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Thread: What is a small town? What is rural?

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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    What is a small town? What is rural?

    What is a small town? What is rural?

    Under 50,000 is a convenient threshold in my world for towns. For counties, it is more visual: if the place covered with subdivisions and 5 acre baby farms--it is not rural.

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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    What is a small town? What is rural?

    Under 50,000 is a convenient threshold in my world for towns. For counties, it is more visual: if the place covered with subdivisions and 5 acre baby farms--it is not rural.
    50,000? Wow. In Montana, only three communities would crest that threshold - Great Falls, Missoula and Billings. Most of our cities are in the 20,00-40,000 range.

    My convenient threshold would be: town - 5,000 or less. Even so, East Helena is an incorporated city with a population of about 2,000.

    A small town depends on the state, to a large extent. What's a small town in Louisiana is a large town or small city in Montana.

    How many subdivisions and baby farms does an area have to have before it no longer in "rural". What is the tipping point? In my county we have subdivisions among sheep and cattle ranches and alfalfa fields. Mostly iti s rural. Every other truck has a mongrel,spotted cattle dog. To me that is rural.

    Baby farms? We don't have too many of those. Folks in Montana tend to be a little long in the tooth. Median age is around 40.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus
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    How about any place that is not in a Micropolitan Statistical Areas ?
    micropolitan statistical area must have at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 population.
    http://www.census.gov/geo/www/maps/s...200312_dec.htm
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    Cyburbian kalimotxo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    How about any place that is not in a Micropolitan Statistical Areas ?

    http://www.census.gov/geo/www/maps/s...200312_dec.htm
    That seems a little restrictive. Just looking at Virginia (only because I've spent my whole life here), only 32 of 95 counties in the state fit those criteria. There are some very small towns and very rural areas among counties in Micropolitan and Metropolitan Statistical Areas. I grew up between 2 farms in western Loudoun County and until 10 or 15 years ago I would have definitely characterized the area as rural, despite being part of the 4th largest MSA in the country. There are still some areas in the MSA that could only be characterized as rural, although very few around my hometown (sniff ).

    When I hear "rural" I think less in terms of simple population and more about the ratio of higher density areas to very low density areas adhering to certain land uses (agricultural/open land/protected land, etc). If dense areas are few and far between true farmland, forests, and pastures, it seems rural to me.

    Having said that, downzoning that creates 15 or 30 acre "grass farms" does not necessarily protect an area's rural character; it just makes for especially impractical suburbs - something I'm all too familiar with.
    Process and dismissal. Shelter and location. Everybody wants somewhere.

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    Cyburbian jmf's avatar
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    I come from an area where small towns are really small - under 5,000 so the thought of places with 50,000 people doesn't even come close to small for me but then I haven't been to the ones mentioned.

    Perhaps it is more about a vibe, the role of the town and the way it interacts with the surrounding community. A main street with real stores or services, a limited strip, a draw to people in the immediately surrounding area but if they wanted more they wouuld go somewhere else.

    As for rural, I agree that it has less to do with population and more to do with density and reliance on primary industries like farming but also forestry and fishing.

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    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Here's a 2008 article on the topic, discussing the three federal definitions of "rural" in the United States:

    http://www.nal.usda.gov/ric/ricpubs/what_is_rural.shtml

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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    50,000? Wow. In Montana, only three communities would crest that threshold - Great Falls, Missoula and Billings. Most of our cities are in the 20,00-40,000 range.

    My convenient threshold would be: town - 5,000 or less. Even so, East Helena is an incorporated city with a population of about 2,000.

    A small town depends on the state, to a large extent. What's a small town in Louisiana is a large town or small city in Montana.

    How many subdivisions and baby farms does an area have to have before it no longer in "rural". What is the tipping point? In my county we have subdivisions among sheep and cattle ranches and alfalfa fields. Mostly iti s rural. Every other truck has a mongrel,spotted cattle dog. To me that is rural.

    Baby farms? We don't have too many of those. Folks in Montana tend to be a little long in the tooth. Median age is around 40.
    We have 67 people in Outllook today.
    We are trying to write an Ordinance liminting certain land useage and trailer homes.
    Can anyone point me in the corract direction?
    Sorry if I am off topic here.
    Kirk

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    Well I think we are small here. Less than 20,000 county wide.
    We are just about to hammer out or new regs. I am pretty excited about that.

    Economic Development takes an interesting turn here also. All I can say is some big things are coming...More info as I can release it.

