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Thread: What is 'rural character'? AIB Linda D

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    What is 'rural character'? AIB Linda D

    Having worked for a handful of 'rural' townships (and boy did they differ in character) I can honestly say that it's hard to find two citizens that agree on what constitutes 'rural character'. Two acre minimum lots? 10 acre? active agriculture? Being located XX miles from the nearest XX sized community?

    What do you think?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    Some say that inclusion in an MSA negates claim to rural character.

    Our county is essentially a bedroom annex to a mostly urban university town. County has a 5 acre minimum lot in most of its area, claiming that is its criterion for preserving rural character, but mainly it results in sprawl.

  3. #3
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I would go with density... or lack thereof. Homes per acre or even better structures per acre. I view rural character as farms and what comes with them, being from the midwest, but I would imagine that personal views depend on location.
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    Quote Originally posted by fringe View post
    Some say that inclusion in an MSA negates claim to rural character.
    Agreed particularly within the Census defined urban area.

    From my fair county's Comp Plan:
    The Rural area is identified as having a population density less than the 169 persons per
    square mile in the State of Indiana as a whole, and a higher percentage of rural farm
    households than any other area in the County. The Census defines rural farm households as
    those that sold more than $1,000 dollars or more of agricultural products in 1999. A large
    portion of this area had rural farm population percentages greater than the State of Indiana's
    seven percent.
    Also no water or sewer service, and in my county you need a minimum of 2.5 acres for a septic system.

    Also if you live on a lot of record (before 1957) usually meets & bounds description; not in a recorded subdivision.
    Last edited by JNA; 16 Sep 2010 at 11:02 AM.
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    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    Even in the rural area you can't get a concensus. We do 3 acre minimum. Reason. If they come to the country and don't really have a use for the land then it is just a waste of land. They won't mow that much. They will mow two or three.
    We want enought that they can have a well and onsite septic and that there is a possibility to have another septic when the first fails...

    But others insist on 40 acres or 6 3/4, why 6 3/4 because 80 acres divide equally that way. It is just silly.

    We did have some neighbors the other day argue that "those people" will not understand country etiquett, that was was way out there.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Large lots don't necessarily imply rural character. When collector roads are lined solid with houses on narrow but very deep frontage lots, spaced about as far apart as in a developed suburb, any claim of "rural character" is a joke.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hink_Planner View post
    I would go with density... or lack thereof. Homes per acre or even better structures per acre. I view rural character as farms and what comes with them, being from the midwest, but I would imagine that personal views depend on location.
    I would go with density as well. Chautauqua County has a density of around 125 per square mile, but more than a third of its 150,000 population is located in/around 2 "cities", Jamestown and Dunkirk. Get a few miles away from those places or one of the small towns, and there's no doubt that you're in a rural area.

    In NYS and neighboring northern and western PA, agriculture is NOT a good barometer of "rural character". Most of the best agricultural land is located along the lake plains and in creek/river valleys, which just happen to be the areas where most of the Upstate population lives. You find more agriculture in the suburbs/exurbs of Buffalo or Erie, PA, than you will in many truly rural areas in Chautauqua county. Most of the rural areas in WNY and northwestern PA are covered by second growth forest lands and scrub fields as more and more marginal farmland is allowed to return to forest.

  8. #8
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    Many municipalities in Ontario distinguish between “Rural” and “Agricultural” areas in their zoning bylaws. Agricultural areas are areas that have been identified a having good soils and are generally flat and are therefore protected just for crop farms. Rural areas can have farms as well, but may also have rural employment uses (manufacturing, retail sales etc.) and more intense rural residential uses including estate subdivisions (in some cases). The third common category is “Natural” areas where even farming is discouraged.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian jswanek's avatar
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    .

    Rural character is that which LOOKS like it was built with total disregard for zoning and building codes, but actually did comply. For example, a wood-sided house straddling a drainage course that is NOT a FEMA-designated floodplain would have great rural character.

    .

