Is there a practical way to put an ultimate limit on growth in a community? : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

I have found myself involved in the planning process in my county, here in Oregon.

Here in Oregon, we have had planning laws, which were designed to allow growth to occur in a "desirable" way. Yet, there is no system in the process for allowing a community to choose whether or not to put an ultimate cap on its size.

Virtually everyone I talk to here agrees that we don't want our beautiful area to grow so much that it ends up losing the things we all moved here for - beautiful forests and rivers, small town atmospher, slower paced lifestyle, and so forth. No one I've talked to wants this place to become "another San Jose".

However, few people are in favor of government intervention in our lives. It's a bit of a paradox.

Assuming we do opt to put a growth cap in place, how are we to minimize hardship to those who are, seeminly, dependent on growth for their income, e.g. builders, realtors, etc?

Anyone have any experience with this type of situation, or any suggestions?

I suspect it will be very hard to reach any type of concensus on this issue, in which case, I'll eventually be inclined move away to a smaller community, but I really don't want to do so; I've been here for twenty-five years, and I love it.


-- jumpoff joe (jumpoff@echoweb.neet), July 14, 2000


Spay and neuter all christians.

-- A (, July 14, 2000.

A, I'm not a christian, but I have been "spayed", in an effort to help with the population expansion. I had but one kid. (pat, pat)

Spayiing and neutering christians would certainly be one method of limiting growth here, but I fear it would not be politically popular, nor doable.

Any other suggestions?


-- jumpoff joe (jumpoff@echoweb.neet), July 14, 2000.

Economic downturn or drought? {not all that practical, but effective}.

Cynicism c/o CA

-- flora (***@__._), July 14, 2000.

Gotta go soon, just thought I'd add that arguably the 'best' 'planned' community we have in the state is Irvine { including extensions into Newport & Laguna}. In that case there is a large prvate land holder with vision & the ability to deal with the public sector { & I'll add that neither of us would be comfortable living there}. It often depends on who the major players are, & who they can carry around in their pockets.

Do you know anything about Avila Beach? It was polluted by oil - & was bought out, razed, & now a committee of folks are trying to piecemeal it back together with its 'original' flavor. {Another interesting experiment in human dynamics}.

Good luck.

-- flora (***@__._), July 14, 2000.

As long as there are willing sellers and buyers of land, growth will continue.

You could put a limit on the number of building permits issued every year (new construction, both residential and commercial). Do not limit permits for renovations to existing structures.

Strict zoning laws and enforcement of those laws. Limit rezoning from residential to commercial or industrial.

Require a certain amount of greenspace (parks, meadows, uncut forest, etc.) between housing developments. Require larger minimum lot sizes for all new home construction or larger "set backs" along property lines (which would accomplish the same thing).

All of these things are sure to make you very unpopular.

-- Sam Mcgee (, July 14, 2000.


Ugliness is the best safeguard of virginity. You really can't stop people from living pretty much where they choose, but you can make the choice more expensive by (for example) discouraging businesses and jobs, raising local taxes, not building good roads in and out, etc. Good luck.

-- Flint (, July 14, 2000.


"Ugliness is the best safeguard of virginity."

Skinny worked real well in MY family.


I like the idea of larger lots, etc., myself. Limiting industry is another thought, as well as limiting road improvements.

-- Anita (, July 14, 2000.


I have no comment on this at this time, but it IS good to see you again. Where have you been?

-- FutureShock (gray@matter.think), July 14, 2000.

JOJ-you're chewing on a real tough one. About a year ago my wife and I left KFalls,OR to the wilds of northern Calif. We really wanted to get a quiet country place and there was nothing even remotely affordable in OR. To judge by the real estate prices,the whole state is being swamped by people with HUGE dot-com bank accounts. There's lots more affordable options south of the state line. Don't know what you can do about it-if Oregon was really worried about being overrun by people from down below the best thing they could do would be to put in a sales tax. Lots of real estate agents in S. OR use that as one of their prime selling points. And then of course there's the allure of having an Oregon address. Wait til they find out what their state income taxes will be or get their new prop tax bill. You can sure bet the realtors aren't talking too much about those two. Well,good luck with the good fight-can't see anyway how this situation can change without a severe downturn on the Street. Probably the best you can do is try and secure some decent green space between the developments. People want it nice looking,but when there's all that easy money to be be made subdividing...I figure the developers will pretty much get what they want. howie

-- howie (, July 14, 2000.