    I hope that this forum works well for us.

    We should be able to provide some interesting antics.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SGB View post
    Here's a 2008 article on the topic, discussing the three federal definitions of "rural" in the United States:

    http://www.nal.usda.gov/ric/ricpubs/what_is_rural.shtml
    Great link. I was one of a group of people who met with the GAO a few years ago on this issue when they were researching whether to change how rural areas were defined. It resulted in this report:

    RURAL HOUSING: Changing the
    Definition of Rural Could Improve Eligibility Determinations
    .

    I think it has a nice history of how rural areas are defined. As I was working in Massachusetts at the time, our worry was that they would "define out" some areas in the state that were currently rural. Supposedly, the focus was to drive more funding to larger, more isolated rural areas and away from smaller rural areas closer to population centers (a focus that I disagreed with).

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    I grew up in a city of 4,200 so a city of 50,000 was a big city to me. I had a city of 50,000 that was 20 miles away and a city of 190,000 that was 45 minutes south. But, now that I live and work in a regional center of the state, small town takes a new on a new look. 50,000 doesn't seem so big anymore.

    The census definition includes cities with populations of 2,500 or more as "urban". I would not go as far to say that.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    My county of residence is <27K, with three or four small towns that range from 150 to 1200 residents.

    I think an apprpriate label would be "residual rural", as three fourths the workers drive to the neighboring city to work.

    While there is an agricultural booster faction, they are holdovers from times past, as the whole county is still recovering IMHO from King Cotton, during whose heyday the soils in general were "heavily damaged", to quote one federal ag brochure I read.

    Chickens, a few cattle, and pine trees are about all that grow.

    Local planning efforts are mostly to comply with state mandates, and I think most of the state benefits from state leadership on general governmental conduct, which leadership is maybe a remnant of Reconstruction after the "War Between the States".

    Generally the area was kept busy by the southern textile era, when carpetbagging industrialists exploited cheap rural labor, but foreign competition has over the last half century decimated southern textiles.

    This town's big employer is a "sewing plant" that makes uniforms and other apparel in a windowless CMU building, still, I assume, taking advantage of low wage labor.

    Economic activity of the past decade was mostly residential sprawl building to provide cheaper land and housing for the neighboring county, which houses the state's "flagship" research university, itself sort of an economic "Green Zone" in a Bagdhad county where 38% live in poverty.

    Wish I could offer a more cheerful summary, but I think the term "rural" is pretty much up in the air as we enter "post-industrial" times.

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    Quote Originally posted by SGB View post
    Here's a 2008 article on the topic, discussing the three federal definitions of "rural" in the United States:

    http://www.nal.usda.gov/ric/ricpubs/what_is_rural.shtml
    Interesting - the non-profit housing organization I run just applied for a rural grant - but I would say Nantucket is pretty far from rural anymore. Yet we fall into the slots - less than 50,000, etc. Lots of folks who come here are looking for that "rural seaside resort" feel - and ignore the realities because it WAS rural when they came 30 years ago.

    We have serious housing pressures, serious economic development concerns, etc. So we are a very big blend of pressures in a "rural" environment.

    One thing to go back to is the idea that it is what you see. I see out of my condo window a little tiny yard - surrounded by conservation land. Others have two acre zones and love living in the "country."

    Who know what it means - the easiest way to define it for me is that we aren't urban....

    Aaron
    Nantucket, MA

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    What is a small town? What is rural?

    Under 50,000 is a convenient threshold in my world for towns. For counties, it is more visual: if the place covered with subdivisions and 5 acre baby farms--it is not rural.
    I think this is a definition that comes from somebody who lives in/near a big city metro. Even in NYS, most people wouldn't consider a town of 50,000 as being a "small town" unless they came from the NYC area.

    Erie County, NY, which contains Buffalo, has around 950,000 people spread out over about 1000 square miles. Outside of the city of Buffalo, I think only three or four suburban towns have populations of more than 50,000 each (Amherst, Cheektowaga, Hamburg, and Tonawanda). Once you get about 20 miles south or east of Buffalo, you find yourself in rural areas.

    Chautauqua County, NY, where I live has fewer than 150,000 people spread out over about 1100 square miles. Neighboring Cattaraugus County, where I grew up, has about half that number of people in around 1200 square miles. The largest city in the 2 counties is Jamestown (30,000), followed by Dunkirk (20,000) and then Olean (17,000). Throw in the "suburbs" of these cities, and you might add another 7 or 8 thousand people (the villages of Lakewood, Falconer, and Fredonia are quite "large" by our standards).

