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Thread: County wide zoning - good or bad?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    County wide zoning - good or bad?

    Coles County, Illinois currently does not have countywide zoning. So zoning is limited to 1.5 miles from the incorporated cities. The County is proposing a comprehensive plan that does not include zoning. It was beat back by some influential farmers who basically said, "You're not going to tell me what I can or can't do on my land".

    The municipalities are upset that zoning will not be implemented. There is a new interchange being built that is not within a mile and half from any incorporated city. They are afraid of an adult bookstore, or strip club being built at the interchange. They are also concerned about large hog farms or wind farms being built.

    There is also a problem with land use surrounding some of Coles County’s historic sites. Someone moved in a bunch of junk trailers within a stones throw of the Moore Home, where Lincoln departed from to begin his presidency, and near his parents’ gravesite. The historians want zoning to prevent further eyesores.

    So is countywide zoning a good idea? We are talking about cornfields here. Are there other ways to address the concerns besides zoning?

  2. #2

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    In Illinois law you're going to have to call it zoning, no matter what it actually is. But I have had success in many conservative rural counties with a fully-performance based approach that does not involve a lot of invidious line-drawing. It would be perfect for the situation you describe.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    In Illinois law you're going to have to call it zoning, no matter what it actually is. But I have had success in many conservative rural counties with a fully-performance based approach that does not involve a lot of invidious line-drawing. It would be perfect for the situation you describe.
    Interesting, where can I learn more?

  4. #4
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    In Illinois law you're going to have to call it zoning, no matter what it actually is. But I have had success in many conservative rural counties with a fully-performance based approach that does not involve a lot of invidious line-drawing. It would be perfect for the situation you describe.
    That was going to be my suggestion--performance zoning seems perfect for rural areas and doesn't come off as too commie.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  5. #5
    Since I'm the Director of a county planning and building department, I would say county-wide planning is a good thing. Most growth happens in unincorporated areas, hence the the need growth management and comprehensive planning. Further, rural sprawl is as much of a problem in this country and urban sprawl. Finally, agriculture is a viable industry in most places and needs to be protected. As for how to do it, there a variety approaches out there. The county will need to pick the one that best fits the situation, politically, staffing, the extent that the people are willing to accept it, and the history of the place.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    We're in the process of attempting to adopt county-wide zoning right now... we've tried it several times in the past, and each time it hasn't quite worked out and its taken years for people to shake the memory. So now we're at it again.

    Put simply, its a good thing. You aren't going to implement your comprehensive plan without a base of regulations, followed by some incentives on top of that base.

    You're going to have to have a couple of things to get it done: 1) a good public process to involve lots of people (most things in planning that go down in flames do so because people are pissed at the process, not the product), and 2) elected officials with balls. They're just gonna have to do it, even though some people are loudly against it.

    The performance approach mentioned by Lee Nellis has worked in some rural areas (and Lee's the man to talk about it); the downside of it as I see it is that its different from normal zoning and hasn't been used very widely, and so can be hard for people to understand.

    If this is your county, good luck!

  7. #7
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    Where I grew up, in southeastern Iowa, the only zoning in the county with within two miles of a city. There are some atrocious land uses close together, but nobody thinks anything of it, cause they are use to it. I left there to work for a county that has had county-wide zoning since the 1940s. Unfortunately, that county board approved nearly every special use and zoning change, so it didn't seem a whole lot different than back where I'm from. Now I work for a county that has township controled zoning, which the townships are very protective of. Only we still approve subdivisions at the county level, so it is common for rezonings to be approved by the township, but then the actual land division gets denied by the county, which opens up a whole other can of worms. From my experience, just from an administrative standpoint, county zoning works better than township zoning.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    As a county wide administrator I say YES!

    They slipped an adult store in on our interestate exit, that I am still dealing with.

    If it is just farmers concerned, they can be exempted through agricultural uses.
    Zoning will allow for organized development.

    Run an ad in the paper that says "paying top dollar for land for dump sites, adult entertainment stores, wind farms and trailer parks. Un regulated county,; the building here is EASY!"
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by savemattoon
    Interesting, where can I learn more?
    Lane Kendig wrote a book on the topic as it was implemented in Buck's County PA.