I am an Oregon native. I've lived here all but three of my 45 years. I can sympathize.

>> Is there a practical way to put an ultimate limit on growth in a community? <<

Practical? Yes. Pleasant? No. The only way I know of is to "compensate" for natural desirability with man-made undesirability. The difficulty with this strategy is that it makes the community undesirable for you and your children.

You can raise taxes sky-high. You can apply extremely restrictive zoning laws. You can discourage businesses from locating there, or drive existing businesses out. You can fail to provide good services such as schools or roads, by starving schools of funds and failing to repair roads.

This is the only method I can imagine that would work. A thriving community with natural beauty, reasonable taxes, good services and job opportunities is going to grow like a weed. No alternatives exist that I know of, other than pricing all the real estate out of reach of any but the supe-wealthy. If you aren't super wealthy, this may not sound very attractive.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, July 14, 2000.

Al and Brian,

There are communities that set limits by the what the sewer system can do... here in the great northwest, that is what we are striving for.

-- Mr. Slippery (, July 14, 2000.

Sure, restrictive zoning can keep a place pure and beautiful. But in a free country, many will then move there. Voila, the pure and the beautiful are gone or the restrictions will cause prices to go so high that only the wealthy, tasty people can live there. Ever been to Boulder CO?

-- Lars (, July 15, 2000.

Food supply. Always amazes me when we human folk think our reproductive barriers are different than for rats.

No answer or help here, just comment.

-- Carlos (, July 15, 2000.

Genetic warfare. Nothing else will do. Make no doubt about it, the powers that be (TPTB) have been aware of the population problem and resultant ecological damage for a long time (at least fifty years, and probably much, much longer). They haven't been able to make much of a dent with wars in the past, and politically induced famines. And wars nowadays could threaten them personally as well as screw up the planet even more, as opposed to the wars in the past. But biological and chemical means open up new vistas. :-)

The religions, and even non-religious bleeding-heart "save the children" crowd are oblivious to the problem. Undoubtedly, some who ARE aware of the problem are hard at work on a "solution" and will impose it on the fucking idiots who breed with no more concern than cats, rats, and dogs.

Experiment #1? AIDS in Africa.

There's an conjecture from the olden days that you could line up single file, for example, every Chinaman (and woman and child), have them walk, one-by-one, to be machine-gunned to death, and at the end of the day, the remaining line would be LONGER than the day before. Same with India, Mexico, etc.,

-- A (, July 15, 2000.

Sheesh. I was just kidding JOJ.

-- Carlos (, July 15, 2000.

Gee, folks, I'm overwhelmed by the responses! Thank you very much.

I'm hearing a lot of different ideas here, but if I may be allowed to summarize them, most of you seem to be saying that there is no way, or no good way, to accomplish what I want to accomplish. I hope that this is not true, as it's very depressing to think that we, who can put a man on the moon, who can send space probes all over the solar system, who have invented the computer and the internet - the list goes on, can't figure out a way to control our own destiny, cannot live without fouling our own nests.

Future Shock, thanks for you kind remarks. I've had no life for the last two or three months, other than fighing a proposed quarry across the street from my house, and adjacent to a rental house I built a few years ago. I contacted a land use lawyer, who told me not to waste my time and money, because it would be impossible to stop it due to the zoning laws. I organized the neighborhood, and spent LOTS of time on the phone, on the internet, and digging through files at lots of government agencies. After seven hearings before our Board of Supervisors, we won. Now I'm back among the living, but I'm now chairman of our local "CAC" - Citizens Advisory Committee, and that's taking a bit of time, as well. So I'm not likely to be here as often as I once was, but I hope to drop by when I have a few spare moments.

-- jumpoff joe (jumpoff@echoweb.neet), July 15, 2000.

Flora, how "planned" is Irvine? Does their plan include an ultimate cap on population? I'd like to hear more

Sam, we do have pretty strict zoning laws, and, yes, they are unpopular with a lot of folks. But they are only designed to make growth somewhat more palatable, not to put an ultimate cap on population.

