Planning board hosts compact design presentation

by Tim Croes
Staff Writer - The Baysider
November 06, 2013
ALTON — The Alton Planning Board hosted a presentation on compact design, presented by the Eastern Lakes Regional Housing Coalition (ELRHC) on Tuesday, Oct. 29.

Donna Young, the director of the ELRHC, explained that the organization works on promoting affordable housing.

Kyle Barker, of Barker Architects, gave a presentation on compact design. He talked about the benefits of compact design, including creating open space and social areas, buffer from cars and creating cost effective and environmentally friendly quality home design.

Barker said that compact design could provide housing choices and conserve open spaces and resources. He talked about national trends out in the western part of the United States. He said that compact design could provide developers a chance to come into a town, which was otherwise exhausted of development.

Barker provided a village example that previously didn't have safe pedestrian paths, had noise from traffic and a loss of housing in the center of the area. Through compact design, Barker said alternative walking routes would be provided, a reduction of local traffic would be provided, an increased density of houses would boost local business and housing choices for young families and elderly would be provided.

Barker talked about the different design elements and design concepts that can be used in compact design.

He provided an example of block style development on a parcel that had 37 houses. By using compact design, cluster housing around the green space provided a total of 52 houses.

Barker said smaller footprints allow for additional housing and rotating the position of the houses allows for flexibility in design. He pointed to green space, trees, fencing and cars parked on the street while going through the example. He said the goal is not just to build houses but to build neighborhoods.

Barker said compact design can provide individuals benefits by providing security, health and quality of life improvements. He said municipalities could be benefited by a reduced infrastructure and preservation of open land and compact design could benefit businesses by providing a lower per unit cost.

Barker was questioned about how it benefits a community and he said that a developer could build more houses on a reduced number of acres. Comments were made from the public that compact design contains elements of Smart Growth and that it was similar to conservation subdivision, which was voted down by the town last year.

A question was raised about grants tied to the ELRHC and Ken McWilliams, the town planner, said no grants are in the works.

Questions were raised about bringing more people into the community when there aren't any jobs in town. The topic of workforce housing was raised and how the legislation is taking away personal property rights.

Barker said he was there to present the benefits of compact design and wasn't being paid for his presentation.

A question was raised about how the ELRHC was funded, a member of the board of directors said the organization is supported by private funds.

Tim Croes can be reached at or 569-3126

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