Rural Zoning

In a rural area where most land is open, forested, or in farms, where little change is expected in the foreseeable future, there is no sprawl or congestion, folks aren’t concerned about balancing growth or compatible land uses, and see zoning as a complicated urban program, not relevant to their concerns or needs.

What kind of logic is there in asking rural property owners to accept restricting the use of their land – not to help bring some planned future use pattern, but to forestall some as yet unknown improper use? Arguments have been made that:

  • – Zoning is the first step in taking property rights
  • – Zoning will make our taxes go up
  • – Zoning will make me have to get a permit to farm or to fix my fence
  • – I have plans now, but someday I may want to sell off a few lots or let my boy have a business out back

Why are we zoning or planning to have zoning or related land use controls? Health, Safety, & Welfare; protecting rural property; protecting the environment; public interest and common good; anticipated direction of change; setting minimum standards.

Carefully conceived community objectives: defining needs and resources; input from community – residents, development, and officials.

Comprehensive Planning

  • – Inventory: local community characteristics
  • – Community based: draw on input from public, local stakeholders, and experts
  • – Assessment and Evaluation: defining needs, identifying and dealing with concerns or opportunities
  • – Strategic Implementation: guides decision making, shapes community, program for growth

Legally Defensible

  • – Zoning Procedures Law O.C.G.A. 36-66
  • – Reflection of Community Objectives (setting minimum standards)
  • – Defining characteristic (land uses or zones)
  • – Framework of ordinance (complexity)

Administratively Feasible

  • – Approach to rural zoning
  • – Local commitment
  • – Consistency
  • – Inevitability of change

Example: Franklin County, GA

  • – 2000 population of 20,585 with forecast 2025 population of 26,280; #1 poultry producer in Georgia; five cities (Canon, Carnesville, Franklin Springs, Lavonia, Royston); four interchanges on I-85; Georgia highway 59 parallel to I-85; land use 80% agriculture and forest
  • – Reasons for having zoning: preservation of agricultural-based economy; impact of I-85; residential growth; expansion of infrastructure and municipal growth
  • – Four agricultural zoning districts; commercial district for area along I-85; residential district with flexible density based on location and infrastructure available
  • – Conclusion: can be realistically achieved; good planning leads to good zoning; pay close attention to the Zoning Procedures Law; make the ordinance dynamic
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