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Thread: Higher densities in smaller, rural towns

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Doberman's avatar
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    Higher densities in smaller, rural towns

    Recently I read a ICMA document discussing sustainability in rural areas.

    One of the proposals was for higher density in downtown core areas of these smaller areas. In theory, I think this would pan out as more multifamily apartments in the core area, with little to no buffer in terms of residential transition before you get to the agricultural zoned areas.

    I think this idea would work. For most small towns I think you still have a grid-like layout in the town core with residential development. I think in practice you can concentrate future residential development with the grid which is typical smaller lots and modest single story houses, and in multifamily. What you're getting rid of is what most would consider your buffer land in-between the town and rural areas. What you're getting rid of is the culdesac garden home development, and estate lots, thereby allowing more land for agricultural zoning.

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    It's a nice idea, but how do you get it to work? First the buffer between multi-family and agricultural needs to be there. People tend to forget that agriculture means heavy machinery operating at all hours, especially during harvest. It also means dust, noise, smells, and more. The other problem is the market. Who is going to build the apartments and who is going to stop peoples natural tendencies to buy large lots at the edge of town? I'm sure it could be zoned that way, but you would have to convince the town to go with the plan. The buffer problem can easily be fixed with a green belt or something else, but I'm just not sure about how the market would handle it.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Doberman's avatar
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    I certainly agree that no one wants cattle and crop spraying right next to their apartments.

    I like the green belt idea.

    I certainly agree that the market wouldn't be AS receptive. What I have noticed in poorer areas of the county is that in the absence of multifamily, the only low income housing you have are trailers.

    What I envision is concentrate lower income residential development in multifamily within the city, and moderate income housing along grids, have your green belt along the perimeter before going into the agricultural zoning.

    This would populate the downtown cores while preserving the agriculture areas, and hopefully eliminate the culdesacs that pop up just outside these towns and the McMansions on estate lots.

    As for the market, I certainly see your point. But it's been my experience from going to these planning commissions here that most of the people want to preserve their integrity rural integrity and see their towns grow in a smarter fashion. In the past Planners, and farmers have been all too willing to sell their land off for residential development and that is what has created sprawling conditions.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Doberman View post
    I certainly agree that no one wants cattle and crop spraying right next to their apartments.

    I like the green belt idea.

    I certainly agree that the market wouldn't be AS receptive. What I have noticed in poorer areas of the county is that in the absence of multifamily, the only low income housing you have are trailers.

    What I envision is concentrate lower income residential development in multifamily within the city, and moderate income housing along grids, have your green belt along the perimeter before going into the agricultural zoning.

    This would populate the downtown cores while preserving the agriculture areas, and hopefully eliminate the culdesacs that pop up just outside these towns and the McMansions on estate lots.

    As for the market, I certainly see your point. But it's been my experience from going to these planning commissions here that most of the people want to preserve their integrity rural integrity and see their towns grow in a smarter fashion. In the past Planners, and farmers have been all too willing to sell their land off for residential development and that is what has created sprawling conditions.
    I would be concerned about concentrating poverty in your core though. I mean is there a pent-up market for rental residential? Or are you running the risk of having multifamily units that have no option but to become section 8 instead? That would do nothing to contain the sprawling subdivision problem. If anything it could make it worse.

    Also - is there existing activity (retail, etc) in your core to support multifamily - or would they be "reverse-commuting" to get their daily needs met?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Doberman View post
    I certainly agree that no one wants cattle and crop spraying right next to their apartments.

    I like the green belt idea.

    I certainly agree that the market wouldn't be AS receptive. What I have noticed in poorer areas of the county is that in the absence of multifamily, the only low income housing you have are trailers.

    What I envision is concentrate lower income residential development in multifamily within the city, and moderate income housing along grids, have your green belt along the perimeter before going into the agricultural zoning.

    This would populate the downtown cores while preserving the agriculture areas, and hopefully eliminate the culdesacs that pop up just outside these towns and the McMansions on estate lots.

