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Thread: Ribbon tracts

  1. #1
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    Ribbon tracts

    Our county, when it first began adoption of zoning and subdivision regs 20 or so yrs ago, had a rule, in an effort to preserve the "rural character" of its mostly Agricultural zoned land, that set a five-acre minimum for Ag zoned parcels.

    When developers began buying up large parcels to cut up and sell for homesites, they would, to avoid building infrastructure like roads, meet the minimum lot width and lay out lots as long as it took to make the acreage.

    The result was parcels laid out in rows that looked like fetuccine, up to a quarter mile long and 150 feet wide.

    When planning boards and boards of commissioners tried to deny the parcels as unacceptable, the developers sued, won, and actually were awarded damages as well as getting approval.

    Ordinances were later adopted that restricted length to width, but not before the local landscape was blighted with a large number of this kind of parcel.

    Has this happened to other areas?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Something similar happened where I grew up and where my parents still live. In order to preserve the rural character, they determined that houses needed to be on a minimum of 5 acres but had to also have a set amount of frontage on the road. But they still ended up with the same problem of a bunch of long, narrow ribbon properties. Furthermore, 5 acres, wide shallow or narrow and deep is pretty useless for any real agricultural activity that isn't a hobby farm or maybe growing a labor intensive crop like raspberries or strawberries. So now, the township is littered with these narrow strips of new housing interspersed with the remaining farms. The population hasn't really grown much over the past 20 years, the land hasn't appreciated astronomically, but the agricultural and rural character of the area is eroding none the less.

    What to do?

    One option, which is what seems to be used where one of my brothers live (I say seems because I haven't looked at any ordinances or zoning for these communities, it's just based on my casual and educated observances), is to allow new houses on much smaller lots as long as they are all basically up on the existing roads. This permits the farmers to subdivide up small parcels of their land for housing at the front and on the sides of their properties while still leaving the center of their plots accessible for farming activities and makes ire more desirable for the developers because they don't have to worry about dealing with large 5-acre lots that they cannot do anything with. Granted, this is in a community that is much further removed from any sort of population center than where my parents live so there isn't the same level of demand for new housing, but it seems like it would still be a reasonable solution.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  3. #3
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    We had that problem at a prior city I worked for. A prohibition on "flag lots" and implementation of maximum width-to-depth ratios fixed that problem. If you need a good public safety justification, access management and emergency vehicle access work pretty well.

    The approach WSU MUP Student mentions about where his brother lives sounds like an interesting in-between approach. I'd be curious to see how their code got to those types of results.

    "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)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Howabout setting a very small MAXIMUM lot size, big enough to allow a reasonable lot to be split off from a farm every now and then, but not so large as to eat up all of the land in single glops? Often, overly large minimum lot sizes play into exactly what the developers want and instead of maintaining the 'agricultural character' of the area, you end up with seas of grass and professionally landscaped trees with occasional houses scattered about - the very definition of 'sprawl', IMHO.

    Mike

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    Howabout setting a very small MAXIMUM lot size, big enough to allow a reasonable lot to be split off from a farm every now and then, but not so large as to eat up all of the land in single glops? Often, overly large minimum lot sizes play into exactly what the developers want and instead of maintaining the 'agricultural character' of the area, you end up with seas of grass and professionally landscaped trees with occasional houses scattered about - the very definition of 'sprawl', IMHO.

    Mike
    The problem with that idea is water and septic requirements for rural homes. I believe the minimum is about a half acre. I believe FHA requires a minimum of 1 acre for homes on private well and septic before it will approve a mortgage.

    Personally, if I was going to go to the hassle of living in a rural area with well and septic, I wouldn't be interested in any house on a lot smaller than at least 3+ acres, and preferrably 5 or more. I certainly wouldn't want a 150-200 foot wide 5 acre lot, either: I do NOT want my neighbor's septic leaching into my well.

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