APPENDIX C – ZONING REGULATIONSAPPENDIX C – ZONING REGULATIONS\ARTICLE 8. LANDSCAPING, SCREENING AND BUFFERING

The intent of these regulations is to set the landscaping standards necessary to promote quality development. The goal is to enhance the appearance of the site and to screen and buffer incompatible land uses, providing value to the site and the entire community. 

A.    Applicability.  A Landscape Plan shall be required for all building permits requiring approval of a Site Plan per Article 11, Section 2 Applicability and for those instances as defined by Article 5, Section 3 Accessory Structures and Uses.  A Landscape Plan may also be required when platting property for a subdivision.

B.    Exemptions: The following shall be exempt from the standards of this section:

(1.)  A single family dwelling or duplex dwelling on its own lot or tract.  This shall not be construed as an exemption for a residential subdivision.

(2.)  Improvements or repairs to existing development that do not result an increase in intensity.

(3.)  Development in the “C-1” District.

(4.)  Agricultural uses and agricultural structures within the “R-A” Rural Agriculture District.

A.    Site Design Criteria. Proposed landscape plans shall be reviewed for compliance with the standards of this section and for compliance with the following general design principles:

(1.)  All elements of the site plan shall be arranged to create a safe, functional, convenient, healthful, durable and attractive living environment for residents, tenants, workers and occupants of properties.

(2.)  Environmental features and views shall be identified and preserved to the greatest extent possible through proper site layout and design.

(3.)  Site grading shall be designed and implemented to retain as much existing tree cover as possible, make use of existing natural drainage ways, avoid increased runoff and erosion, and provide buffering of objectionable noise and views. The land shall be contoured to transition smoothly and shall enhance the overall site design.

(4.)  Existing trees, shrubs and ground cover, which will contribute to the living environment, shall be preserved to the greatest extent possible.

(5.)  Extreme temperature, sunlight, wind and other climatic factors shall be moderated by appropriate site layout and design.

(6.)  Safe and convenient pedestrian and vehicular circulation shall be provided.

B.    Adaptive Landscape Techniques:  The use of adaptive landscape techniques such as using plants that have minimal moisture requirements, using native plant species, minimizing runoff from slopes through landscape design and plant materials, use of drip-trickle irrigation systems or bio-swales, use of organic soil amendments, and others are encouraged.  Such landscaping techniques may be approved through the Alternative Compliance Landscaping regulations in Section 8 of this Article.

C.    Vision Obstructions at Intersections:  Comply with the requirements of Article 5, Section 6 Sight Triangle.

D.    Incorporating Existing Trees and Vegetation into Landscape Designs: Site plans, development plans, and subdivision plats should be designed in a manner that preserves existing trees and significant areas of vegetation to the greatest extent possible.

(1.)  Trees and Vegetation to be Preserved 

(a)   The Planning Commission shall have the authority to review and evaluate the site plan proposal and advise the applicant to proceed forward or seek alternative site designs to insure improved preservation of existing trees and vegetation.

(2.)  Tree and Vegetation Credits:  When existing trees and vegetation are preserved, the Planning Commission may award credits in accordance with the following criteria.

(a)   Criteria:

i.      Health, appearance and desirability of the species in its existing location.

ii.     Function of the tree or vegetation in providing erosion control, shade, wind protection, buffering and aesthetic enhancement.

iii.    Ability of the tree or vegetation to withstand the impacts of construction.

(b)   Amount of Credit:

i.      Existing trees or significant areas of vegetation that earn full credits shall be comparable to new specimens.  Individual tree credits shall not be awarded to trees less than 2” caliper at 12” above ground level unless the tree is deemed an exceptional specimen (Appendix D) or it is part of an area of significant vegetation.

ii.     Credits for significant areas of vegetation shall be assigned by the Planning Commission upon recommendation from staff.

iii.    Tree credits may be awarded by approval of the Planning Commission per the table below:

Diameter of tree at 12”

above ground level:

Credits:

2 – 6 inches

1.5 times equivalent PU per tree type*

6 ¼ to 10 inches

2 times equivalent PU per tree type*

10 ¼ to 15 inches

3 times equivalent PU per tree type*

15 ¼ inches or more

10 units per 5 inches (Max 50 PU / tree)

*Plant material is defined in Section 6 Landscape Materials Standards.

iv.    The Planning Commission reserves the right to limit tree and vegetation credits to those that will make a significant contribution to the site design or to assign additional or fewer tree credits when warranted.