Flint, my whole point here is to preserve the values we love here, not to make it unpleasant. The number of people living here is not the problem, per se; it's the results of having so many people that we want to avoid: traffic jams, depletion of our water supply, air pollution, crime, and so forth.

I disagree with your belief that "You really can't stop people from living pretty much where they choose". We already have zoning laws which do exactly that. For instance, I have twenty three acres which I can't build a house on because it is "deer winter range". My neighbor up the road has forty acres which he can't build on because it's not big enough for a house, in the zone it's in. But we arent' zoning things with a look to the future - how many people can our valley support, and also, how many people do the current residents WANT to live here? I think we have a right, as a community, to make the latter decision. But we need to know what the tools are to enable us to put a limit on our population without causing more hardship on the existing populace than necessary.

Anita, we already have been increasing minimum lot sizes, gradually, since 1973. This has helped a lot in fighting urban sprawl, but again, it doesn't address a cap on population. And controlling growth through "not building good roads in and out" would, I believe, only make living here more unpleasant, even if it did ultimately stop growth. I would rather limit growth through other means, which would hopefully not degrade our living conditions.

Howie, how's life in the wilds of northern CAlif? I used to live in Eureka/Arcata/Mckinleyville/Sebastopol/Santa Rosa. Nice. But these areas are growing outrageously fast, too. I agree that growth limitations cause price inflation on real estate. For one thing, lots of people want to live in an area which is not experiencing cancerous growth rates. Look at Santa Barbara. They have (or at least used to have) a cap on growth. The prices went through the roof. That's one of the considerations we need to deal with. I suspect that there may not be a solution to this. But even if the prices are driven up, is it not fair for the people who already live in an area to cap growth, even if it does make it expensive for newcomers to live there? I recommend that you not buy into the prevailing belief that the developers can pretty much do what they want. That attitude is what the developers are counting on; without that attitude in the majority of the populace, they WILL be able to do whatever they want. But we, the people, CAN direct our own communities. We just need to stay on top of what's happening, make lots of others aware of what's happening, and put political pressure on the powers that be. There are also (at least in Oregon) remedies to be found at "LUBA" (Land use board of appeals) This agency hears appeals of local land use decisions, and, believe me, it is heavily weighted in favor of appelants. The appellant only need find ONE issue which has not been adequately addressed at the local level to put the skids to a project.

-- jumpoff joe (jumpoff@echoweb.neet), July 15, 2000.

Brian, don't you think it is possible, with sufficient knowledge and planning, to have "A thriving community with natural beauty, reasonable taxes, good services and job opportunities" which will NOT "grow like a weed?" Can't we have a stable economy without growth? Can't we limit size by planning for the future, and following our plans with enforcement of laws designed for that purpose?

Mr. Slippery, that is a good idea. Have you been able to determine what the sewer system can handle? Or is it merely that growth will only be limited until the sewer system can be expanded? In my area, I'm at least equally concerned about water supply. Water supply here is finite. Therefore, if we have non-finite growth, we are guaranteed to eventually run out of water. I'd like to avoid that scenario by limiting our ultimate population size to a level well under that which would cause water shortages, even in drought years.

A, can't you think of something a little less violent?

-- jumpoff joe (jumpoff@echoweb.neet), July 15, 2000.

JOJ-We live in Trinity Co,economically depressed but affordable. Pretty much the same in eastern Humboldt,Siskiyou,and Modoc counties as well. The places you mentioned are pretty nice but of course sky high in price. I don't know what the answer is,as even these places require a significant work force that will be highly unlikely to afford a house on local wages. I think that taxing the newcomers at a higher rate(via real estate assessments like Cal Prop. 13)has alot going for it. That way at least local retirees won't be forced out due to ever increasing values (assessments). I guess I shouldn't be too cynical about stopping the developers-compared to alot of places OR hasn't done too badly. But still whenever I drive to Portland and see how the corridor(Salem and northward esp) has changed even in the last 20 odd years,(seems like every time there's more shopping centers and suburbia and way less farmland and open space), I just wonder. And Medford,Grants Pass and KFalls are sprawling pretty good too. Earlier this year I did some census work,in eastern Humboldt mostly. Almost 30% of the people I spoke with were from Oregon or Washington and could basically no longer afford to be there. So I don't think it's mere idle speculation to wonder just where working class people are going to be able afford to live. Thoughts? Howie

-- howie (, July 15, 2000.