    As for the market, I certainly see your point. But it's been my experience from going to these planning commissions here that most of the people want to preserve their integrity rural integrity and see their towns grow in a smarter fashion. In the past Planners, and farmers have been all too willing to sell their land off for residential development and that is what has created sprawling conditions.
    What makes you think that poor people would be receptive to moving from their rented trailers or ramshackle houses in rural areas into multifamily apartment buildings in the local town or small city or that moderate income people will give up their rural house lots? I think you have to understand that many rural people don't want urban life-styles. If they did, they would just move to the local "big city" where there would be many more amenities and opportunities of all kinds. Moving into higher density housing in a small town would force the locals to give up their rural life-styles for no gain as far as amenities and opportunities went.

    Furthermore, since the populations of most rural areas are stagnant or declining, there's simply no incentive to develop new housing except for individuals who want new-built homes. Maybe your area is becoming an exurban outpost for a bigger city, but that would be an exception, I think, to the reality of most rural areas.

    As for the planning commissions, are you sure that they accurately represent the residents' views or the views of some property owners within the local municipal boundaries who have land they'd like to sell for development?
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  6. #6
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Doberman View post
    Recently I read a ICMA document discussing sustainability in rural areas.

    One of the proposals was for higher density in downtown core areas of these smaller areas. In theory, I think this would pan out as more multifamily apartments in the core area, with little to no buffer in terms of residential transition before you get to the agricultural zoned areas.

    I think this idea would work. For most small towns I think you still have a grid-like layout in the town core with residential development. I think in practice you can concentrate future residential development with the grid which is typical smaller lots and modest single story houses, and in multifamily. What you're getting rid of is what most would consider your buffer land in-between the town and rural areas. What you're getting rid of is the culdesac garden home development, and estate lots, thereby allowing more land for agricultural zoning.

    Thoughts?
    People don't live in rural areas to be in density.

    You might get a block of apartments 2-3 stories, but people want space out there. That's why they're there. Unless you are thinking of man camps, then you might get some modulars for a while.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Doberman's avatar
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    @Linda and Tryska, I am not intending to remove people from their trailers or mid sized lots and put them in a section 8 project in a small town. If anything I aim to prevent intrusion on these lots and agrarian areas. I should have prefaced this with the fact that these cities are exurban hubs in many cases. For the most part you have newer residents moving into culdesacs and McMansions and the older residents that reside in town, and in the agricultural/A-R areas. What I'm talking about is a concentrating newer development in multifamily and houses in town. Furthermore, I do feel like multifamily within in a town core; being in closer proximity to essential services and products, is more ideal for lower income individuals than living off the grid in many cases especially with the elderly. However, I don't feel like people moving trailers on acre lots are the issue at hand. It seems the predominant line of thinking is to do nothing residential in a small town's core area and let any and all development happen on the outskirts for the sake development in my state at least.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Doberman View post
    @Linda and Tryska, I am not intending to remove people from their trailers or mid sized lots and put them in a section 8 project in a small town. If anything I aim to prevent intrusion on these lots and agrarian areas. I should have prefaced this with the fact that these cities are exurban hubs in many cases. For the most part you have newer residents moving into culdesacs and McMansions and the older residents that reside in town, and in the agricultural/A-R areas. What I'm talking about is a concentrating newer development in multifamily and houses in town. Furthermore, I do feel like multifamily within in a town core; being in closer proximity to essential services and products, is more ideal for lower income individuals than living off the grid in many cases especially with the elderly. However, I don't feel like people moving trailers on acre lots are the issue at hand. It seems the predominant line of thinking is to do nothing residential in a small town's core area and let any and all development happen on the outskirts for the sake development in my state at least.

    Ah. that is a horse of another color. If there is development going on in town, it's not a bad idea to encourage affordable housing in there as well.

    But it may not attract your trailer folks. Reminds me of a family I know that lives in a trailer in Conyers. They have their trailer specifically there, because the land was the 40 acres that their great-great-great- whomever received as reparations for slavery. They haven't done a darn thing with it but put up double-wides, but you would never get them to leave it.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tryska View post
    Ah. that is a horse of another color. If there is development going on in town, it's not a bad idea to encourage affordable housing in there as well.