(3)   Identification of Existing Trees and Significant Areas of Vegetation:

(a)   Aerial photos or a survey identifying individual trees and significant areas of vegetation should be included in the general information provided at the required pre-development meeting with staff.

(b)   Documentation: The submitted drawings for a site plan, development plan or plat application shall include aerial photos or a survey that locates, identifies by common name, and indicates by caliper size each tree measuring 2 inch caliper or greater and/or areas of significant vegetation by primary vegetation type.  Such plan shall clearly indicate, by symbol or other method, which trees and areas of vegetation are proposed to be saved.

(4)   Protection of Existing Trees and Significant Areas of Vegetation: Existing trees and vegetation that are to be saved shall be protected from all construction activities, including earthwork operations, movement and storage of equipment and materials and dumping of toxic materials. A minimum protection zone shall be established by the installation of temporary fencing around existing vegetation to be preserved, placing the fencing no closer to the trees than their drip lines, and this information shown and noted on the landscape plan.  Protective fencing shall be maintained throughout the construction period. Alternative protection measures may be approved by the Planning Commission.

A.    Certification of Plans.  Landscape plans shall be sealed by a landscape architect or architect licensed to practice in the State of Kansas.   The requirement for sealed plans prepared for the purposes of applications to the Planning Commission may be waived at the discretion of the Director of Community Development on minimal projects or where there is an original approved site plan that may be used as the basis for a minor expansion or renovation of existing site improvements. Sealed plans are always required for the purposes of actual site construction or building permit approval. 

B.    Contents of Landscape Plan. 

(1.)  North arrow and scale. 

(2.)  Topographic information and final grading sufficient to identify and properly specify planting for areas needing slope protection.

(3.)  The location, size and type of all utilities and utility easements with proper easement notation concerning any safety hazards to avoid during installation of landscaping.

(4.)  The location, size and surface of materials for all existing and proposed structures, parking lots, drives, sidewalks, refuse disposal areas, fences, recreational facilities, and other freestanding structural features.

(5.)  The location, size, spread (at the time of planting), type and quantity of all proposed landscaping materials, along with common and botanical names of all plant species. The size, grading and condition shall be specified according to The American Standard for Nursery Stock, as published by the American Association of Nurserymen. 

(6.)  The location, size and common name of all existing plant materials that are to be used for credit.

(7.)  The location and construction details, including a profile section of all constructed elements such as fences, walls, and berms to be placed within a buffer or screening area.

(8.)  Location and identification of hose connections and other watering sources.

(9.)  Location of traffic sight distance triangles and all buffer, screening or landscape easements or areas.

This section sets out the minimum landscaping, screening and buffering requirements for new development within the City of De Soto.

A.    Open Space Landscaping:  The Open Space Landscaping standards shall apply to dedicated private or public open space in all development, with the exception of open space used for active recreation such as sports fields or other recreational uses 

(1)   Plant Units (PU) Required: At least one (1) tree and three (3) plant units shall be provided per each 2,000 square feet of dedicated open space area or fraction thereof.

B.    Parking Area Screening and Landscaping: These Parking Area Landscaping standards shall apply to all off-street parking areas containing ten or more off-street parking spaces. They shall not apply to Vehicle/ Equipment Storage lots, Vehicle and Equipment Sales lots or multi-level parking structures.

(1.)  Perimeter Parking Area Screening: 

(a)   Off-street parking areas shall be screened from view of the public right-of-way and from adjacent lots or tracts used for residential purposes at the time of development. 

(b)   Required screening may be accomplished by shrubs, perennials, earthen berms, fencing, walls or any combination of such materials providing a year-round opaque barrier up to a height of at least 36 inches within two years after planting.

(c)   Required screens shall be located within a landscape buffer strip outside and around the perimeter of the paved parking area with a minimum width of five feet. 

(d)   At least 40 plant units shall be provided within the required screening strip for each 100 linear feet.  Plant units may be reduced or omitted if an earthen berm, fencing or a wall design is approved, depending upon opacity levels achieved. 

(e)   Parking area screening shall be designed to obscure views of parked cars from off-site and to limit headlight glare onto adjoining streets and property.  Portions of the parking area perimeter where spaces point outward onto a street or adjoining property shall require an opaque screen at least 36” in height except where such screen may obscure on-site vehicle circulation or limit visibility within a sight distance triangle.

