PUBLIC PURPOSE FOR AG LAND PROTECTION
As with any activity of a local government, a legitimate public purpose must be set forth when adopting land use regulations. When governing the use and subdivision of land, the public purpose to do so is typically embodied in the Comprehensive Development Plan. Saline County adopted a countywide plan in 1980, which has subsequently been replaced by the 2001 plan. Throughout the planning process and ultimately embodied within the plan were several reasons for the preservation of agriculture. While cultural heritage and habitat protection are frequently touted purposes for AG zoning, Saline County’s primary public justification for a strong AG policy are as follows:
- Minimize land fragmentation – When an existing parcel agriculture land is split into numerous pieces, the efficient use of the land for agriculture is diminished. This applies to both crop land and range land.
- Minimize Impact on public goods and services – In general, agriculture land uses have a lower impact on public services than non-ag uses. Agriculture generates little traffic, no demands for wastewater treatment, little demand for police and emergency services, no impact on schools, and little need for other tax funded goods and services.
- Minimize land use conflicts with urbanities – Modern agriculture is an industry and like most industries they have conflicts with residential uses.
- Stabilize AG land values through reasonable expectations – Large agriculture tracts with a low level of development right bring a lower per acre price, which continues to make the land affordable for agriculture operations. It is acknowledged that small, less AG efficient, tracts in the rural area will experience a higher per acre price due to the contracted supply of rural building sites.
- Strengthen incorporated towns – Every home built in the unincorporated area of the County is one less family living in town. A limited number of rural housing sites make the housing market within the County’s cities stronger because demand doesn’t spill into the countryside. A strong housing market coupled with disciplined urban expansion tends to support maintenance of the existing housing stock and small scale infill housing projects within the city. Urban housing is far more efficient to serve than dispersed rural housing because the same linear distance of infrastructure serve a greater number of users.
- Ensures orderly urban development – Future controlled expansion of our cities can be achieved in a more efficient and orderly manner if the land being converted is in large parcels with few existing structures and on-site utilities. In particular, rural residential sites between 2 and 5 acres with an existing home, septic tank, and well present a challenge for conversion to an urban development pattern. In contrast, crop and range lands with few residences present few obstacles to responsible city growth. To some degree rural residential growth can act as a boundary for urban sprawl, however it can also lead to "leap frog" urban development. A compact city with a clear land use boundary is sought, so people can tell when they are in the city or in the country.
- Urban/Rural Tax Equity – Taxpayers within the limits of a city should not subsidize rural home ownership. In other words, city dwellers pay County taxes without using rural infrastructure, while rural taxpayer don’t pay city taxes but use city infrastructure. The County does provide a number of services that are equal for all County residents.
Tools for AG Preservation: