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?