(f)    Landscaping provided to satisfy these Perimeter Parking Area Screening standards shall take precedence and may count toward or offset Right-of-Way Buffer requirements, but shall not count toward or offset Transition Buffer requirements.

(2.)  Interior Parking Area Landscaping: The following requirements shall apply to the interior of off-street parking areas.

(a)   Landscaping provided to meet the Open Space Landscaping, the Perimeter Parking Area Screening, the Right-of-Way and Transition Buffer or other landscaping standards of these regulations shall not be counted towards meeting a project's Interior Parking Area Landscaping requirements.

(b)   Benefits of interior parking area landscaping include the addition of color and interest, relief from rows of parked cars and asphalt, shade and windbreaks, and improved vehicular circulation. 

(c)   Provide at least 25 square feet of landscape area per required parking space. 

(d)   Required Interior Parking Area Landscaping may be accomplished through planting islands, landscaping between double rows of parking spaces, between the parking lot and the building, or an addition to the setback. 

(e)   One large deciduous tree or two ornamental trees plus ten (10) additional plant units are required for every four hundred (400) square feet of required landscape area.

(f)    For purposes of safety and visibility, trees must have a clear trunk at least 6 feet above finish grade. Shrubs and other perennial plants shall be maintained at a maximum height of 30” in areas where they may obstruct vehicular or pedestrian visibility.

(g)   Location: Interior Parking Area Landscaping shall be reasonably dispersed throughout the paved area of the off-street parking areas. 

(h)   Planting Areas.  The interior dimensions of any planting area used to satisfy Interior Parking Area Landscaping standards shall be sufficient to protect plant materials and to ensure proper growth.  Planting areas or islands that contain trees shall be at least 8’6” wide, and all planting areas shall be protected by raised curbs to prevent vehicle damage.  When landscaping areas are placed between the parking lot and the building they shall be a minimum of ten (10) feet deep.

C.    Right-of-Way and Transition Buffers:  The Right-of-Way and Transition Buffer standards of this section require landscape buffers to be provided and maintained when certain land uses are adjacent to one another or when adjacent to certain roadway types.  The standards, as shown in the Right-of-Way and Transition Buffer Table below, are intended to help ease the land use transition between areas of varying development intensity, to ensure land use compatibility, and preserve the appearance of roadway areas.

(1.)  Determination of Right-of-Way and Transition Buffer Requirements:

(a)   “Proposed Development/Zoning” (Column 1) is the minimum zoning district required to accommodate the proposed use. 

(b)   “Adjacent Existing Development or Zoning” is the actual zoning district or use of the abutting site(s).

(c)   “Adjacent Street” is the classification of the roadway adjacent to the site of the proposed development. 

(d)   Determine the type of buffer required on each building site property line (or portion thereof) by cross-referencing the “Proposed Development Zoning” with the “Adjacent Existing Development or Zoning” and “Adjacent Street” columns.

(e)   Refer to “Description of Buffer Types and Options” for the landscaped buffer options available to meet the requirements of this section.

RIGHT-OF-WAY AND TRANSITION BUFFER

Proposed

Development

Zoning

Adjacent Existing Development or Zoning

Adjacent Street

R-A, R-0, R-1,

R-1A, R-2, R-H

R-2A, R-3

C-1*

M-1, C-2, O-I

M-2

K-10

Arterial

Collector/ Local

R-0, R-H, R-1, R-1A, R-2

A**

B

B

C

C

S3

S2

S1

R-3

B

--

B

B

C

S3

S2

S1

R-A, C-1*

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

M-1, C-2, O-I

C

B

B

A**

B

S2

S1

S1

M-2

C

C

C

B

--

S3

S2

S1

*    “R-A” and “C-1” Districts Exempted

**  Except against like zoning.

(2.)  Description of Transition Buffer Types and Options:

 

TRANSITION BUFFER TYPE ‘A’:

Minimum Width

Plant Units Per 100 Linear Feet

Fence, Wall, Berm***

Trees*

Add’l PU**

Total PU

10 feet

10

20

30

 

15 feet

10

10

20

 

20 feet

10

5

15

 

 

TRANSITION BUFFER TYPE ‘B’:

