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23 November 1998

Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) systems were devised in 1981 by the Soil Conservation Service to assist in the evaluation of land for it's suitability for agriculture use. Many local jurisdictions (predominately Counties) have developed and implement LESA systems to evaluate agricultural suitability and conversely a property's value for non-farm use. Most systems include an evaluation based on the soil (land evaluation) types capability to produce food and fiber and a review of non-soil variables that effect the properties use (site assessment). Non-soil variables would include the level of public services available, adjacent land use, land use plans, proximity to city jurisdictions, floodplain, and other factors. A point system is devised which can be weighted to provide emphasis on local concerns. For instance, if a community's primary concern is with protecting the best prime soils the soil rating would be a large part of the overall total points. If the community was concerned with directing rural residential growth to areas served by a rural water district, water service availability would be a highly weighed variable.

Since 1988, the Saline County Planning and Zoning Commission has employed a LESA system. Our first decade of LESA use was oriented to determining whether conversion of land would take "prime agriculture" lands out of production. However, in 1998 the Saline County Planning and Zoning Commission amended the LESA to focus on whether a piece of property is appropriate for rural residential use. Currently, 1/3 of the score is based on soils and 2/3 is based on non-soil factors. When a zoning change to a residential classification is proposed, staff employ the LESA system and present the findings as part of the staff report to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The LESA score is not binding, however the Planning and Zoning Commission does consider the evaluation as a key indicator for conversion or preservation agricultural lands. In addition, the staff will conduct a LESA survey upon request to provide a pre-application review.

Description of Criteria


1. Percent of area in agricultural use within one mile --

0     All land is in agricultural use
4     90% of the land is in agricultural use
5     50% of the land is in agricultural use
9     40% of the land is in agricultural use
10    All land is in other than agricultural use

This factor assumes it is undesirable to scatter non-agricultural uses within an area primarily utilized for agricultural purposes. Such scattering leads to conflicts between incompatible uses and increased county cost to provide services to the non-agricultural uses. This factor is concerned with the broader and long-term impact of agricultural land conversion on "agricultural infrastructure" and county services. A proposed conversion of land to non-agricultural use in an area primarily devoted to agricultural would earn lower points than a similar proposal surrounded by non-agricultural uses.

2. Distance from City or Village --

0    Over 3 miles from City of Salina
0    Over 1 mile from all others
5    1 to 3 miles from City of Salina
10    0 to 1 mile from all others
10    ½ to 1 mile from City of Salina
15    Under ½ mile from any City or Village
20    Abuts city limits of any City or Village

A site adjacent to a city or urban area is more viable for non-agricultural use than a site located many miles from the nearest city or urban area. Salina justifies a wider range in the distance + factor.

3. Land use adjacent to the site --

0    The site is surrounded by agricultural uses
5    One side of the site is in a non-agricultural use
10    Two sides of the site are in a non-agricultural use
15    Three sides of the site are in a non-agricultural use
20    All land adjacent to the site is in non-agricultural use

The presumption of this factor is that a site immediately surrounded by non-agricultural uses is going to be more difficult to maintain as a viable agricultural operation than a site surrounded by agricultural uses. Therefore, given a choice, it is wiser to allow conversion of the site with adjacent non-agricultural uses. This factor is concerned with the immediate area of the site. Lower points would be given to a proposal which would be surrounded by agricultural uses than a proposal surrounded by non-agricultural uses.

4. Compatibility with the Future Land Use Plan --

0    The site and surrounding area is planned and zoned for agricultural use
10    The site is planned and zoned for agricultural use, but adjacent land is planned for non-agricultural use
20    The site is planned for conversion to non-agricultural use
30    The site is planned for conversion to non-agricultural use and the surrounding land is zoned for non-agricultural use or the site is planned and zoned for non-agricultural use

It is desirable to rate highly any development consistent with Saline County Future Land Use Plan and zoning regulations, since these documents were written with maintaining a strong agricultural industry as a primary goal. If a non-agricultural land use was proposed for an area designated for residential or urban land use, it would be given maximum points.

5. Availability of Potable Water --

0    Rural Water District service not available
30    Rural water District service is available


KDHE approved collective system for the development

Water availability has emerged as a vital factor for an area’s ability to support non-agricultural land uses. It is preferred that an existing public water source be used. Some commercial and industrial uses may not warrant mandatory rural water service.