    But it may not attract your trailer folks. Reminds me of a family I know that lives in a trailer in Conyers. They have their trailer specifically there, because the land was the 40 acres that their great-great-great- whomever received as reparations for slavery. They haven't done a darn thing with it but put up double-wides, but you would never get them to leave it.
    I think that what he is getting at are the 2-5 acre parcels along roadsides that are hard to bring services to and replaces the ag land with big-@$$ lawns. That kind of development is common in many rural townships. I for one could never understand why anyone would want that much lawn to mow.

    Here is an example of poor planning/land use that I have to pass on my way to my cottage (which BTW is in a burgh, steps from "Downtown"):
    https://www.google.com/maps/place/We...67bc792fe3229a
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Yeah - I figured. That 40 acre trailer was the same - but I think it would still be a tough sell. Oftentimes they are there because it's family land. That's a tough argument to overcome.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    I think that what he is getting at are the 2-5 acre parcels along roadsides that are hard to bring services to and replaces the ag land with big-@$$ lawns. That kind of development is common in many rural townships. I for one could never understand why anyone would want that much lawn to mow.

    Here is an example of poor planning/land use that I have to pass on my way to my cottage (which BTW is in a burgh, steps from "Downtown"):
    https://www.google.com/maps/place/We...67bc792fe3229a
    That's because you are a "city person" as opposed to a "country person". People who live in the country, whether they're life-time residents or urban/suburban refugees, like having the space around them. Those that like to mow, have large lawns. Those who aren't into mowing have smaller lawns and let the rest of their land revert to weeds and then to second growth woodlots. Keep in mind, too, that not all farmland is equal, and some of it is not worth farming, especially in this day and age, and hence, certainly not worth preserving as "agricultural" land, so letting it revert to forest is a better option. Furthermore, except for electricity, most rural properties have private services: water sources, septic systems, private garbage removal, etc.

    Living out in exurbia is inconvenient, and the trade off is primarily in space. Unless you're talking about a very pricey, rapidly developing metro where people have to move further and further away from the metro to find affordable housing, most people moving to exurbia are doing so to get space. I don't see them being interested in living in high density housing so far away from the amenities and opportunities of the bigger city.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  12. #12
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    That's because you are a "city person" as opposed to a "country person". People who live in the country, whether they're life-time residents or urban/suburban refugees, like having the space around them.
    Butbutbut density! Walkable urbanism!
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    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Doberman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    That's because you are a "city person" as opposed to a "country person". People who live in the country, whether they're life-time residents or urban/suburban refugees, like having the space around them. Those that like to mow, have large lawns. Those who aren't into mowing have smaller lawns and let the rest of their land revert to weeds and then to second growth woodlots. Keep in mind, too, that not all farmland is equal, and some of it is not worth farming, especially in this day and age, and hence, certainly not worth preserving as "agricultural" land, so letting it revert to forest is a better option. Furthermore, except for electricity, most rural properties have private services: water sources, septic systems, private garbage removal, etc.

    Living out in exurbia is inconvenient, and the trade off is primarily in space. Unless you're talking about a very pricey, rapidly developing metro where people have to move further and further away from the metro to find affordable housing, most people moving to exurbia are doing so to get space. I don't see them being interested in living in high density housing so far away from the amenities and opportunities of the bigger city.
    Linda, thank you for the response about prioritizing agricultural land.

    I do not believe a high rise in Mayberry is the answer either. With that said, what I am looking at housing market wise is a large number of people who may commute from these small rural towns, or exurbs, just to the suburbs for work in retail. For our area, there is a lack of affordable multifamily for many people who have lower incomes in the suburbs. Because the inner city is so dilapidated I'm wagering that most people that work in the suburbs are not reverse commuting but instead are paying a disproportionate amount of money to live in the same town they work in. For example(s), I made an earlier post some time back about how Hoover which is the largest suburb has hacked their bus service and privatized it so you have to pay a fee every month. This prices out lower income people in the one group of apartments that are in the city and is also classist/racist since that those apartments are predominantly minority dwellings. Helena, where I live, simply won't zone for multifamily period. Our county has two multifamily developments in process now, both are charging rents in the 1000-1400 range which to me makes your income roughly 50K or so and this likely means you are commuting to the city each day.

    Furthermore, I do not think we can assume that every person working on a commercial farm as a laborer wants to live in a trailer.

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