There is a Silver Lining

By Beacon Staff

“All the comforts of home,” a phrase that conjures myriad images as personalized, specific and diverse as those individuals in the real estate market on any given day. Usually based on childhood memories or the fulfillment of “the American dream” of home ownership, these ideals become the responsibility of developers, architects, builders, lenders and Realtors to provide. Make no mistake: there is no blueprint for success or prophetic magic ball when pairing a person to the house that they will turn into their home.

With that in mind, communities today are designed to make the most of their natural surroundings as well as combine comfort and convenience for their members. One such development style, PUD (Planned Unit Development), capitalizes on our collective desire to live in a neighborhood, have access to shared community spaces and be adjacent to shopping centers.

PUD as a regulatory process is a means of land regulation that promotes large-scale, unified land development. Where appropriate, this development control promotes, but is not limited to:

  • A mixture of both land uses and dwelling types with at least one of the land uses being regional in nature.
  • The clustering of residential land uses providing public and common open space.
  • Increased administrative discretion to a local professional planning staff while setting aside present land use regulations and rigid plat approval processes.

Spatial techniques utilized in PUD design often designate access to a large shared open space surrounding the houses as well as a smaller private yard. These large protected open spaces are created by the layout of the buildings and are intended for use by all residents of the developments. Different housing types – single family, townhomes, commercial – are often, but not always, mixed rather than separated, as is done in conventional developments.

Street patterns are one of the most important elements in establishing the neighborhood character of this type of residential community. In order to dispel the conformity of the typical grid plan street pattern, PUDs often employ a hierarchy of street types based on usage.

Local streets serve only the residences and have a low traffic volume. Collector streets connect local streets to access roads, which are the major routes of travel for entrance into and exit from these developments. Sidewalks and pedestrian ways supplement and complement the network of streets, establishing a unique character for the neighborhood. Many such neighborhoods have a web of trails and parks throughout for community usage. In this type of development, each of these elements work together to enhance the whole.

Locally, Silverbrook Estates can be cited as an example of some of these design tenants. As the phases are not complete, it is difficult to envision all of the different aspects of the PUD criteria; however, they are all part of the design and are just waiting to be implemented.

The initial investment began with more than $4 million in water and sewer; the layers being placed to encourage future development to tie into those lines. There is an amazing entrance, complete with an alluring water feature and paved streets and walkways run throughout. The phases have been carefully orchestrated to magnify the area’s natural beauty. Some of the amenities were created as the initial homes were being built. The community clubhouse boasts a swimming pool and state-of-the-art exercise facility. It was designed as a central “hub” to provide a space for activities, meetings, reunions and social events, complete with a great room, fireplace, pool table and a full kitchenette at the hosts’ disposal.

Constructed adjoining the Stillwater River, this community has chosen to focus on natural land preservation and has laid out the lots and shared space accordingly. In keeping with the tradition of land conservation, the Silverbrook Community was designed with a cohesive system of parks. Residents are invited to meander throughout the grounds, enjoying the four localized parks. These estates are home to the Silverbrook Creek with paths for pedestrian traffic from one end of the community to the other. Plans for single-family homes, townhomes and a town center shopping area are additional indicators that this development follows the PUD format.

Being that the Flathead Valley is a destination location, not only for visitors but also for new residents, these types of developments offer a refreshing combination of “the big city meets the big sky.” For those who choose to embrace our natural beauty combined with all the conveniences and amenities of “home,” PUD communities have found a way to offer the best of both worlds and in this day and age, who doesn’t want it all?

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