    Other places to look are books like Rural By Design.

    I have done extensive work on it as well, none implemented but lots of thought. PM me and I might still have the papers and sample by-laws I drafted.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by donk
    Lane Kendig wrote a book on the topic as it was implemented in Buck's County PA.

    Other places to look are books like Rural By Design.

    I have done extensive work on it as well, none implemented but lots of thought. PM me and I might still have the papers and sample by-laws I drafted.
    Thanks for the sources. I've learned some about perfromance zoning and talked with some involved with the plan here. Of course those who oppose want nothing to change,
    Quote Originally posted by unsolicited e-mail
    ...We do not want a bunch of "I know better than you" men setting back and telling us what to do with property that has been in our family for over 165 years. We want to keep it all in the family and live there as we see fit. Please realize that in this area people have strong feelings about someone coming in and telling them what they can do and not do with their land....
    but those who are actually doing the plan seemed a little more receptive to investigating other options. I'll pass your offer of sample by-laws to the committee and let you know if anything develops any farther.

    Thanks again

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    I agree County wide zoning is good.
    In my fair county we have an Agricultural Zone that permits/affirms farm operations, and a minimum of acreage for single family residences on septic systems:
    2.5 acres in a subdivision and
    5 acres for a parcelization. (Performance Standard ?)
    Oddball
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  12. #12
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by savemattoon
    Thanks for the sources. I've learned some about perfromance zoning and talked with some involved with the plan here. Of course those who oppose want nothing to change,
    Found the paper on a CD, here is a few more places/references to look for

    Leung, Hok-Lin and K.A. Harper, (2000) International Experiences with Performance Based Planning, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Ottawa.

    Daniels, Thomas L. et al, (1995) The Small Town Planning Handbook Second Edition, Planners Press, Washington DC.

    Levy, J.M., (2000) Contemporary Urban Planning, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River.

    This web site has a few good articles and cases studies http://actprogram.com/english/projects/pdf/act48e.pdf

    Due to when Kendig wrote, there area tonne of APA Journal and Urban Land articles from the 80's on this topic.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  13. #13
    Farmers aren't the ones you need to be concerned about... it's self interested [read: property value interested] local zoning authorities in suburban areas.

    A county wide comprehensive plan can easily include a place for rural areas, and most planners understand that when farmland goes away it never comes back.

    A county wide plan can also easily incorporate necessary things like rental properties, multifamily homes and other smart growth incentives into the suburban areas... exactly what the xenophobic suburbanites don't want. County level zoning is the only realistic way to address regional land use issues, The most local of municipalities, by their very nature are only "looking out for number one".


    Good luck, I wish people were even talking about county wide zoning on Long Island.

  14. #14
    BANNED
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    Quote Originally posted by savemattoon
    Coles County, Illinois currently does not have countywide zoning. So zoning is limited to 1.5 miles from the incorporated cities…

    The municipalities are upset that zoning will not be implemented…

    There is also a problem with land use surrounding some of Coles County’s historic sites…

    So is countywide zoning a good idea? …Are there other ways to address the concerns besides zoning?
    __________________
    There's gotta be a better way.....
    Save Mattoon

    Why not show developers the path of no resistance; so they can go where they are welcome?

    Politicians always seem to want to change the law to increase their power. Thomas Jefferson’s township scheme adopted by Congress (in their first or second term I believe) was not only devised from his point of view as a lawyer but also as an architect; he understood the need for orderly development in land use. It was for subdivision of Counties as well as for units of Municipalities. It is a pity (I hope that will be corrected in future planning, as it is a great economy in building) that townships were not laid out on an angle (on a bias) as Geo. Washington laid out the District of Columbia and as surveyors laid out land boundaries in the original eastern states and in some of the western Spanish survey states.

    In Alabama all Municipalities are authorized to adopt a master plan but since architects and planners have not known how to do that they either fake it or neglect it. The do minant city, if there is one in the county, usually has a fake master plan (the official map) which supposes that development will be continuous in all directions according to the developers own sweet will.

