Policy
     • Impact Fees
     • Traffic Calming
     • Walkability

Clustered Subdivisions

lustered subdivisions (sometimes known as conservation subdivisions) are uses regulated in the zoning ordinance that allow for a decrease in lot size and bulk requirements of a subdivision in exchange for the preservation of open space. Typically, clustered subdivisions are used for residential or mixed use projects as well as Planned Residential Developments (MPC Article VII) and Traditional Neighborhood Development (MPC Article VII-A). Generally, clustered subdivisions are allowed as a conditional use and maintain the density of the tract as a whole by focusing all the allowed development in smaller areas. Density bonuses can be used as an incentive.

Cartoon illustration of a housing development next to a wooded area with trails and roads

Clustered subdivision design follows a four-step process:

  1. Identify conservation areas
  2. Locate building sites
  3. Design transportation network, including trails/paths
  4. Add lot lines

The conservation areas can be used for a variety of purposes. They can be preserved in their pristine state as important ecological infrastructure or they can become active or passive recreation space. Some clustered subdivisions might include community facilities such as trails, community gardens or beaches along water features.

Open space can be donated to the municipality for parks projects, but many times it is kept and maintained through a third party organization such as a homeowners association. Easements or covenants are recommended to preserve the open space in perpetuity.


  • Preserves open spaces and natural resources
  • Can decrease hard infrastructure costs
  • Promotes smart design


  • Requires buy-in from development community
  • May have to provide incentives such as density bonuses to see option exercised
  • Future maintenance

Practical Tips

  • Identify areas that would benefit from conservation subdivisions
  • Educated development community about the economic benefits of clustering
  • Map environmental, view, historic and cultural resources worth preserving in areas with growth potential
  • Encourage sketch plans