Minimum Width

Plant Units per 100’ Linear Feet

Fence, Wall Berm***

Trees*

Add’l PU**

Total PU

15 feet

30

20

50

Optional – Reduce Total PU

to 25 with at least 1 tree

20 feet

20

25

45

Optional – Reduce Total PU

to 20 with at least 1 tree

25 feet

20

20

40

Optional – Reduce Total PU

to 15 with at least 1 tree

30 feet

20

10

35

Optional – Reduce Total PU

to 10 with at least 1 tree

 

TRANSITION BUFFER TYPE ‘C’:

Minimum Width

Plant Units Per 100 Linear Feet

Fence, Wall, Berm***

Trees*

Add’l PU**

Total PU

20 feet

30

30

60

Required

30 feet

30

25

55

Required

40 feet

40

50

90

Optional – Reduce Plant Units

to 45with at least 3 trees

(3.)  Description of Right-of-Way Buffer Types and Options:

 

ADJACENT STREET BUFFER

Buffer Type

Buffer Width

Trees*

Additional**

Other

S1

Local/ Collector

10 feet

1 Large Deciduous Tree every 75’ of frontage

 

 

S2

Arterial

10 feet

1 Large Deciduous tree per 75’ of frontage

15 additional PU per 100’of frontage

 

S3

K-10 Highway

30 feet

1 Large Deciduous tree per 50’ of frontage

40 additional PU per 100’ of frontage

Berms may be used to reduce plant units by Planning Commission approval.

    *     Large or Small Deciduous or Evergreen Trees.

  **     Additional PU may be a combination of any trees, shrubs, or other landscaping per Section 6A.

***     Fence, wall or buffer requirements may be waived when abutting a site or right-of-way with an existing fence, wall or berm meeting the requirements of this Article.

(4.)  Location of Right-of-Way and Transition Buffer Areas

(a)   Right-of-way Buffers shall be located along those portions of a site that are adjacent to public rights-of-way.

(b)   Transition Buffers shall be located along those portions of a site that are adjoining lots or tracts with a different zoning classification.

(c)   In the case of modifications or additions to an existing building or site, buffers shall only be required along those portions of the site that are affected by the proposed improvements or use thereof.

(d)   Buffers or portions thereof may be planted in the right-of-way upon approval by the Planning Commission based upon the following considerations:

i.      Potential conflict between plant root systems and existing or proposed utilities, utility easements, and public infrastructure in the area; and

ii.     Plantings shall not be located in the sight triangle.

(5.)  Use of Right-of-Way and Transition Buffers:  Designated buffer areas shall be reserved solely for screening and landscaping purposes.  No proposed building addition, structure, parking area or any other type of physical land improvement shall be located in a required or designated buffer provided that driveways or roads may cross required buffers if necessary to provide access to the building or site.  Sidewalks and pedestrian paths may also cross or be located within required buffers.  In such case, additional buffer area may be required.

(6.)  Responsibility for Installing Buffers: The developing property shall be responsible for providing required buffers.  If the developing site is adjacent to an undeveloped site with a non-residential zoning designation, the developing site shall have the option of installing 50% of the required improvements pursuant to the acceptance of an assurance that the remaining improvements shall be completed upon development of the adjacent site.  Such assurance must be approved by City Council following recommendation from the Planning Commission.

D.    Site Feature Buffering and Screening: Site features on multi-family and non-residential sites, such as but not limited to the following, shall be effectively screened from the view of roadways and adjacent sites by berms, fences, walls and/or plant material.

(1.)  Permitted Outdoor Storage:  Outdoor storage areas that are permitted by these regulations or an approved site plan must be completely screened from view by privacy fences or walls with a minimum height of six (6) feet.  Non-opaque fencing, such as chain-link, or decorative, non-opaque fencing used in conjunction with a masonry wall, may be used to satisfy the requirements of this section if the Planning Commission determines that a sufficiently opaque screen will be provided and the intent of this section will be met.

(2.)  Service and Loading Areas:  If no right-of-way or transition buffer is required between a service and loading area and adjacent property or street, or if the buffering/screening provided is insufficient, the service and loading area shall be effectively screened from view of the adjacent property or street by berms, fences, walls, and/or plant materials.

(3.)  Ground-Mounted Utility Boxes, Meters and Mechanical Equipment: shall be effectively screened from view by the use of plant materials.

(4.)  Dumpster Enclosure and Improvements. 