Have I been to Boulder, CO? I lived there for 5 years. Back then it was a small town of 26,000 and was very nice. Last time I returned, I got lost. Where I live now is about the same as Boulder. It is growing much faster than most places in Oregon. Unfortunately, Money Mag. named us as the second most desirable small city [tied with Boulder] and right after Rochester Mn. Year after year the three cities rotate through the top 3 places in their pole. I don't like it at all. We have people coming here in large numbers; including new companies. Since our unemployment rate is now 1.4%, they must import their employees. In the area where I live, we have fairly strict zoning. You need a minimum of 10 a to build. Of course, that just means that we are getting houses starting at a minimum 5500 sq ft [for the poo'folks], and a lot of Mercedes. Ten years ago my nearest neighbor had a 10 y old Ford pickup. My new one has a red Italian car with a golden prancing horse on the hood. Good luck.

Best w

-- Z1X4Y7 (, July 15, 2000.

Small correction:

I just looked at one of the local papers on the Web. Unemployment for the county is 0.8% and a new high tech company has announced that they are moving here [perhaps 1000 jobs]. Want to guess how many of that 0.8% is qualified for such jobs. So it goes.

Best wishes,,,,

-- Z1X4Y7 (, July 15, 2000.

This is starting to sound like, now that I'm here, how can I keep everyone else out? People can live where they choose, so keeping people out boils down to making it a bad choice.

-- Flint (, July 15, 2000.

Howdy Flint:

To some extent you are correct. Yet, the land in certain areas can only withstand a certain number of people. Beyond that point, it is not necessary to make it an unfavorable place to live. It becomes one in an irreversible manner. The point is to not let it reach the irreversible stage.

Western Oregon is a case in point. The land there is not the southeast. It is easily overwhelmed and won't recover for centuries. Have you been there? I remember the coastal range in the 60's and last saw it this spring. The difference between trees and no trees is awesome. No, I think that JOJ has a point. It is not just excluding people; it is not just saving what you moved there for; it is a matter of saving the whole ecological system. To do that you will need to exclude more people. It is a problematic situation.

Best wish

-- Z1X4Y7 (, July 15, 2000.

The problem is fairly straightforward in my opinion. You may effectively limit the number of housing units and the population density, capping the population in a given area. But you cannot effectively do so and preserve the present character of the population.

If your area is inherently desirable and people want to move there, then the most wealthy among them will outbid the less wealthy for the available property each time property is put up for sale. This will drive up the cost of property for newcomers and, when you want to sell your own property, it will increase your own wealth.

One problem with this approach is what to do about your children. They will probably not be able to afford to live in the area unless they live with you. Many local businesses may fold, as rents increase.

The character of the area may change dramatically as the demographics of wealth overtake the earlier demographics. Your neighbors would get older, richer, better educated and more homogenous. They may look down on you, or not share your values. While the transisition to becoming an enclave of the rich is midway to completion, the community will probably be stressed, as the newcomers "push out" the older residents.

You could (possibly) compensate by levying progressive taxes that are redirected to aiding the young and the poor, by giving rent relief or some such, but even this is no guarantee of anything. If it actually worked, you'd just be creating a sort of lottery system, with thousands wanting in for each opening, and no fair method for determining who "wins" as slots open up. It would be like what the USA presently practises in regard to residents of most other countries that want to live here and work (with a green card). Except, in your area, there would be no sytem of citizenship to show who was "alien" and who was a "native".

it all boils down to this: attractive places attract people. If they don't, they aren't attractive.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, July 15, 2000.


To expand; let us describe where I live. The predominant tree species are oak, hickory, walnut, ash and birch. We have lesser amounts of persimmon, cherry, plum , haw, etc. We wont talk about eastern red cedar. If I cut them all down tomorrow, what would happen? Within 25 y, the predominant tree species would be oak, hicory, walnut, ash and birch.

