Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: Rural (what's that?) Large Lot Zoning: Raise that Drawbridge!?

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered
    May 2004
    Location
    Sarona, Wisconsin
    Posts
    6

    Rural (what's that?) Large Lot Zoning: Raise that Drawbridge!?

    I am working with a lake organization in northern Wisconsin on a watershed management strategy. It is fairly clear that roads and housing are having an impact on the area lakes through increased runoff volume. The lake shore is, of course, well developed and much will need to be done to manage runoff from existing lots. New development is another ball of wax: how to ensure that the runoff problem is not exacerbated?

    The simplest way seems to be to require large lot requirements with options for smaller lots available only if and when increased stormwater runoff can be prevented. At the same time, the local communities (townships) are developing comprehensive plans and are considering large lot requirements to preserve rural character (somewhere in the 20 to 40 acre scale; land prices range $2K-$5K per acre, depending on amenities and lake proximity). There is a fairly robust market for such large lots, with very little evidence that people are buying them as novice developers.

    This is happening in an area that most would consider "rural"; 2.5 hour drive to the Twin Cities. Part of me gets queasy about the equity issues in the large lot requirements; another part of me says "who exactly has a 'right' to live out here in the sticks? The housing is not for a metropolitan work force; it's optional". As one drives closer and closer to the Twin Cities, this line of reasoning becomes less and less tenable, but where exactly is that 'border' between the urban fringe and the truly rural? And should we really be concerned if rural recreational properties become less accessible, particularly if the result is greater resource protection?

    Opine away.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve
    Posts
    3,387
    1. Please tell us about yourself in this forum .
    2. Consider cluster zoning with the resulting open space serving as a natural runoff buffer.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
    Registered
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Posts
    1,263
    How about on lot retention? It is an option in many drainage manuals here for lots over 10K square feet. This obviously focuses on new development, but perhaps the roadways, or ROW outside the roadway, could retain their own water and be configured to convey some lot run off as well.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Appleton, Wisconsin
    Posts
    4,166
    Quote Originally posted by OLY
    I am working with a lake organization in northern Wisconsin on a watershed management strategy. It is fairly clear that roads and housing are having an impact on the area lakes through increased runoff volume. The lake shore is, of course, well developed and much will need to be done to manage runoff from existing lots. New development is another ball of wax: how to ensure that the runoff problem is not exacerbated?

    The simplest way seems to be to require large lot requirements with options for smaller lots available only if and when increased stormwater runoff can be prevented. At the same time, the local communities (townships) are developing comprehensive plans and are considering large lot requirements to preserve rural character (somewhere in the 20 to 40 acre scale; land prices range $2K-$5K per acre, depending on amenities and lake proximity). There is a fairly robust market for such large lots, with very little evidence that people are buying them as novice developers.

    This is happening in an area that most would consider "rural"; 2.5 hour drive to the Twin Cities. Part of me gets queasy about the equity issues in the large lot requirements; another part of me says "who exactly has a 'right' to live out here in the sticks? The housing is not for a metropolitan work force; it's optional". As one drives closer and closer to the Twin Cities, this line of reasoning becomes less and less tenable, but where exactly is that 'border' between the urban fringe and the truly rural? And should we really be concerned if rural recreational properties become less accessible, particularly if the result is greater resource protection?

    Opine away.
    Requiring 'large' minimum sized lots only plays into the hands of the sprawl developers, whom can then tout the 'exclusivity' of the area that they are developing. I recall hearing a few years ago of a county (I think that it was Jefferson County, WI, located between Milwaukeeland and Madison) took a somewhat novel approach to that issue by setting a very small _maximum_ lot size for its unincorporated areas, specifically to put the kibosh on these unsewered big-lot sprawl developments.

    Pushing that one step farther, I sometimes wonder what the effect would be to set a legal maximum lot size that is smaller than the land area needed for an average septic drainage field, thus forcing such development into areas that are already set up with sewers and leaving the undeveloped open and forest land untouched.

    As for runoff, the best thing is likely to require proper grading that directs the runoff away from the lake, perhaps using retention ponds. Setting larger minimum lot sizes will likely only mean more lawn fertilizer reaching the lake (overall, lawns consume as much as or more fetilizer as farms do). Again, proper drainage requirements are of the utmost importance.

    Mike

  5. #5
    SGB hit it right on the head. You could have the shared open space contain retention ponds or even dry detention areas that could be used for active or passive recreation. I have seen soccer fields that are built on dry detention basins.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  6. #6
    Forty acre LOTS?? Forty acres is a farm!

    Off-topic:
    When does government regulation, in the form of *environmental protection*, rise to the level of a violation of the Fair Housing Act? How many people from protected classes are going to be buying 40 acre lots?
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered
    May 2004
    Location
    Sarona, Wisconsin
    Posts
    6

    Still Raising the Drawbridge

    Quote Originally posted by mgk920
    Requiring 'large' minimum sized lots only plays into the hands of the sprawl developers, whom can then tout the 'exclusivity' of the area that they are developing.