(a)   The enclosure shall consist of at least 3 walls that are a minimum 6 feet tall and constructed of wood or masonry materials.  The fourth side may be a gate but shall consist of opaque materials. 

(b)   Enclosures shall be positioned in such a manner to shield the refuse bins from sight of any public thoroughfare or adjoining property. 

(c)   When the enclosure is not constructed of masonry materials, steel bollards shall be provided at rear inside corners, gate jambs, and inside back wall at 48” on center.

(Ord. 2397)

A.    Plant Units: Many of the landscaping standards of this section are expressed in terms of the number of “Plant Units” (PU) required.  The following table provides a breakdown of plant unit equivalencies. 

Type of Plant Material

Minimum Size/Height

Plant Units

Trees

Medium or Large

Deciduous or Shade

2” caliper @ 12”

above ground level

10

Conifer or Evergreen

6 feet height

above ground level

7

Small Deciduous and Ornamental

1.5” caliper @ 12”

above ground level

5

Shrubs

Upright Evergreen and Perennial Shrubs

4 feet height above ground level

(Minimum 5 gallon)

2.5

Evergreen Shrubs

and Deciduous Shrubs

18” – 24” spread

when planted

1

Other

Perennial Flowers

and Ornamental Grasses

Minimum 1 gallon

0.5

B.    Ground Treatments:  The ground area within required landscape areas, screens and buffers, as well as all other pervious, undeveloped areas of the site shall receive appropriate landscape treatment and present a finished appearance and reasonably complete coverage upon planting.  The following standards shall apply to the design of ground treatment:

(1)   Ground cover appropriate for the area may be planted in lieu of turf grass. Ground cover shall be established at a rate to provide a minimum of fifty (50%) percent coverage after the first full growing season and complete coverage at two years. Edging shall be provided for all ground cover.

(2)   Mulch shall be installed and maintained at a minimum depth of three inches on all planted areas except where ground cover plants are fully established.  Mulch may be used as a permanent ground treatment in those landscape designs where ground cover or grass is inappropriate.

(3)   Grass Seed and Sod: 

(a)   Turf areas shall be sodded or seeded with species suitable as permanent lawns in De Soto.

(b)   Maintenance shall be provided for both seed and sod until 100% coverage is complete or the sod is established.  For seed, complete coverage shall be provided after the first full growing season.

(4)   Vegetation and plant material that exists on a site prior to its development may be used to satisfy the landscaping standards of this section provided that it meets the size, variety and locational requirements of this section.

C.    Plant Quality:  Plants installed to satisfy the requirements of this section shall conform to or exceed the plant quality standards of the most recent edition of the American Standard for Nursery Stock, published by the American Nursery and Landscape Association.  Plants shall be nursery grown and adapted to the local area.

D.    Artificial Plants: No artificial plants or vegetation shall be used to meet any standards of this section unless specifically authorized by the Planning Commission.

E.     Trees Required: Where required or permitted, trees shall be of ornamental, evergreen, or of the large deciduous types, such as oak, maple, ash, hickory, or thornless honey locust.

(1.)  Prohibited:  The following trees shall be prohibited and shall not be used to satisfy the landscaping or buffering standards of this section: box elder, soft maple, American elm, poplar ailanthus (tree of heaven), willow or mimosa.

(2.)  Species Mix: When more than ten trees are required to be planted to meet the standards of this section, a mix of species shall be provided.  The number of species to be planted shall vary according to the overall number of trees required to be planted in accordance with the following requirements:

Required # of Trees:

11 – 20

21 - 30

31 - 40

41 +

Minimum # of Species:

2

3

4

5

(3.)  Street Trees as required in the Right-of-Way Buffer requirements of the Right-of-Way and Transition Buffer table.

(a)   Placement:  Required materials shall be installed within a landscape easement inside the required front or any side yard abutting street right-of-way per the Section 5, Part C Right-of-Way and Transition Buffers.  The proposed location of street trees shall be shown on the landscape plan.  Trees should be placed at fairly even intervals to create a uniform “street tree” appearance along the street frontage.  While the intent is to space the “street trees” a maximum of every 75 feet apart (50 feet along K-10), there will be a need to vary from this requirement due to factors such as the location of utilities and driveways and intersection visibility requirements.

(b)   Approval: The Planning Commission shall have final approval of the types of “street tree” species used with allowance made for input from the applicant/property owner.

