What is Balanced Growth?

Balanced Growth is a voluntary, incentive-based strategy to protect and restore Lake Erie, the Ohio River, and Ohio’s watersheds to assure long-term economic competitiveness, ecological health, and quality of life.

Two such plans have been developed for watersheds in Medina county.

Upper Chippewa Creek Watershed Balanced Growth Plan

Rocky River Upper West Branch Balanced Growth Plan

What is a Conservation Easement?

A Conservation Easement (CE) is a set of restrictions a landowner voluntarily places on his or her property in order to preserve its conservation values.  The conservation values of the property and the restrictions created to preserve those values, along with the rights reserved by the landowner, are detailed in a legal document known as a conservation easement.  This document is attached to the deed and filed with the local county land records.

A landowner retains all rights to the property not specifically restricted or relinquished by the CE.  The landowner still owns the land and has the right to use it for any purpose that is consistent with the CE, to sell, to transfer or to pass on to heirs through a will.  The right to restrict public access is also at the option of the landowner.  The landowner remains responsible for the land, for its maintenance and upkeep, for paying taxes and for otherwise meeting the typical obligations of land ownership.  CEs add only a few further requirements: notification to the CE holder of proposed changes to the property; the allowance of annual monitoring visits; notification when selling or transferring the property; and compliance with the restrictions in the CE.

Conservation easements held by a separate & independent third party have a significantly greater chance of standing the test of time.  An appropriate third-party holder, whether it is the SWCD or another organization, can guarantee the protection of valuable environmental resources such as stream corridors, wetlands, and other unique vegetative communities.  Additionally, the third party will have the expertise and interest in adequately addressing easement violations. Other local organizations that can assist landowners with CEs include the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Medina-Summit Land Chapter and the Medina County Park District.

Farmland Protection Program

Agricultural Easements – similar to Conservation Easements.
Contact Western Reserve Land Conservancy Medina Office 440 528-4183

Agricultural Easements – similar to Conservation Easements.
Contact Western Reserve Land Conservancy Medina Office 440 528-4183
Presented below is a summary of the techniques to help preserve agricultural lands and open space.


Purchase of development right (PDR) programs use public money to purchase development rights to privately owned land. PDR programs are generally seen as more permanent approach to preserving agricultural lands and open space than traditional zoning-type methods. In such a program, a landowner is paid the fair market value of the development rights of his/her property and an easement restricts houses from being built on the land. The value of the development rights is generally calculated as the difference between the development value and the agricultural value of the land. Funding for PDR programs varies, with many communities funding their own programs through bonding or tax schemes.

For more information, check out the Ohio State University (OSU) Extension Fact Sheet on the Purchase of Development Rights.  


Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) programs differ somewhat from PDR programs in that the development rights are generally transferred directly from the farmer or landowner to the developer, using private funds. With such a program, permitted housing units are transferred from an agricultural area (often referred to as a “sending zone”) to another area where development is desired and which is often serviced by existing infrastructure (a “receiving zone”). The developer then compensates the farmer directly for the value of the development rights in exchange for using those rights in the receiving area. These programs are largely voluntary, and most require little public expenditure.

For more information, check out the OSU Extension Fact Sheet on the Transfer of Development Rights.


Zoning is a traditional method for communities to control development in rural and undeveloped areas. It is different from typical zoning in that agricultural zoning is intended to protect a resource rather than to just give order to development. Increasingly, zoning efforts have become more innovative, often including such schemes as sliding scales and agricultural security areas. Agricultural security areas help protect blocks of agricultural land, are initiated by landowners, require a large minimum lot size, and must be kept in agricultural use for the length of the agreement. In exchange, the community agrees to minimize the impact of adjacent development on agriculture. Other zoning options include lowering the density permitted in agricultural areas or utilizing cluster development layouts to protect farmland. Other zoning techniques include: overlay zoning, quarter-quarter zoning, and sliding scale zoning.


Private land trusts are becoming increasingly common around the country, and provide a means for permanently preserving land as open space or agriculture. Land trusts can be defined as “a non-profit grassroots conservation organization directly involved in protecting natural, recreational, scenic, agricultural, historic, or cultural property. Many land trusts manage land owned by others, advise landowners on how to preserve their land, or help negotiate conservation transactions in which they plan no other role.

For more information check out the Land Trust Alliance web page.

Conservation development or open space development are concepts included in the zoning ordinance of a community, and represent a way to allow development to occur in a manner which leaves large blocks of open space or farmland. More specifically, conservation development concentrates buildings in specific areas on the site to allow the remaining land to be used as open space or for other preservation purposes. Planned Unit Developments are a common example of a clustered-type residential development. Conservation development often provides a municipality more flexibility regarding regulatory controls, preserving environmentally sensitive areas of a site while concentrating development on the most suitable land.

For more information on land use planning and conservation development, check out the Community Planning Program Website and/or contact Kirby Date, Program Coordinator at (216) 295-0511. A resource manual of practices for planning and design is available and highly recommended as a source of information.

A less common method for preserving open space and natural features is the requirement of deed restriction. Deed restrictions can be required of new developments, or negotiated with current landowners. Such restrictions include prohibiting certain activities, which may harm environmentally sensitive areas on the property. A commonly cited advantage of this technique is that the restriction travels with the deed, and does not expire with a change in landowner.

The most common tax programs to promote agriculture are those that attempt to give farmers a tax incentive by lowering the assessed value of the farm property. Current use valuation is a common method, in which tax assessments are based on the land’s current use rather than the development potential. In exchange, the farmer must keep the land as agriculture; penalties are often assessed when a property is converted to another use.
These programs provide farmers with options to selling off land to developers.

Growth management techniques attempt to contain growth and prevent sprawl into undeveloped areas. Some general growth management techniques include: delineating urban growth boundaries, mechanisms for outright purchase of land, environmental corridors, greenbelts, and programs for incremental growth.

Capital Improvement Programming: The scheduling of budgetary expenditures for infrastructure, thereby guiding development.
Subdivision Regulations: Design standards for street width, setbacks, open space, and other features to ensure livability in new subdivisions.

Outright donation: The donation of land to a conservation organization.
Agriculture District: A legal designation that allows qualifying farmers to defer utility assessments if farming is continued on the land.
Conservation Reserve: A program that pays farmers to convert erodible cropland to vegetative cover.
Current Agriculture Use Value: A program that calculates farmland value based on soil type and product markets rather than development values.