    So, County commissioners tend to collude with the do minant city to take over the whole county. I have written about that on my website - http://www.geocities.com/douglas36601/comment.html.

    Our founders in 1789 gave us a Federal Republic. At the local level Feudalism has prevailed over that, so far – which is why cities grow beyond feasible bounds and concentrate more and more power to government. A Federal system of government should also apply locally; as the Several States are to the central Federal Government so should Townships be to Municipalities and so should Municipalities be to the County and as the County is to the State (or was before our present feudal city states came to do minance). The lawful way for planners to limit the power of overly ambitious politicians is to go by the laws already on the books if they have not already been changed for the worst.


    There is a better way - YHWH provides.

    bud…

    “With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence…” July 4, 1776


    There's gotta be a better way.....
    Save Mattoon

    Your signature well expresses your consternation which I see is quite common on this forum and it reflects the general mood of the planning profession as well as all concerned citizens.

    I have your coordinates – N39.4827469032 x 88.4889061603W and N39.5664667401 x 88.2972523529W - which you can use as I have illustrated - http://www.geocities.com/douglas36601/pics.html - . This gives you two exact corner points and will enable a close approximation for your entire county and beyond. Geographers and Surveyors please verify. Try it and see how you like it. It should greatly simplify the planning process. Developers can pick out sites within an orderly and systematic plan as required by law.

    I have talked to several city planners who were willing to admit to the traditional fakery but they do so with an expression of tragic humor and a sense of desperation; this may be hard to explain but those who will confess may be contrasted to those who will try to hide this pretense or cover up; the latter are liable to have hell to pay - Vox populi, vox dei. The people can understand this; even a child can, not to mention politicians and others who have been looking for a better way for so long - in quiet desperation. Overcoming these false and misleading traditions will be easier if everyone will simply and honestly admit it.


    bud…


    The pen is mightier than the sword.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 20 Apr 2006 at 9:48 AM.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I believe that there are some parts of Pennsylvania that are exploring this option because according to the PAMPC the overall regulating authority that applies the zoning ordinance must permit all possible uses (hence the text “and any other uses not found elsewhere in this Ordinance). The only acceptations to this regulation are Philly and Pittsburgh. But in many other municipalities a use such as agriculture might not be well served, but county wide zoning would help to place some uses within dense municipalities and other uses in the outer areas, preserving the character of the area.
    "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. Time makes more converts than reason." - Thomas Paine Common Sense.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Yes...

    County Planning and Building Permits are a good thing and all it takes is one or two structural fires that wipe out entire families for residents to catch on There are a lot of positive results of County Planning, code enforcement can take place, farmland protection and rural area protections can be created through policy and most importantaly, a sense of place can be established through sound Comprehensive Planning and community buy in The real tragedy is a County that has zoning, building and code enforcement codes but looks worse than a county without all the rules due to poor policy decisions in the past
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    I have a totally different point of view on this topic. Being from NJ my whole life I didn't even know there was such a thing as unincorporated land until I dated a girl from Minn. about 6 years ago. NJ is 100% incorporated into 565 cities, towns, boros, villages etc etc.

    I am a County Planner in Land Development Review/Comprehensive Planning

    My county has 750,000+ citizens in 25 municipalities. I see the boarder wars between some of these towns and just want to step in and take over. But in NJ the towns have control over their zoning and the County Review is a mere formality unless you directly impact a County Road, drainage facility, or land. I have towns with warehousing on one side of the road and senior housing on the other. Or the great rateables race to get Target and the other town gets Walmart and they both have different parking and design standards.

    New Jersey really needs to look at incorporation of smaller towns and their services into larger towns to cut costs and *gasp* jobs. Let them remain a postal address so they can keep the name of their town. This is a real problem in NJ right now with our state taxes going up. Sales tax up 1% to 7% and gas tax up, smokes, liquor, etc etc. Out of the entire USA 47 states have surpluses or are breaking even. Mississippi and Louisiana are 2 of the 3 that are over budget and that's understandable, the other state over budget, you guessed it, NJ.
    @GigCityPlanner

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    I missed the meeting Thursday, but it looks as though the committee is currently leaning away from countywide zoning. (or at least ignoring it)
    http://www.jg-tc.com/articles/2006/0...ws/news004.txt

  19. #19
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    You cannot adequately develop a county budget unless you can estimate what income and expenses will be. You cannot estimate infrastructure costs unless development occurs in locations where infrastructure exists or is planned for. The only way to have this kind of predictive budget ability is through zoning of some sort.