    Further east along NY's Southern Tier, the rural populations thin out even more and the villages get smaller (esp in Allegany and Steuben Counties) until you reach the Finger Lakes, but even there, the areas are primarily rural with small cities and smaller villages.

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    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    ...Erie County, NY, which contains Buffalo, has around 950,000 people spread out over about 1000 square miles. Outside of the city of Buffalo, I think only three or four suburban towns have populations of more than 50,000 each (Amherst, Cheektowaga, Hamburg, and Tonawanda). Once you get about 20 miles south or east of Buffalo, you find yourself in rural areas.
    Actually, most Erie Co. communities other than ones you list have fewer than 20,000 residents. Yet the Erie County Community Development Block Grant Consortium is considered an "urban county" consortium... go figure.

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmm....

    Call me old fashioned....but I like the current definition of town vs. city being at 2,500 people with a separation from another population center.

    http://www.census.gov/geo/www/GARM/Ch12GARM.pdf


    The Bureau of the Census defines urban as comprising all territory, population,
    and housing units located in urbanized areas and in places of 2,500
    or more inhabitants outside of UAs. The term urban refers to both kinds
    of geographic entities. The terms urban, urbanized area, and rural are the
    Census Bureau’s definitions; other Federal agencies, State agencies, local
    officials, and private groups may use these same terms to identify areas
    based on different criteria.

    Urbanized Areas (UAs)
    A UA is a continuously built-up area with a population of 50,000 or more.
    It comprises one or more places—central place(s)—and the adjacent
    densely settled surrounding area—urban fringe—consisting of other
    places and nonplace territory.
    Urban Places Outside of UAs
    Outside of UAs, an urban place is any incorporated place or census designated
    place (CDP) with at least 2,500 inhabitants. A CDP is a densely
    settled population center that has a name and community identity, and
    is not part of any incorporated place (see Chapter 9, “Places”).

    Rural Places and Territory
    Territory, population, and housing units that the Census Bureau does
    not classify as urban are classified as rural. For instance, a rural place is
    any incorporated place or CDP with fewer than 2,500 inhabitants that is
    located outside of a UA. A place is either entirely urban or entirely rural,
    except for those designated as an extended city.
    Skilled Adoxographer

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    I think the Census Bureau definition is dead-on.

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    That is an interesting but very specific description. Although relevant in your context, a definition based on population alone is inappropriate on a global scale.

    In 3rd world countries for example, we have settlements where populations exceed 1,000,000 people - and with which you certainly wouldn't associate words like 'urban' or 'city'. I'd imagine this is not limited to third world countries either.

    In such cases the definitions of town vs city and urban vs rural are more accurately prescribed by governing structures, extent of state service provision, and the nature of amenities.

    ... newcomer's 2 cents worth...

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Yup....

    Quote Originally posted by ShaunFogarty View post
    That is an interesting but very specific description. Although relevant in your context, a definition based on population alone is inappropriate on a global scale.

    In 3rd world countries for example, we have settlements where populations exceed 1,000,000 people - and with which you certainly wouldn't associate words like 'urban' or 'city'. I'd imagine this is not limited to third world countries either.

    In such cases the definitions of town vs city and urban vs rural are more accurately prescribed by governing structures, extent of state service provision, and the nature of amenities.

    ... newcomer's 2 cents worth...
    If we're looking at the WORLD.....2,500 wouldn't cut it.....India starts at 5,000 and even that is way too small for them.....I think.

    When you look at this, there really aren't that many cities over 1 million in the world....considering we're talking about the WORLD....ha ha ha.....

    http://manyeyes.alphaworks.ibm.com/m...tions-over-1-4
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    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    If we're looking at the WORLD.....2,500 wouldn't cut it.....India starts at 5,000 and even that is way too small for them.....I think.

    When you look at this, there really aren't that many cities over 1 million in the world....considering we're talking about the WORLD....ha ha ha.....

    http://manyeyes.alphaworks.ibm.com/m...tions-over-1-4
    Awesome link!

    (... Although my home town of Port Elizabeth with a population of over 1 million didn't feature )

  20. #20
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    Small town: - A small community in a rural district. A population center that is larger than a village and smaller than a city.
    Rural area - an area outside of cities and towns; "his poetry celebrated the slower pace of life in the country"

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