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Thread: A small town that isn't a town

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    A small town that isn't a town

    In Iowa, we have a lot of fading small towns. In the Southern Tier of counties it is particularly so. You have county populations of 6,7 or 8,000.

    What about a town that is basically unincorporated technically, but has its own school which is like a homeschool and instead of taxes you pay association dues for snow removal, street repair, etc.?

    I am surprised we don't see more of this. Has anyone heard of towns like this?

    Sort of like the stupid Village movie, but not set in the 1800's.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    I think we are seeing a disintegration of our society's structure, brought on my corporate dominance of production, distribution, and marketing (including media), combined with the export of manufacturing. Sort of a "grapes of wrath nuevo" scenario.

  3. #3
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    The City Development Board has denied unincorporation of towns. One in my home county had five residents, yet had to have a City Clerk and a town council....
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    I could see people organizing by shared values or cultures into what would be unincorporated subdivisions technically, but in reality are towns. Instead of taxes you would pay association dues. You could also have your own school free from the state and its ever consolidating way. A throwback to the days of multiple ages in the classroom.

    I can see the appeal. I know there are some gated communities, but I am thinking of something more open that one could buy into.

    Iowa would be a prime place for this.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hawkeye66 View post
    In Iowa, we have a lot of fading small towns. In the Southern Tier of counties it is particularly so. You have county populations of 6,7 or 8,000.

    What about a town that is basically unincorporated technically, but has its own school which is like a homeschool and instead of taxes you pay association dues for snow removal, street repair, etc.?

    I am surprised we don't see more of this. Has anyone heard of towns like this?

    Sort of like the stupid Village movie, but not set in the 1800's.
    Why do there have to be "towns" in counties with such small populations? If a place is unincorporated, then isn't the county or township responsible for removing snow,doing road repair, and running schools? Many of the small unincorporated towns that I'm familiar with in rural NYS don't have sidewalks -- or the sidewalks are left over from 100 years ago and aren't maintained, and any new streets don't have them -- because the "town" residents don't wish to pay for them by forming a special district to maintain sidewalks. Many other "towns" in rural NYS are really ghost towns -- they're dots on road maps but all that's left is maybe 4 or 5 houses in a quarter mile area around a cross roads.

    I cannot believe that a small town of a few hundred people could afford to maintain its own "village school". Are you talking about having 1 teacher for 15 kids, grades k-8 or 2 teachers for 40 kids, grades k-8, working for less than minimum wage? Good luck with that.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jswanek's avatar
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    .

    I think the Amish, Shakers, Mennonites, Hutterites, Millerites, and Mormons beat you to this...Oh, and the Aryan Nations.

    .

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Vote yes on small schools, no on association dues

    I grew up near the southern tier of Iowa and so I understand well the situation you're describing. I think in general that small schools are better than larger schools, although at the high school level at least, some consolidation is appropriate. The one-room school isn't such a bad model for a rural community; I missed this experience by one year, but I can still remember an exciting day of visiting a one-room school the year before I could attend school. In smaller schools, there's much less tendency for the quiet kids or the radically different kids to get lost. The truth that everyone can excel at something, even if it's only the burping contest, is demonstrated in small schools.

    As for forming yourselves into an association to assess dues for snow removal, I don't understand why that is preferable to taxes. In rural areas I don't think government is so broken that it can't be influenced to purchase only those collective goods that the citizenry thinks appropriate. I could be convinced, but so far I'm not.

  8. #8

    Private responsibility for maintenance of sidewalks and agricultural resources

    I am a planner for a small incorporated community of 1300 within the larger county of 110,000 for which I am also the Planning Director.

    Sidewalks have been turned over to the private lot owners for maintenance by the city. The sidewalks are probably (most likely in the right of way),but the lot descriptions and right of way descriptions are so antiquated that there is no clarity to where the public realm stops and the private realm starts. So, it gave the mayor and City council the opportunity to roll sidewalks into the private realm until a court of law tells them differently. The results are mixed. In upper end portions of the town, sidewalks are in decent shape with lot owners footing the expense for repair and maintenance of this 75 year old plus network of sidewalks. In less financially able parts of town, theinfrastructure for the sidewalk system is quicky going fallow and back to nature.

    I have seen it done successfully, but I have seen such grass roots efforts fall on their face as well.

    One intriguing idea is the community garden plot whereby, cluster or conservation subdivisions set aside a tillable lot with good soils for the community to establish a cooperative vegetable/produce garden by giving each lot owner a row or garden section. It could also operated by simply letting those interested undertake the gardenning for the larger community of residnets in return for other services/responsibilities being carried out by others in the community. Very Amish, Mennonite, "the Farm", Utopian. An idea worthy of further exploration in cluster/conservation subdivisionn design non the less. Particulalry if Open space is large enough in acreage for the HOA to lease back to a neighboring farmer.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by tiger94 View post
    It could also operated by simply letting those interested undertake the gardenning for the larger community of residnets in return for other services/responsibilities being carried out by others in the community. Very Amish, Mennonite, "the Farm", Utopian. An idea worthy of further exploration in cluster/conservation subdivisionn design non the less. Particulalry if Open space is large enough in acreage for the HOA to lease back to a neighboring farmer.
    I think you are thinking of the Hutterites who are related to the Amish and Mennonites but are much more communal. They own land and other assets communally, with members of the community working at different tasks that they are good at.

    The Amish and Mennonites own and operate individual businesses/farms, and they operate in a cash economy. As with "Englischers", they occasionally barter for goods and/or services but it's not the mainstay of their economy. The Amish gather for barn raisings, quilting bees, etc in pretty much the same way that most rural Americans did 150 years ago.

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