Coles notes question: What is the role of rural areas?
The context: I work for a municipality that is relatively large in size and small in population (60,000). Our rural areas truly are quite beautiful, with bucolic agricultural scenes, views from "mountain" (I use that term lightly) ridges, seashore views, and great lakes. Agriculture is a cornerstone of the economy here, with forestry and other resource-related industries also playing a role. Our past planning efforts have done a fairly good job of directing development to urbanized centres. However, over the years we've seen more and more people (mostly retirees) coming here to build their "dream home" in the beauty of the rural areas. You can certainly understand why they do it. At the same time, resource development in our rural areas is a large part of our economy. Every new house that goes up in our rural areas is a new point of potential conflict and a damper on rural industry. The issue truly came to a head when proposals for wind turbines pitted dream homes against resource development. An added problem is that our population isn't really growing, so every new rural house just spreads the population thinner and away from services.
The question:We're currently doing a complete re-write of our Planing Strategy. I think one of the biggest questions we need to answer is how we view our rural areas. I lean towards the view that rural residential development in our context--while certainly understandable from an individual point-of-view--is damaging to the greater society (granted, this is coming from someone who has chosen to live in urban areas). At the same time, there is clearly a demand for beautiful rural living. It's further complicated by the fact that homebuyers/builders are fairly myopic in that they buy/build because of the beauty without really thinking through the fact that rural landscapes are often working landscapes. This has resulted in a large group of established rural homeowners who will defend their right to live where they have chosen. So, what's your view of the role of rural areas? What factors do we need to consider? Is there some way to accommodate both?