Rural zoning and your county

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Rural zoning and your county
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United States -- Bureau of Agricultural Economics
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PEOPLE ARE TALKING. All through the country
farmers are discussing how to manage their acres to better ad-
vantage, how to conserve their resources of soil, water, grass,
and limber, and how to adjust their use of the land to the limi-
tations and opportunities that Nature provides. While the
people of rural communities follow with interest the Federal
programs for better land use, they are also working out local
programs of their own. For example, they are giving increased
attention to a new technique for preventing the waste of land-
rural zoning. They have watched it spread from its first proving
ground in Wisconsin, and naturally want to know more about
this method of guiding land use into constructive channels.
What does it aim to accomplish? Howz practical has it turned
out to be? This publication is designed to present the A B C of
rural zoning in nontechnical terms as an aid to the further dis-
cussion and understanding of this important land use measure.

United States Department of Agriculture
Bureau of Agricultural Economics





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*PO lTORY


U.S. DEPOSITORY


Rural Zoning and Your County


SIX YEARS AGO a man brought his wife and two children to a certain
counts' in a cut-over forest area, hoping to establish a prosperous farm and
a good home. No one who knew the character of the poor land in this
locality would have thought of settling there with such an ambition. But
this man did not know.
Soon after he had put together a tar-paper shack as a temporary- home,
his disillusionment began. Endless labor in clearing land and planting
crops in unproductive soil yielded him only an aching back and a broken
heart. Stranded on the so-called "farm" in which his hopes and meager
fortune had been invested, he turned to whatever other source of income
he could find. His home was 12 miles from the nearest school, so he wrote
to the county school superintendent:
"My wife still has her teaching certificate. Couldn't you give her a job
teaching the children at home rather than have them travel 24 miles a day
to and from school? If you can't, well, I have a Ford that will run. How
about giving me a job driving them back and forth to school?"
The county was legally bound to see that the settler's children had school-
ing. There was no alternative but to follow one of the settler's suggestions,
and so the county was saddled with a new expense. For at that time it had
no zoning ordinance in force that would have prevented this misguided
family from settling on submarginal land and burdening the county. It
would be different now.
This incident, drawn from Wisconsin, illustrates a problem common to one
county after another throughout rural America-the problem of scattered
farmsteads on poor land where families are bankrupting both themselves
and their communities. What can a county do when farmers take up
tracts in unsettled poor-land areas 15 miles from town and then demand
teachers and school rooms for their children and roads to their front doors?













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Cost oj school transportation Jor children of isolated ruralfamilies is increasingly burden-
some to many counties. Rural zoning can prevent the burden from growing.

Submarginal Farms: A Cost to Counties

In one county in Minnesota, the public expense of taking to school the
children from 28 isolated homes averaged $185 a family-when the average
tax against these farms was only $10, and not all of that was collected.
In 13 typical cases where Minnesota was providing roads in 1932 for one
or two families, the taxes on these farms covered less than 8 percent of the
cost of the roads alone.
Or look at Indiana. In destitute townships of a typical county in the
southern part of that State, public expenditures outweigh local receipts
by 9 to 1, and the cost of roads and schools together are four times the
income from these outlying districts. A thousand miles away, Maine finds
the same problem. Here are two farms with a joint income of $60. At an
annual cost of $294 the town maintains them with a mile-and-a-half road
and school service. And it has to bill the farms with taxes of $136, which
they can't conceivably pay.







Naturally, county governments want to give each child at least a grade-
school education, no matter how much or little his parents can contribute
in taxes. But it isn't easy when it costs eight or nine times as much to
teach the children of settlers living on scattered submarginal farms as it
does to teach children in good and compactly settled rural communities.
That's what Cameron County in Pennsylvania found out when the State
planning commission studied its school system and reported that it cost
$40.86 a year to teach a pupil in a school with an average attendance of
126, and $378.46 to teach a child in districts with a usual school attendance
of only 2.
In the South are many large areas of sparsely populated cut-over lands,
red clay hills and sand strips, from which farmers can scarcely exact gross
incomes of $100 to $200 a year. The pressure of an increasing Southern
population makes it almost certain that new settlers will be pushing into
these barren sectors with their plows. This means that unless the counties
can stop these immigrants from vain attempts to farm such land, they will
soon be handing out more and more relief, and incurring heavier service
expenses, with no appreciable increase in their tax receipts. In other parts
of the country, too, reoccupancy of abandoned submarginal farm land
comprises a threat to county solvency, and for the same reason.