(c)   Tree Selection: Trees shall generally be medium to large deciduous trees that have appropriate growth characteristics and are able to withstand the street-side environment. Proposed street trees shall be compatible with existing area street trees and are subject to approval of the Planning Commission. 

(4.)  Design and Use of Right-of-Way and Transition Buffers:

(a)   Walls and fences used for transition buffers shall be at least six (6) feet high. The use of high quality wood privacy fences, particularly those incorporating brick, rock or wrought-iron elements, and masonry walls is encouraged in transition buffer designs. 

(b)   Berms are generally 2-6 feet in height with a maximum of 3:1 slope.  Berms are useful to shield or buffer properties from adjoining uses, highways or noise.  The use of well-designed berms is encouraged in transition buffer designs.  When used, berms should be designed to integrate with the natural topography of the site.  Additional plantings may be added to provide an effective buffer to the needed six foot height.

(c)   Compatibility of Landscape Materials:  Supplemental buffer plantings shall be compatible with the existing vegetation within the buffer area.

(d)   Trails:  Buffers may contain pedestrian, equestrian or bike trails, provided that the total width of the buffer yard is maintained.  In no event shall structures or uses, such as, but not limited to, playfields, stables, swimming pools, golf courses, tennis courts, parking lots and vehicular use areas, equipment storage and other open storage, buildings or overhangs, be permitted within right-of-way or transition buffers.

A.    Installation:  Trees, shrubs, fences, walls and other landscape features depicted on landscape plans approved by the City shall be considered as elements of the project.  All landscaping materials shall be installed according to sound nursery practices and planting procedures established by the most recent edition of The American Standard for Nursery Stock, as published by the American Association of Nurserymen.

B.    Certificate of Occupancy:

i.      All landscape materials, living and non-living, shall be healthy, stable and in place prior to issuance of final Occupancy Certificate.

ii.     A Temporary Occupancy Certificate may be issued prior to installation of required landscaping materials where weather conditions or seasonal planting restrictions delay the installation of such materials.  Such Certificate may only be issued if written assurances and financial guarantees are submitted and accepted by the City. 

C.    Maintenance: The land owner, or successors in interest, or agent, if any, shall be jointly and severally responsible for continuously maintaining all landscaping plants, elements and materials in good condition and in a way that presents a healthy, neat, and orderly appearance and continues to meet the landscaping requirements approved by the Planning Commission. 

D.    Replacement:  Required landscaping, to include any existing trees for which tree credits were granted, shall be replaced with equivalent landscaping if it is not living within one year of issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy. Such plant material shall be removed immediately and replaced as soon as weather permits.

E.     Substitution of Plant Materials: The City Administrator or authorized representative shall have the authority to approve the installation of comparable substitute plant materials to satisfy the requirements of the approved landscape plan when the approved plants and landscape materials are not available at the time that installation is to occur or when other unforeseen conditions prevent the use of the exact materials shown on the approved landscape plan.  Significant changes to landscape plans shall be subject to review and approval of the Planning Commission.

Alternative Compliance.  Applicants shall be entitled to demonstrate that the intent of the Landscaping and Buffer requirements of this section can be more effectively met, in whole or in part, through alternative means.  If approved, an Alternative Compliance Landscape Plan shall be substituted, in whole or in part, for a landscape plan meeting the express terms of the following:

A.    Procedure:  Alternative Compliance Landscape Plans shall be prepared and submitted for Planning Commission approval.  The plan shall be clearly labeled as an "Alternative Compliance Landscape Plan," and the plan shall clearly delineate and identify the modifications and alternatives proposed.

B.    Review Criteria: In reviewing proposed Alternative Compliance Landscape Plans, favorable consideration shall be given to exceptional designs that attempt to preserve and incorporate existing vegetation in excess of minimum standards and landscape plans that demonstrate innovative design and use of plant materials. Alternative Compliance Landscape Plans may be approved upon a finding that any of the following circumstances exist on the proposed building site or surrounding properties:

(1.)  Natural land characteristics or existing vegetation on the proposed development site would achieve the intent of this section;

(2.)  Innovative landscaping or architectural design is employed on the proposed development site to achieve a buffering effect that is equivalent to the buffer standards of this section;

(3.)  The required landscaping or buffering would be ineffective at maturity due to topography or the location of improvements on the site; or

(4.)  The proposed alternative represents a landscape plan that is as good or better than a plan prepared in strict compliance with the other standards of this section.