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    In some municipalities in Victoria, Australia, there is a Rural Conservation Zone (RCZ1) that limits development to 8 houses per square kilometer! (minimum 100 acres each), which is a bit of a problem for land owners who own smaller lots (80 acres) and cannot build even a weekender on it. There are similar density restrictions in Farming Zoning.
    Personally, I think rural character is entirely subjective and cannot easily be defined by planning provisions. Many small towns here have quite high density residential in the commercial centre and move quickly to the above types of zoning and yet still "feel" rural.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by pj2hansen View post
    In some municipalities in Victoria, Australia, there is a Rural Conservation Zone (RCZ1) that limits development to 8 houses per square kilometer! (minimum 100 acres each), which is a bit of a problem for land owners who own smaller lots (80 acres) and cannot build even a weekender on it. There are similar density restrictions in Farming Zoning.
    In the Adirondak Forest Preserve in northeastern New York State, there's a land use regulation (I think it's a state reg not a local one) that's somewhat similar to your RCZ1 . The AFP has two kinds of land: "towns" (ordinary municipalities with ordinary control of their own zoning -- or lack thereof) and "forever wild" lands, which are wilderness lands that may be publically or privately owned. Generally, in the "forever wild" areas, I think there's a limit of 1 dwelling per 40 acres. There may also be other limits, primarily dealing with siting homes near rivers, creeks and lakes.

    Quote Originally posted by pj2hansen View post
    Personally, I think rural character is entirely subjective and cannot easily be defined by planning provisions. Many small towns here have quite high density residential in the commercial centre and move quickly to the above types of zoning and yet still "feel" rural.
    I agree. It's kind of, "you know it when you see it". Many small towns in the US also have this same kind of development pattern.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmmm......

    Quote Originally posted by pj2hansen View post
    In some municipalities in Victoria, Australia, there is a Rural Conservation Zone (RCZ1) that limits development to 8 houses per square kilometer! (minimum 100 acres each), which is a bit of a problem for land owners who own smaller lots (80 acres) and cannot build even a weekender on it. There are similar density restrictions in Farming Zoning.
    Personally, I think rural character is entirely subjective and cannot easily be defined by planning provisions. Many small towns here have quite high density residential in the commercial centre and move quickly to the above types of zoning and yet still "feel" rural.
    Australia = Rural Character

    I love the smell of generalization in the morning <insert military general smoking a cigar emoticon here>

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    we spell generalization with an 's' not a 'z'.
    given that I've lived my whole life here in Australia, I'm not quite sure what you mean.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Well.....

    Quote Originally posted by pj2hansen View post
    we spell generalization with an 's' not a 'z'.
    given that I've lived my whole life here in Australia, I'm not quite sure what you mean.
    Just my way of pointing out that Australia has the third lowest population density by land area in the WORLD for all countries. If that doesn't make your entire continent rural, save for a dozen major city areas, I don't know what does. I'm guessing you also have the greatest separation of population by distance from each other when compared to all but Namibia and Mongolia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...lation_density

    Also, I'm still quite upset about this:
    American Samoa's national soccer team is one of the newest teams in the world. It also has the distinction of suffering the worst loss in international soccer history: they lost to Australia 31 – 0 in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match on April 11, 2001.
    Last edited by The One; 30 Nov 2010 at 10:15 AM.
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    90% of Australians live in heavily urbanised (note the 's') areas. Sure, by many world standards, there is not the same level of density as one would find in Java or Japan, but because the continent is largely uninhabited, save for tiny towns of less than 500 people, doesn't make most people's experience or immediate living environment rural. I'd venture to say that a majority of the population haven't ever seen a kangaroo. Victoria is a small state of 4 million people, only 600,000 live outside Melbourne, and most of those are centred around the 4 or so cities over 100,000. There is a mass migration away from rural areas and small towns into the regional centres. The smaller towns that have survived are rapidly becoming gentrified or bohemianised (is that a word yet?) as a counter reaction to population pressures in Melbourne (projections suggest it will reach 7 million by 2050!) and a search for a more meaningful life. Perhaps even a slight sense of the 'rural'.
    Interesting times.

    Phil

  16. #16

    such a difficult question

    I'm starting to work on rural planning projects this year. I think it's getting harder to define the character of the rural areas at smaller-scales.
    I mean, I may define the character of different regions easily. Then, it's a little bit harder defining the character of provinces in a region. Only several provinces show their outstanding points.
    When it comes to rural town or district, many of them look the same.

