A place in the hills: fiscal impact and social analysis of suburbanization in the Loess Hills counties of Iowa

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Benson, Jeffrey
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Community and Regional Planning

Rural residential development presents many economic, environmental, fiscal, social and political issues to rural places. This thesis examined development pattern and fiscal and social impact as they relate to residential, non-farm development outside of incorporated towns in the Loess Hills region in seven counties in western Iowa from 1995 through 1999. The first part of this work analyzed the physical pattern and county planning regulations of this development and resulting fiscal impacts. Development was found to have increased rapidly in some areas, with a slight majority of the development located on estate lots outside of subdivisions. Using an average costs method, the direct monetary costs and revenues to county governments associated with this new development were identified. In five of the seven counties the costs exceeded the revenue, but by less than the amount that costs of providing public services to all rural non-farm residences exceeded revenues from all rural non-farm residences. In the two metropolitan counties, revenues exceeded costs by a slight amount. Available capacities of existing infrastructure met much of the need of new development during this period.;Thus, the net fiscal cost may rise as physical development continues, but existing capacities are exhausted. A database from a 1994 survey of rural communities and surrounding areas was used to compare social aspects of rural, non-farm residents with in-town residents and new residents with long term residents. Two measures were used: community attachment and satisfaction with community. In this cross sectional analysis, rural, non-farm residents demonstrated less community attachment and satisfaction than in-town residents. People with more than ten years of residence exhibited more attachment and satisfaction than shorter-term residents. Residents in counties with the fastest rates of development reported less community attachment and satisfaction than residents in more slowly developing counties, although these relationships were not as strong. These findings present opportunities and challenges to local leaders. Although net fiscal costs for rural residential development are less than for urban residential development, future costs can be substantial, but can minimized by planning. Development challenges community social relations but can also strengthen communities.

Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2001