Good Land Use Is Good Economy

Many counties have decided it's a problem of good land use, at bottom.
A county can't afford to ignore the way its resources are being used-
government, in short, can't be divorced from economics. A county can
shut its eyes to the fact that its inhabitants are putting the land to the
wrong use, but it can't blink away the inevitable reckoning. The rural
community and its government are tied to the land; tied to its good use.
If a county allows farmers to settle on poor land, poorly located, and to try
to wring a living from cultivating soil that is fit only for pasture or timber-
then it is inviting trouble. On such land, no farmer, however energetic,
can make a decent living or pay taxes. To permit farmers to settle such
farms and then demand county services is, in the long run, to throw good
money after bad and, at the same time, to encourage the continued abuse
of the land.








The charred acres of once-wooded country are silent evidence of the
danger of submarginal farming in forest tracts. Potentially renewable
forests have gone up in smoke because of the carelessness of isolated settlers
and the lack of necessary means of control. Game has been killed off,
frightened away, or starved, by the clearing of its feed and cover. Recrea-
tional advantages of a district-of increasing economic importance to rural
communities-have been thus impaired, and the solitude of the wilderness
broken by clusters of squatters' shacks.
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What can accounts do to stop this human and material deterioration?


One Answer-Rural Zoning

What is zoning, how is it accomplished, and under what authority?
Zoning is the creation of districts in which certain land uses and settlement
ame regulated I law because the are injurious to the public interest.


Reoccupation of abandoned and isolated poverty farms creates a socialproblem that wise
zoning can often prevent.








A. 2


The leaning tower of an abandoned /arm symbolizes the waste
in cultivating submarginal tracts.


For a county to zone, its State must first pass a law giving it the needed
authority. Under such an act, no county is forced to zone-it is simply
granted the power to do so if it chooses, under the "police power"-which
is the power to impose reasonable restrictions upon property and its uses
"for the purpose of promoting public health, safety, and general welfare."
Once the enabling act is passed, the following steps have proved to be
advisable:
(1) A county board appoints a zoning committee to assemble data dealing
with the physical characteristics of the land, road and school costs,
relief burden, tax status, and other pertinent matters about the poorer
outlying areas of the county;
(2) the committee then prepares and sponsors a zoning ordinance and a
map outlining the districts in which certain uses are prohibited; and
(3) this committee conducts preliminary meetings in the rural communities
to discuss the pros and cons of zoning in general; after which-
(4) county-wide hearings are held where those who object to the specific
provisions of the proposed ordinance and the tentative boundaries laid
out in the map may state their case.








(5) Then if the ordinance-perhaps modified by this time-receives the
approval of the county board, the county enacts the ordinance, pub-
lishes the text and the accompanying map, proceeds to its enforcement,
which implies among other things-
16) the public recording of "nonconforming uses" of land in restricted
districts-that is, established uses that are not affected by the ordinance
until they are discontinued.
To cooperate with States and counties in this work, the Bureau of
Agricultural Economics is extending the help of its State offices.
Zoning, then, is a democratic process. The decision to zone is entirely
up to the county itself; and the formation of the restricted-use districts is in
its hands also. Before an ordinance is enacted, every citizen has a chance
to express his opinion for or against it either in whole or in part.
Zoning, then, is also a reasonable process. Established property rights
are protected by allowing "nonconforming uses" to continue until they are
voluntarily or equitably ended. Moreover, if any individual should suffer
an undue hardship through the literal application of the ordinance, he
would have recourse to a board of adjustment.

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Small schools for few children-typical of many sparsely settled submarginal
areas-involve high costs per pupil, and frequently impose
burdens on taxpayers outside the area.