    Even if " rural character" is to define the urban area and the rural area. It's not totally clear anymore. Poor areas in the city or in the suburban look not much different from the town center of rural regions.

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    Redgoat3003, it is interesting that you have been planning in rural areas and conclude that many of them look the same. I would say that the same applies here in Australia - you've seen one redneck town you've seen them all. But when you delve a bit deeper, you find unique characteristics that make the community of place. If we take town planning as being a spatial discipline in isolation then we miss the point of planning altogether - we need to plan for the community that both make up and use the spatial elements in their unique way, and with them not for them. This applies equally to thinly populated farming areas as it does to small towns of 1000 people that service the agricultural communities and the larger provincial towns that supply services small towns cannot support.

    A tool that many 'rural' shires are using here is to develop rural character studies that become incorporated documents into the planning scheme (also called ordinance in Australia). These studies help the communities to define themselves and thereby have some level of direct influence on the strategic planning direction that affect them. In some ways, although not always entirely effective, this allows small town to identify what is most important to them and partially mitigates a top down planning approach.

    Keep smiling,
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    acre minimum lots? 10 acre? active agriculture? Being located XX miles from the nearest XX sized development to 8 houses per squarekilometer! (minimum 100 acres each), which is a bit of a problem... Zone (RCZ1) that limits development to 8 houses per squarekilometer! (minimum 100 acres each)

  19. #19
    In the city In California where I grew up, a development around the corner has been fighting annexation because they want to preserve their rural character: single family homes on about 8,000 square foot lots. On the other hand, this represents the lowest density housing within five miles or so.

    The county is forcing all these small pockets of unincorporated land to be annexed by the cities that surround them as part of leaning up development problems created in the 1960s.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    I think we should avoid associating 'rural character' with a particular lot size - and this is even more true with 'village character' or 'small town character.' A rural area may be characterized by farmland and woods on one hand, and hamlets, villages and small towns with small lot homes and even main street districts, on the other hand, with a few areas of larger-lot housing here and there. So simply overlaying the area with 1-ac or 2-ac or even 5-ac zoning may not represent this character at all, because it is neither rural/agricultural nor village center, but really exurban. (I understand where part of the lot size is driven by septic systems ...)

    Of course, this means some form of regional/area planning that preserves rural character might involve identification of development nodes, areas of agricultural and woodland conservation, and perhaps even transfer of development rights, that support a continued village & rural pattern.

    I'm thinking Arendt's "Crossroads, Hamlet, Village, Town" might be informative.

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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    In the city In California where I grew up, a development around the corner has been fighting annexation because they want to preserve their rural character: single family homes on about 8,000 square foot lots. On the other hand, this represents the lowest density housing within five miles or so.

    The county is forcing all these small pockets of unincorporated land to be annexed by the cities that surround them as part of leaning up development problems created in the 1960s.
    Real quick: I'm from and still live in California. Which city and county are you speaking of? I am quite curious. I haven't heard of this yet.

    -Chris

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Funny.....

    Quote Originally posted by chrisforte View post
    Real quick: I'm from and still live in California. Which city and county are you speaking of? I am quite curious. I haven't heard of this yet.

    -Chris
    With density like that, I'd guess San Diego County or Los Angeles County
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    rural schmural

    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    In the city In California where I grew up, a development around the corner has been fighting annexation because they want to preserve their rural character: single family homes on about 8,000 square foot lots. On the other hand, this represents the lowest density housing within five miles or so.

    The county is forcing all these small pockets of unincorporated land to be annexed by the cities that surround them as part of leaning up development problems created in the 1960s.
    I'm in California too...in what most would consider a VERY "dense" part of the state...rural here means no sidewalks...That's it.

  24. #24
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    Originally posted by chrisforte

    Real quick: I'm from and still live in California. Which city and county are you speaking of? I am quite curious. I haven't heard of this yet
    -Chris
    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    With density like that, I'd guess San Diego County or Los Angeles County
    My guess is San Bernardino or Riverside County. Or somewhere in the Central Valley.

    -Chris

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