This isnt true in western Oregon or northern Puget Sound. You remove the predominant species and it will be centuries before they are established again [we don't actually know that they will be re-established, but we are presently running the experiment]. In the words of Steinbeck, the land will die.

Best wishe

-- Z1X4Y7 (, July 15, 2000.


In practice, it's really difficult to concoct some arbitrary rules that will exclude me, not exclude you, and not violate any laws. Sometimes you can finesses the law (by getting an area declared a wilderness area *after* you get there but *before* I get there, and grandfather in the residents). But in general, the law tends to frown on rules which grant special privileges for subsets of groups with equal means. This whole issue sounds like a search for some legal way to enforce special privilege. This amounts to a search for some *greater* privilege (fragility of the land or whatever) but NOT so great that *you* have to leave, just great enough that *I* can't move in. The whole enterprise rubs me the wrong way.

-- Flint (, July 15, 2000.


In practice, it's really difficult to concoct some arbitrary rules that will exclude me, not exclude you, and not violate any laws. Sometimes you can finesses the law (by getting an area declared a wilderness area *after* you get there but *before* I get there, and grandfather in the residents). But in general, the law tends to frown on rules which grant special privileges for subsets of groups with equal means. This whole issue sounds like a search for some legal way to enforce special privilege. This amounts to a search for some *greater* privilege (fragility of the land or whatever) but NOT so great that *you* have to leave, just great enough that *I* can't move in. The whole enterprise rubs me the wrong way.

You might note that I am not talking about where I live. I am talking about western Oregon [from JOJ]. The differences are large. Where I live is like where you live. The land recovers very rapidly. There is different. You should walk some of the vallies in the Skagit. They were timbered and settled 100 years ago or more. The ecology has been destroyed for centuries. Western Oregon is even more sensitive.

Now I agree with Brian. The big problem is the change in the kind of folks that you have as neighbors. I rather liked the guy with the 10 y old Ford pickup. So it goes.

Best w

-- Z1X4Y7 (, July 15, 2000.

Anita and JOJ--

Did I understand you to say that incresing minimum lot size decreases urban sprawl? I see it just the opposite and my impression has been that Portland was trying to do just the opposite--ie, encourage high-density residential areas (smaller lot sizes) interspersed with green zones in which no new residential developments are allowed. Am I wrong? I haven't been to Portland in many years.

Overpopulation in general? Population is self-regulating. Unless you want a totalitarin state, there's not much that can be done to control it. One population trend that I think is of ironic interest is that wealthier countries have the lowest population growth (excepting immigration) and poorer countries have the highest population growth. I think that Italy and some other European countries have actually reached negative birth rates (without the need to pass laws).

-- Lars (, July 15, 2000.

Whatever your cause, it's a lost cause unless population is controlled.

You can "rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic" -- zoning laws, land use laws, high density with "green belts" ... -- but the ship is still sinking.

There is only a LIMITED supply of nice coastal, lakefront, mountain view, forest, meadow ... land. Get it?

Everyone's SHIT has to go somewhere. Everyone's drinking water has to come from somewhere. Everyone's food got to come from somewhere. Sure there is a lot of land -- but most is unsuitable for much use -- otherwise it would already be overrun.

So some of the "western" countries are at zero population growth. Not the U.S. because of hordes of Mexicans. They've screwed up Mexico and Mexico City, now that cancer is spreading all over the U.S. Other countries maintain at least SOME control of their borders. How long at at what population level and at what level of pollution generation and ecological destruction will the "wog" nations get their populations stabilized? I've heard world population was 2 billion in the 1950s. Now it is 6 billion. And the rate of increase is increasing.

There is no solution other than violence -- and genetic warfare will do the trick. BTW, Might does make right. (The argument to the contrary is made only by those with no might.)

-- A (, July 16, 2000.


Check out this pages of links, there might be something of use for you there.

-- flora (***@__._), July 16, 2000.


"Did I understand you to say that incresing minimum lot size decreases urban sprawl?"

Sprawl wasn't the problem. Number of heads was the problem. [At least that's what I understood from Jumpoff's post.]

