Planned Unit Developments and
Cluster Developments

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Planned unit developments (PUDs) and cluster developments are forms of land design that usually focus on integration of the natural features of a site with the new development to be constructed on the site ( see figure to the right). Most PUDs are largely residential, although increasingly they are mixed use–usually with some commercial uses mixed with residential. The combination of a golf course with a residential subdivision or site condominium is the most common form of PUD in Michigan. Commercial, office and industrial PUDs are also becoming common, especially in urban and suburban locations along freeways. In suburban and rural Michigan, PUDs are increasingly designed around a sensitive natural feature like a small pond or wetland. Good design with a large natural vegetation buffer area around the sensitive resource can result in its protection as an asset to the PUD.

Cluster development is a form of PUD that is usually exclusively residential and surrounded by large amounts of open space. Michigan's Zoning Enabling Act requires many communities to adopt cluster development provisions that permit projects with at least 50% open space in townships and counties and 20% open space in cities and villages by “right”. This means without any special review and approval process. Communities can define what constitutes permissible open space, but it cannot include land in a golf course. See MCL 125.3506 in the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act.

PUDs and cluster development can be a very effective way for communities to permit some development in areas with sensitive natural resources without seriously undermining the integrity of the natural features. Notice in Figure 3.2 the difference in land consumption patterns and conserved areas between the conventional subdivision and the PUD. This takes careful design, attention to mitigation, good site plan review standards and experienced professionals reviewing the proposed site plans to get the best result. There are many different sample PUD and cluster development ordinances in use throughout Michigan.

For more information on this topic, see Appendix T – Cluster and PUD examples.

Credit: Filling the Gaps