How popular has rural zoning proved to be? Rural zoning legislation is
a relatively new thing. But it derives from urban zoning, which has a
history behind it. The first comprehensive city zoning ordinance was
adopted in 1916, and long before this there had been specific regulations of
a zoning nature. Now 1,300 municipalities have zoning ordinances
cities in which live more than 65,000,000 people. In every State, some or
all of the cities have been empowered to zone.
But the first full-fledged rural zoning enabling act didn't come until 1929.
It came in Wisconsin, and the first county to make use of it w\as Oneida, in
1933. County rural zoning enabling legislation, more or less along the lines
of the Wisconsin law, has been enacted by Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vir-
ginia, California, Indiana, and Washington. In addition, Tennessee and
Georgia have authorized rural zoning in a limited number of counties.
Township rural zoning is also permitted under certain conditions in Mich-
igan and Pennsylvania. Four counties in Michigan have authorized the
county boards to proceed with the formulation of zoning ordinances and in
two counties they are now being prepared. And many States in all sections
of the Nation are giving consideration to the matter.

Where Rural Zoning Has Worked

Wisconsin's experience with rural zoning is worth glancing at. By zon-
ing, 24 counties in the State have restricted the use of some 5,000,000 acres,
setting aside districts in which only forestry or recreational development is
permitted. Settlers and farmers already established in restricted-use dis-
tricts may remain, but no newcomers are allowed to break the soil on lands
reserved for timber, or in districts marked out for recreational use.
In this way, Wisconsin hopes that, as present occupiers of those districts
move away, scattered school districts may be consolidated and expensive
roads eliminated, while development of these cut-over tracts as forests,
camping grounds, and game preserves will create a stable additional income
for the community. County costs per capital then can come down, com-
munity life can gain in solidarity and cohesion, and hundreds of families
can be helped to end the waste of their lives and resources in futile attempts
to farm unrewarding acres.
Though most of the achievements of zoning materialize only with the



























Zoning enables a county to choose whether it will let its poor lands be settled in farms

passage of time, already Wisconsin counties have chalked up tangible bene-
fits. Hundreds of families have been prevented from settling in isolated sec-
tions and bringing on such misfortunes as usually are associated with scat-
tered settlement. Substantial savings in public costs have thus been
effected. As already established families or squatters gradually leave or
have their holdings bought by county or Federal Government, existing
roads and schools can be closed, resulting in further savings to local taxpay-
ers and relief of settlers.

A Link With Federal Programs

Zoning has a further advantage: linked with a program of submarginal
land purchase, such as the land utilization program of the Soil Conserva-
tion Service, it can effectively change a wasteful and unproductive pattern
cf land use into one that will bring material benefit to the county. On the
one hand, the purchase program can concentrate on buying out "non-
conforming users", such as farmers living in districts zoned for forestry.
This will greatly hasten the elimination of expensive services, the closing
up of school districts and roads, the ending of fire hazards due to scattered





























foredoomed to failure, or restrict them to the grou'ing of fine marketable limber.

settlement, and the prevention of further destruction of the land. For
instance, one WVisconsin county recently was able, by purchasing the hold-
ings of five settlers in a restricted district, to close a school that had cost
more than $1,800 a year to operate. A substantial number of such savings
has taken place in northern Wisconsin as a result of relocation operations,
through land exchange or purchase.
And zoning, on its side, in many instances will make extensive purchase
of submarginal lands unnecessary, by preventing the cultivation or settle-
ment of areas that are not suited to such use. The goal of both zoning and
a land-purchase program is to make sure that land is kept out of wasteful
use-specifically, in this part of the country, that land that is too poor to
produce crops will be used for forestry, pasture, recreation, and other con-
servation purposes, rather than be settled by farm families who will thus be
doomed to poverty.
Submarginal land-purchase projects to forward these adjustments in land
use are being carried out by the Soil Conservation Service under the
Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act. They are making possible extensive































One use to which land unsuited to farming may well be restricted: recreation.

economies for local governments. But even with this Nation-wide pro-
gram, the limitations of purchase remain. Whether it were desirable or
not, there isn't enough money or personnel available to buy up all the
submarginal land. In Pennsylvania alone are more than 1,250,000 acres
of land in farms that can no longer support families through cultivation.
Other means of facilitating more profitable forms of land use must be
relied on. One of these may prove to be rural zoning.