    Mike
    I understand and appreciate the suggestions re: on-lot retention and infiltration. I probably need to clarify some matters:
    The large lot requirements being considered are perhaps large enough to actually prevent developers from doing much in the area; that is to say that it would be difficult (though not impossible) to assemble a 400 acre parcel from which one would then carve and offer 10 forty-acre lots. And even if that happened, is that then sprawl or is that still truly rural?

    This area is largely without sewer service and will likely stay that way; it is NOT a suburb and the challenge appears to be keeping it from ever becoming one. Indeed, if public sewer were to be established, to pay for the infrastructure would almost surely mean inviting greater levels of development and greater runoff, not to mention substantial damage to the town's rural atmosphere. (also, analysis of nutrient loading in the lake shows septic systems to be a relatively minor component; 40% of the phosphorous load is coming from surface runoff).

    My question is, why not let the area become relatively "exclusive", letting the smaller existing home sites and parcels remain as they are, but recognizing that the water quality in the lake and the public's rights to access the lake for recreation (versus for home frontage) outweighs a handful of private interests in creating 1, 3 or 5 acre second and third tier home sites. Why not raise the drawbridge now, while it still can make a difference?

    Thanks
    OLY

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered
    May 2004
    Location
    Sarona, Wisconsin
    Posts
    6

    3000 words

    To give some context, here are some photos of the area in question:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Resize of P1010022.JPG   Resize of watershed_aerial0021.JPG  

    Resize of watershed_aerial0019.JPG  

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    9,893
    As several have already touched on, the factors in play are 1) density of development, 2) sewage systems, and 3) landscape and its management. Higher density, with municipal sewage treatment and stormwater BMPs can have the same impact as large lots on septic, or agricultural uses. In fact, my city's two lakes are mostly impacted by agricultural runoff from outside of the city, rather than from anything in the city. Your approach of a minimum of forty acres would prevent sprawl, and would incidently be favorable to wildlife habitat. It might not achieve the goal of improved water quality, depending on the agricultural practices in the watershed. You might want to address that issue in the plan.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian iamme's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    Milwaukee
    Posts
    484
    What kind of towns are there that already exist and what are the demographics of the area?


    Quote Originally posted by OLY
    I understand and appreciate the suggestions re: on-lot retention and infiltration. I probably need to clarify some matters:
    The large lot requirements being considered are perhaps large enough to actually prevent developers from doing much in the area; that is to say that it would be difficult (though not impossible) to assemble a 400 acre parcel from which one would then carve and offer 10 forty-acre lots. And even if that happened, is that then sprawl or is that still truly rural?

    This area is largely without sewer service and will likely stay that way; it is NOT a suburb and the challenge appears to be keeping it from ever becoming one. Indeed, if public sewer were to be established, to pay for the infrastructure would almost surely mean inviting greater levels of development and greater runoff, not to mention substantial damage to the town's rural atmosphere. (also, analysis of nutrient loading in the lake shows septic systems to be a relatively minor component; 40% of the phosphorous load is coming from surface runoff).

    My question is, why not let the area become relatively "exclusive", letting the smaller existing home sites and parcels remain as they are, but recognizing that the water quality in the lake and the public's rights to access the lake for recreation (versus for home frontage) outweighs a handful of private interests in creating 1, 3 or 5 acre second and third tier home sites. Why not raise the drawbridge now, while it still can make a difference?

    Thanks
    OLY

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered
    May 2004
    Location
    Sarona, Wisconsin
    Posts
    6
    Quote Originally posted by iamme
    What kind of towns are there that already exist and what are the demographics of the area?
    The three rural townships surrounding the watershed are 36, 36 and 72 square miles with a total between the three of 1,528 homes, 56% of which is seasonal. The population is almost entirely white, older, and either employed at regional centers or retired.There are perhaps 7 to 9 active agricultural operations in the watershed. Population and housing growth is primarily driven by those fortunate enough to choose where they want to live, either for retirement, work-at-home, or commuting long distance; it is in that sense that I characterize the housing growth as "optional".

    Nearby regional centers include a "tourist town" located 15 miles to the north (pop 2500), a government service center located to the NW (pop 2500) and a regional education and service center located 15 minutes to the south (pop 10K). These three cities and a handful of smaller villages provide jobs as well as affordable housing stock.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve
    Posts
    3,387
    Quote Originally posted by OLY
    And even if that happened, is that then sprawl or is that still truly rural?
    That's what I call rural sprawl. It sounds like an oxmoron, but really isn't when you consider the costs of personal transportation, school transportation and public road maintenance when large lot developments occur out there

    My question is, why not let the area become relatively "exclusive", letting the smaller existing home sites and parcels remain as they are, but recognizing that the water quality in the lake and the public's rights to access the lake for recreation (versus for home frontage) outweighs a handful of private interests in creating 1, 3 or 5 acre second and third tier home sites. Why not raise the drawbridge now, while it still can make a difference?
    Great question. Is this addressed in a current comprehensive plan for the muncipality? Is there even a current comprehensive plan or similar land use policy document?
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Hudson River Valley
    Posts
    48
    Quote Originally posted by OLY
    I understand and appreciate the suggestions re: on-lot retention and infiltration. I probably need to clarify some matters:
    The large lot requirements being considered are perhaps large enough to actually prevent developers from doing much in the area; that is to say that it would be difficult (though not impossible) to assemble a 400 acre parcel from which one would then carve and offer 10 forty-acre lots. And even if that happened, is that then sprawl or is that still truly rural?