-- Anita (, July 16, 2000.


Here's specific stuff for Oregon, you may already have this page - but here goes:

-- flora (***@__._), July 16, 2000.

Is there a practical way to put an ultimate limit on growth in a community?

Running out of disk space seems to do a pretty good job.... :^)

-- Debbie Wiseacre (, July 17, 2000.

c Brian, you're right, the character of the community will undoubtedly change, unless, perhaps it becomes common for communities to limit their growth, so that one or a few of them won't appear so special to people. Even if the prices for land do go up, which I assume they will, a person who can't afford to live in the size limited community have the ability to settle somewhere else, where they can decide to limit the new community's size, if they so desire. I may have already addressed the issue of children. First, if we stop cranking out kids, I can see a time when this wouldn't be a problem, as we'd have the same, m/l, number of kids being born as the number of old folks dying off; thus, no shortage of housing. Also, I don't see the point in trying to make sure my kids have a place to live in the same town I do, at the cost of destroying the very things in the town that I would be trying to save for them. Yes, many local businesses may fold. This is the area I would like some advice on. I am not enough of an economist to know how to avoid this happening, or at least to minimize the problem. My neighbors are already mostly older and richer. Many of them are better educated, at least formally. Most of my education has been OJT or self taught, either by readig books, or by just doing things and experimenting around. In my neighborhood, there are many, many different values exhibited. We try to get along, and so ok, for the most part. I'm certainly not "looked down on". First, I'm the tallest person in the valley :) Second, I'm the chairman of the local Citizens Advisory Committee. As such, I'm the one people call when they have a problem--even when the problem has nothing to do with the CAC, often as not! I don't understand what you mean by "newcomers 'pushing out' the older reside

-- jumpoffjoe (, July 18, 2000.

Z, I agree with many of your points about the fragility of the land, but I'm interested in preserving the character of the community regardless of the land. Although obviously, the problem is greatly exacerbated by outgrowing the carrying capacity of the land.

Flint, I'm dissapointed in your answers here; I'm used to the very sharp comments you always madde on the y2k issues. I believe it is not only possible, but easy, to make rules which exlude you, but not me, so to speak. If that's the way you want to look at it. The rules are simple--just decide to quit issuing building permits. This has already been done in many different areas, mostly due to shortages of some service or other. The hard part is planning for this, and getting an agreement from at least a majority of the citizens that it's a worthwhile thing to do. As far as "I'm here, now no one else can come". Too bad, the growth has to stop SOMEWHERE; I'm just wanting to stop it when the members of the community want to stop it, rather than waiting until the communiity has grown so damn big that it's lost everything we value. Or it runs out of water. Or breathable air.

Lars, yes, here in Oregon we are increasing minimum lot sizes to curb urban sprawl. The minmum lot sizes are only increase in rural areas, though. The idea is to cram everyone into cities, to the extent possible, rather than having one or two acre lots all over the rural areas. There are pros and cons to this. This wouldn't be necessary, of course, if we weren't so damned fecund. As far as population being self regulating, I say, "let's start regulating it". If we don't do it ourselves, through education mostly, but also perhaps through tax programs, such as dropping the tax exemptions for having more kids, and rather charging a tax per kid to cover his impact on the environment and on city services, schools, etc, we'll most likely end up HAVING to control population through totalitarianism. Look at China.

A, I would like to keep this on track. If you want to talk about immigration policies, and/or your genetic warfare "solutions", would you please start a new thread? Tnanks.

Flora, muchas gracias for the URLS! There is a lot of information there; enough to keep me reading for quite a while. I'll report back when I have found the solution...

Anita, you're right, the number of heads (and cars, and houses, etc) was what this post was trying to focus on. But the minimum lot sizes has helped a lot to keep the main population compressed into town, which helps MY neighborhood immensely. It just makes it pretty ugly to go to town and have to deal with all the city problems, which are growing rapidly, as Howie has pointed out. I live north of Grants Pass.