Other Gains
Rural zoning may be used to build up the real value of a county's land
resources. In cut-over areas, forestry can be encouraged by rural zoning
and thereby helped to furnish a stable and sizable income from forest indus-
tries. Protecting the land from misuse will also help to restore feed and
cover for birds and small game, which will not only preserve depleted wild-
life, but will attract vacationists and hunters to the county.
Recreational advantages deserve to be developed for their own sake, but
most counties are becoming aware that they can mean a healthy revenue as







well. Considerably more than a billion dollars is spent yearly by the Amer-
ican people on enjoyment connected with wildlife alone, and a good slice of
this goes to rural communities. If a county, then, can keep its scenic por-
tions free of squatters and safe from undesirable exploitation, its foresight
may well be rewarded in positive economic returns.
Nowhere is this particular advantage of zoning shown more clearly than
in the hilly rural districts of the Eastern United States. Since the decline
of commercial crop farming here, these districts have come to rely more
and more on the crowds of vacationists who arrive every summer to enjoy
the lakes and woods and mountains. Many a rural county's greatest
natural resource is its scenic beauty. How can that beauty be preserved
from unscrupulous or short-sighted exploitation that in the long run
destroys the attractions on which it hopes to profit? How can the East as
a whole protect one of its major investments-recreation?
Rural zoning can do much to help. Forests can be zoned against useless
and undesirable settlement; recreation districts can be zoned against com-
mercial developments that would injure their basic character; roadsides
can be zoned to conserve the attractions for visiting motorists.
Zoning, in short, can both prevent and improve. It can help to stop
unwise land use and to encourage wise land use. It can cut county expendi-
tures on one hand, and help build up county revenues on the other.
Rural zoning has found a foothold. It has been tried and found effective.
From now on, it may well advance steadily as one means of public control
of land in the public interest.








A Sample Rural Zoning Plan


Districts set up under the zoning ordinance in Bayfield County, Wis.:

District No. I -Forestry District

In the forestry district no building, land, or premises shall be used except
for one or more of the following specified uses:
1. Production of forest products.
2. Forest industries.
3. Public and private parks, playgrounds, campgrounds, and golf grounds.
4. Recreational camps and resorts.
5. Private summer cottages and service buildings.
6. Hunting and fishing cabins.
7. Trappers' cabins.
8. Boat liveries.
9. Mines, quarries, and gravel pits.
10. Hydroelectric dams, power plants, flowage areas, transmission lines, and sub-
stations.
11. Harvesting any wild crop such as marsh hay, ferns, moss, berries, tree fruits, and
tree seeds.
(Explanation.-Any of the above uses are permitted in the forestry
district, and all other uses, including family dwellings, shall be prohibited.)

District No. 2-Recreation District

In the recreation district all buildings, lands, or premises may be used
for any of the purposes permitted in District No. 1, the forestry district,
and in addition, family dwellings are permitted.
(Explanation.-Any of the above uses are permitted in the recreation
district, and all other uses, including farms, shall be prohibited because
of the fire hazard involved in clearing operations and spoliation of forested
conditions adjacent to highly developed recreation property. Such proper-
ties demand the maintenance of a maximum of natural conditions to
retain their fullest economic value. Family dwellings are permitted in
order to allow owners to protect their investment during the entire year.)

District No. 3--Unrestricted District
In the unrestricted district, any land may be used for any purpose
whatsoever, not in conflict with law.

Nonconforming uses.-The lawful use of any building, land, or premises
existing at the time of the passage of this ordinance, although such use
does not conform to the provisions hereof, may be continued, but if such
nonconforming use is discontinued, any future use of said building, land,
or premises shall be in conformity with the provisions of this ordinance.









































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