News From Your Friends

How Green Spaces Disappear Before Our Very Eyes: Site Specific Requests

May 19, 2024 in Climate Change, Comprehensive Plan & Growth Management Act, Farmland & Forests, Local Food Systems, Parks, Trails, & Open Spaces

Most of us don’t see Site Specific Requests, nor are we aware of this process that can result in the loss of acres and acres of beautiful, soil-rich, productive agricultural land and carbon-sequestering forest lands in Clark County.

As part of the Comprehensive Planning process, the County accepts site specific requests from landowners hoping to change the zoning on their property, to allow for surface mining overlays (SMOs), or to rezone their land from commercial to residential, or vice versa. Check out our Comp Plan Update article for more on the SMO requests here.

Despite this extremely consequential and potentially devastating process,  none of you will be notified about requests for changes made by your neighbors. There will be no sign, no card in the mail, no notice of any kind for a proposed change in your neighborhood. This is why you should go to the map to see if people in your area are requesting to be rezoned. View the map here.

Friends of Clark County is working diligently on a few things related to the site specific requests:

Priority 1: Zero Loss of Agricultural Land in the upcoming Comprehensive Planning process

Over the past 30 years, Clark County has lost farmland at a precipitous rate. One of the largest threats to our ag lands is the County consistently allowing the conversion of farmland during Comprehensive Planning to other uses, including an alarming amount of residential development in areas where active farming is taking place. Land speculators buy up farmland and then go to the county with applications to convert it to non-farmland solely to make a profit off of land that we should be using for the production of food and agricultural products for our community, especially in the era of climate change that will gravely impact crop yields worldwide

We know that our ag lands are being targeted because there are currently 32 site-specific requests to convert agricultural land (AG-20) into residential, commercial, or mixed use properties. This represents a potential loss of over 8,600 acres. We only have 56,000 acres zoned as ag land, which means we are at risk of losing 15% of the precious farmland we have left in this single Comp Plan update. 

Priority 2: No Expansion of the Urban Growth Boundaries (UGAs)

The past expansion of UGAs, and the accompanying urban sprawl have caused negative environmental impacts, inhibited our ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet climate goals, reduced vital habitat for wildlife, and cost Clark County taxpayers more in infrastructure costs each year. Specifically, the negative consequences of UGA expansion includes:

  • Transforming of natural landscapes into smaller, isolated patches disrupts wildlife corridors and ecological processes, and increases vulnerability to environmental stressors;
  • Loss of green spaces decimates carbon sinks that stabilize our climate, decreases climate resiliency for Clark County to withstand already present and worsening climate impacts, and increases air pollution that harms the health of residents;
  • Impervious surfaces like roads and buildings exacerbate heat island effects, altering hydrological cycles and promoting car-dependency, escalating greenhouse gas emissions; 
  • Extensive infrastructure development consumes resources and energy, raising taxes. 

As Clark County’s population in Urban Growth Areas grows, there’s a need for urban-level services for non-city residents to reduce emissions. However, the county hasn’t acted due to the challenges and costs of providing services across vast distances. Two critical services are:

  • Public transit, which reduces emissions by providing an alternative to individual car use;
  • Curbside composting, which diverts organic waste from landfills, minimizing methane emissions.

We believe that dense housing can be built within existing urban boundaries, addressing the need for affordable housing sustainably. Smart city and county planning that preserves natural resources is possible, and there are existing examples all over the world to demonstrate this. Not only is it possible, but it’s necessary as we plan for climate change. Check out our latest letter to the County on housing priorities in the Comp Plan update here. 

Priority 3: No Loss of Forest and Resource Lands to Surface Mining

There are 2 particularly worrisome Surface Mining Overlays (SMO) requests on forest land. These requests, totaling over 275 acres, should go through extensive environmental review before even being considered, as they would have substantial impacts. It’s important to note that these SMOs happen to be next to the SMO that is currently being appealed by FOCC at the north end of the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad—the proposed Chelatchie Bluff Mine. This is exactly what FOCC and allies predicted the Freight Rail Dependent Uses (FRDU) would set in motion: drawing heavy industry to buy up land along the railroad. This is actually what the intent of this state law sought to do. The FRDU, in addition to Clark County’s decision to retain this illegal SMO, has sent a signal to industrial landowners that they are welcome in Clark County’s precious rural, forested, and agricultural areas. You can read more on that in our FRDU, mining, and climate change article. 

What Happens Next?

The next phase of the process will be the creation of land use alternatives to be studied as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Comprehensive Plan Update.  

Concerned? You should be! You can submit letters and written comments using the web page form at: Alternatively, these comments can be submitted by email to

Submitted by Ann Foster

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