Howie, Grants Pass was economically depressed and affordable when I moved here. It was also a lot smaller. So growth has not made it affordable. Just the opposite. Plus, every time a new home is built, the owners are basically getting to buy into the system for almost free. This means that new housing is being subsidized by current residents I heard the figure lately that the true per new house should be something like $20-30,000 (the total value of all the current infrastructure divided by the total number of residences. These residents have paid for this infrastructure; the long term residents more so than the newer ones. But now I'M getting off topic.

I'm very pleased with the number and quality of the answwers I've gotten for my original question. I hope w

-- jumpoffjoe (, July 18, 2000.

In reading through some of the answers re: systems and planning and finite resources, I was reminded of a book that you might find interesting. _The Logic of Failure_ by Dietrich Dorner.

Not that the rest of this helps, but you might find some amusement in the doings of our town board. They've put in place a land use plan that curtails any building or driveways on any land that was ever used agriculturally. Except that sometimes, it seems, memories fade and even though that one field used to be for hay and corn crops, there is now a big, beautiful home on it. But then that homeowner knew someone on the town board. If you're not lucky enough to know someone on the town board, or if you happen to be an 'outsider', or you just happen to be disliked by the board, or you were unfortunate enough to buy a piece of land that the town chairman wanted for himself, well... You might end up with a building permit and then be denied a driveway permit. Or they might approve a building site and later deny that the land use committee had ever approved it and now there just isn't any appropriate building site on any of your 90 acres.

"Sure, sure, you can build there, in the little wooded section that wasn't ag and is 500 yards from the road. Oh, sorry, you can't put in a driveway, though. But you can build there..."

-- previously known as (winterwondering@usually.lurk), July 18, 2000.

JOJ, In the several years I spent in town government, primarily from the standpoint of protecting the town's natural resources but also involved in master planning to protect the town's image of itself, I may have a few comments or resources that might be of interest to you. Feel free to contact me directly (just not sure how closely I will be following the thread).

My town is nearing full build-out. The overriding difference was the increasing availability of sewer starting in the mid-1970s. Depending on soil conditions, this tends to be the death knell for a more rural community. If your town is not fully sewered yet, then it is vital that you examine concurrent zoning-type controls at that time.

A second death knell is the drive by the landowner selling his/her land to extract the maximum amount for that land, based on the maximum number of lots that could be built. Certainly understandable in the case of someone for whom the land was their retirement nest egg.

A third death knell is failure to deal with traffic patterns going through town. No town has very long to get that right.

You need to know what laws or controls your state allows your town to adopt. There may be limits, for instance, in the types of zoning controls. Also, what form of town government do you have? How are new local laws adopted? What state (grant) incentives are there for this type of planning?

Larger lots contributes to urban sprawl. You would keep a more rural feel with cluster zoning. But developers aren't likely to go for that unless there are real incentives to do so.

Master planning is critical. And you need a group with real vision and guts to get it right. It at least allows you to compare new proposals to the master plan and provide notice to developers for what you are looking for in a development, even if you might not be able to hold all of them to it.

Be prepared to buy (at market rate) key pieces of land or to provide incentives for donations or easements. Usually easier to buy during a recession.

-- Brooks (, July 18, 2000.

Folks, thanks for the input. I'm going on vacation for a few days, so won't be able to keep up for a while. I hope some of you will continue this dialog, if it's as interesting to you as it is to me.

I'd also like to apologize for my typing; I'm sitting at a new computer, with a new keyboard, at a temporary location with very poor layout. MY wrists get tired after about ten seconds of typing :

-- jumpoffjoe (, July 19, 2000.


Just back in town for a few days. I would like to re-enforce what Brian said. While I'm sure that you are familiar with the problems that restrictions have posed for places like Corvallis, I can relate my experiences. When I bought my land in 1975, I paid $250/acre. Ten years ago land in my area was selling at $5,000/acre. Land a mile away sold for $22,000/acre last week [and you must buy at least 10 acres]. Remember, this is a rural area, not in a city. Growth is coming from our south. Ten miles south of us it is being priced by the square foot.

I am not planning to sell, but I am glad that I only bought 30 acres. If I had more, the capital gains would kill me. Brian is correct and I am surrounded with MD's [ per capita, our county has the second highest number of MD's in the country].

You are starting a difficult process. Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.

Best wishe

-- Z1X4Y7 (, July 27, 2000.

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