6. Compatibility of proposed use with surrounding use --

0    Not compatible with surrounding uses
5    Conflicts with uses on three (3) sides
10    Conflicts with uses on two (2) sides
15    Conflicts with uses on one (1) side
20    Compatible with surrounding uses

The maximum points will be given if the proposed use will be compatible with existing neighboring uses. The less compatible, the fewer points given. The concept implies that it is desirable to cluster similar uses, or at least uses which would not conflict with each other. If an area has already begun to build up, it is best to further develop this area rather than start development in a new area.

7. Road Surfacing --

0 Over 3 miles to a hard surface road
10    Between 2 and 3 miles to a hard surface road
20    Between 1 and 2 miles to a hard surface road
30 Less than 1 mile to a hard surface road

A change in use from agriculture to non-agriculture uses creates a higher volume of traffic. Therefore, a proposed uses distance to a bituminous hard surface road should be taken into consideration when determining if a site could sustain the use. Non-agriculture use of gravel and earth roads significantly increases the chance for accidents and maintenance costs for roads and vehicles. The closer the proposal is to a hard surface road the higher the rating for conversion.

8. Degree to which the sites soils are not suitable for septic systems --

0    Severe
5    Moderate
10    Slight

This factor assesses the limitations that the site’s soils on the effective disposal of wastewater on site. Areas that are severely unsuitable for septic systems are not desirable for rural subdivisions because of the use of sewage treatment ponds. Conversely, soils that are suitable for septic systems are desirable for housing development.

9. Degree to which the sites soils are not suitable for basements and slabs --

0    Severe
5    Moderate
10    Slight

This factor assesses the soils types limitations for the construction of basements and slabs. A soil’s composition determines the degree to which it shrinks and swells. The shrink and swell of the soil directly effects the cost of home construction, particularly on the basement or slab of a structure. Structures in severe shrink and swell soils will likely experience long term structural damage.

10. Environment/historic factors --

0    The site should not be converted to another use because of adverse environmental factors
10    There are no environmental factors to consider

If, because of environmental factors (flood plains or historic areas), the site should not be developed, and if the land could be used for some agricultural purpose the maximum points should be given.

11. Distance from rural fire station --

0    Over 4 miles to the nearest RFD station
5    Between 2 and 4 miles to the nearest RFD station<

10 Less than 2 miles to the nearest RFD station

Fire protection in rural Saline County is a prominent issue for all land use types. However, non-agriculture uses are at a higher risk of sustaining property damage and loss of life in the event of a significant fire. Fire district response times are primarily determined by the distance of the RFD station to the fire. Obviously, the closer the use is to the station the quicker the response time and the decreased chance for substantial damage. The closer the proposed non-agriculture use is to the RFD station the greater the points for this variable.

SOIL ASSESSMENT (Land Evaluation)


The Soil Assessment evaluates the fertility of the soils located at the site. The preservation of high fertility land supports agriculture as the county’s primary economic activity. The information for the soils analysis comes from two sources: the "Soil Survey of Saline County" and the county Geographic Information System (GIS). The soil survey is produced by the US Department of Agriculture and details soil characteristics and the location of soils by type. The county’s GIS allows the soils of a specific site to be measured in acreage and percent of the site. The relative value (see table 1) is based on fertility with 0 being the most productive and 100 being the least productive. Therefore, a site least suited for farmland would have the highest points and encouraged for residential development.


Land Capability


I Prime


IIs & Iiw Prime


Iie Prime


IIIe Prime


IIIe eroded Prime


IIIw Prime


Ive Prime


IVe & Ivw Non-Prime


VIIe, VIIs, VIe, Vlw Non-Prime





Total acres:








Percent of area in agricultural use within one mile




Distance from city/village



Land use adjacent to the site



Compatibility with the Future Land Use Plan




Availability of potable water



Compatibility with surrounding uses




Road surfacing



Suitability of soils for septics



Suitabliity of soils for basements and slabs




Environment/historic factors



Distance from rural fire district



Site Total


200 max.

SOIL ASSESSMENT (Land Evaluation)





Soil Type


% of site

























Soil Total




100 max.




300 max.


Discourage Residential Development


Neutral Towards Residential Development


Encourage Residential Development