    This area is largely without sewer service and will likely stay that way; it is NOT a suburb and the challenge appears to be keeping it from ever becoming one. Indeed, if public sewer were to be established, to pay for the infrastructure would almost surely mean inviting greater levels of development and greater runoff, not to mention substantial damage to the town's rural atmosphere. (also, analysis of nutrient loading in the lake shows septic systems to be a relatively minor component; 40% of the phosphorous load is coming from surface runoff).

    My question is, why not let the area become relatively "exclusive", letting the smaller existing home sites and parcels remain as they are, but recognizing that the water quality in the lake and the public's rights to access the lake for recreation (versus for home frontage) outweighs a handful of private interests in creating 1, 3 or 5 acre second and third tier home sites. Why not raise the drawbridge now, while it still can make a difference?

    Thanks
    OLY
    I have three concerns about 40 acre zoning. The first is the level of non-conformance you could potentially create. How big are the existing home sites and vacant parcels? If a large number are under 40 acres, I can imagine quite a bit of opposition since you will be creating lots of non-conforming lots. Also, you could encounter takings lawsuits.

    My second concern/comment is whether or not 40 acre zoning will actually further your goal of protecting the watershed. A 40 acre lot is not necessarily low-impact (imagine a golf course). Remember that markets change - even if you can't imagine a golf course or a large high-end estate with acres and acres of manicured lawn being developed in the area now, in 10 years the demand could be there.

    Finally, will 40 acre zoning protect recreational use of the lake? Private ownership of the lakefront, whether large or small lots, could still limit recreational access.

    Have you considered instead zoning designed specifically to limit areas of disturbance? There are lots of good, creative examples out there of zoning for environmentally sensitive development.

  14. #14
    Member
    Registered
    May 2004
    Location
    Sarona, Wisconsin
    Posts
    6
    Quote Originally posted by SGB
    Great question. Is this addressed in a current comprehensive plan for the muncipality? Is there even a current comprehensive plan or similar land use policy document?
    That's what motivates the thread: the comprehensive planning is underway, the large-lot idea is on the table (driven more by the planning committee's interest in preserving rural character than lake water quality concerns, but a fortunate coincidence from the lake's perspective) and the rumbling is beginning about housing prices being affected by a 20 acre or 40 acre minimum (no more 5 acre, $15K greenfield lots) and, as I mentioned, part of me responds "housing for who? Nobody really HAS to live out here, they choose to, and it's unclear why that choice should be subsidized by a loss in the town's rural environment and the lake's water quality." I contrast this to the metro situation where, if the metro economy is to keep functioning, people will need to live in the metro region and so a range of housing affordability ought be maintained throughout lest affordable housing become segregated housing. But surely the metro region has an exterior border somewhere, and beyond that is "the rural", where the metro rules need not apply, right? How would one detect this border (note: it is not the Twin CIties MUSA, beyond which metro housing extends at least for another 30 miles)?

    Quote Originally posted by Main Street Maven
    I have three concerns about 40 acre zoning. The first is the level of non-conformance ...you could encounter takings lawsuits...A 40 acre lot is not necessarily low-impact (imagine a golf course)...will 40 acre zoning protect recreational use of the lake? Have you considered instead zoning designed specifically to limit areas of disturbance? There are lots of good, creative examples out there of zoning for environmentally sensitive development.
    The takings question is out there, but there's also a fairly active and healthy market for land in pacels 40 acres and larger, so I can't imagine anyone actually having a legitimate takings claim. The access question: the lake has 7 developed public access points and a handful of publicly-owned lakeshore areas with no developed trail or landing. I think at some point in the future public access could be enhanced, but without a good resource its less likely to happen.

    Re: non conforming and appropriate zoning, I am wondering if a town-enacted land division ordinance could complement whatever zoning scheme emerges after comprehensive planning. The town land division ordinance could essentially call for no new lots <20 acres unless accompanied by detailed stormwater runoff management plans. This does not address existing smaller parcels, but at least it turns the spigot off. Existing parcels would need to be handled through zoning, and I don't think the political will exists to create a large number of unbuildable lots, so the existing smaller parcels will likely be built upoon. Stormwater BMP requirements may need to be included in the county building code if they are to be considered when these lots- already properly zoned- develop, yeah?
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 10 May 2004 at 1:34 PM.

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 16
    Last post: 05 Jun 2013, 1:14 PM
  2. Replies: 0
    Last post: 22 May 2008, 8:03 AM
  3. Rural zoning studies
    Rural and Small Town Planning
    Replies: 5
    Last post: 28 Mar 2003, 11:51 AM
  4. Replies: 5
    Last post: 01 Feb 2001, 2:54 PM
  5. Zoning for rural tourism
    Land Use and Zoning
    Replies: 4
    Last post: 12 Sep 2000, 8:51 PM