    There was once a good article on whether it is better to first hire a city planner or a city manager. The author's opinion was that a city manager is the most important because the economy and infrastructure must be handled first and in a comprehensive way. Most of the city planning problems would be resolved with good management as the first step. Planning would then be a logical follow on to management.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tide
    New Jersey really needs to look at incorporation of smaller towns and their services into larger towns to cut costs and *gasp* jobs.
    The amalgamation "fad" has come and gone here. The savings have not been realized to the extent projected. For Planning and Building Dept's it actually creates a huge cost due to teh need to consolidate and rationalize By-laws. This was tried in New Brunswick and Ontario (Canada) about 6 years ago and did not realize the expected savings.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by savemattoon
    I missed the meeting Thursday, but it looks as though the committee is currently leaning away from countywide zoning. (or at least ignoring it)
    http://www.jg-tc.com/articles/2006/0...ws/news004.txt

    Its pretty darn tough for county commissioners to just zone the county without a lot of people standing up and saying that they want it. What you've got to do is convince the business community and the development community that its good for their business... that it provides easy predictability for them, and hence protects their investments. Its way easier said than done, but it essentially amounts to a PR campaign (along with the necessary policy development that is inclusive, etc.) that allows the development community to pave the way for the commissioners to make the necessary decisions. If this isn't done, then the only people that will come to the hearings will be property rights activists who will stand up and holler about their personal rights. Without the backing of the development community, it simply isn't going to happen.

    What do I know, though... we're in the middle of our own attempt to zone the county for about the third time, and we've got our own fish to fry.

  22. #22
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by vaughan
    Its pretty darn tough for county commissioners to just zone the county without a lot of people standing up and saying that they want it. What you've got to do is convince the business community and the development community that its good for their business... that it provides easy predictability for them, and hence protects their investments.
    Another approach is for the County Administrator to get up and present a budget that looks at infrastructure costs and taxes with and without planning and with planning. No doubt the planning alternative will look better from a fiscal management standpoint.

    Arguments against zoning always present development as if there are no infrastructure or governmental costs. Build what you want, and the County will magically come up with roads, water supply, police and fire protection, sewage disposal, etc. Good County financial management requires planning.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    Looks as though we won’t be getting County Wide Zoning anytime soon. I brought forth the idea of Performance Zoning and even got it mentioned in the plan.

    http://www.jg-tc.com/pdf/extras/2006...ensivePlan.pdf
    When reviewing the concept of County Zoning, “Performance Zoning” should also be considered. While traditional zoning specifies allowable land uses in each district, performance zoning specifies standards of land use intensity that are acceptable in each district. Performance zoning focuses on the performance of the parcel and how it impacts adjacent lands and public facilities, not on the use of the land. This gives developers and local governments more flexibility in designing projects because the use of a property is not restricted as long as the impacts to the surrounding land are not negative (as defined in the specific regulation.
    The plan did not recommend zoning, only that it be addressed.
    There has been considerable discussion about county zoning, both “pro” and “con”. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that the Coles County Board address the issue of county zoning.
    But the County Board amended the plan.
    http://www.jg-tc.com/articles/2006/1...ws/news003.txt
    The board approved an amendment that Hurst proposed to remove the suggestion that the board consider the zoning issue.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    Zoning

    Wow, they won't even "consider" it? Im a county-wide planner in eastern Iowa, and I can't imagine the chaos that would ensue without zoning. There's just so many people who want to turn their land into a junk yard....

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by KSharpe View post
    Wow, they won't even "consider" it? Im a county-wide planner in eastern Iowa, and I can't imagine the chaos that would ensue without zoning. There's just so many people who want to turn their land into a junk yard....
    They do have a nuisance ordinance that covers junkyards. As well as an entertainment ordinance, massage parlor ordinance, subdivision ordinance, and liquor ordinance.

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