Tuesday, August 19, 2008

the Forty 1/4 1/4

I’m going to devote the whole article this week to explaining as best I can what the 40 ¼ ¼ issue is.
First of all, this is an issue that is vital to the zoning ordinance that was defeated a year ago and is the same today with “minor” changes that throw this whole issue into turmoil.
The way this is set up in the zoning ordinance is that each 40 acres of land can only have one dwelling on it. The quarter quarter means that if you have 160 acres you have a quarter of a section and each quarter is divided into 40 acres, so therefore you have 4 eligibilities. Eligibility means that you have the capability to have one house on each quarter of the quarter. These eligibities can be transferred to another quarter provided the quarter quarters are contiguous. This is clear as mud right?
The restriction here is that you must have multiple pieces of land that can be evenly divided by 40 in order to have more than one eligibility. If you have 80 acres you have 2 eligibilities. If you have 79 acres you only have one eligibility. If you own the whole section, you have 16 eligibilities. The reasoning behind this is to restrict the number of dwellings in rural areas. The commissioners want to restrict density in rural areas and want as many people as possible to live in town. They have the feeling that there is more access to water, electricity, emergency services, adequate roads etc. in town than in the country. The last time I looked I had rural water, my own well, and electricity. EMT service in the country is the same as in town. EMT service for me is probably better than in town, because I am equally distant from both Alcester and Beresford, so if one cannot respond, the other one can, so I don’t see what the problem is, do you? Sometimes the gravel roads are better than the oil roads. They get maintained on a regular basis and when it snows in the winter, the township has someone out the next day after the snow quits. I have been snowbound only a couple of times in 15 years, and quite frankly it was a welcome relief.
This whole thing goes back to the issue that if I hold title to the land, pay the taxes and keep up the land why can’t I do as I please when it comes to selling parcels of the land to someone who is willing to pay the price that I am asking for it? The planning and zoning decided after much haggling that they would grant an additional eligibility to a farmstead for a dwelling for a “family member or hired hand.” You can add an additional dwelling to your property HOWEVER, the second dwelling must be as a conditional use and when the conditional use no longer applies the dwelling must be removed. This makes about as much sense as sticking a finger in your eye.
What the commissioners have done by putting the second dwelling as a conditional use is to make it impossible for one to get a loan to build the second dwelling. Do you think for one minute that any lending institution will loan you money to build a house and then have to remove it? I highly doubt it. So what the commissioners in their infinite wisdom have done is to limit the landowner to one house per forty acres. They say on one hand that you can have an additional dwelling and then turn around and say “Oh but it has to be a conditional use, and once the conditional use doesn’t apply, remove it.”
The other thing they have done by assigning eligibilities is to inflate the market value of the land that has eligibilities on it. If you have 160 acres of ground and move all the eligibilities to one 40 acre area you have a valuable piece of property. When and if you decide to sell that land the eligibilities go with the land and when the real estate folks list it for sale with the additional eligibilities for sale as well, you get 4 for the price of one. When Real estate people come out and find that you have additional lots for sale the value of the property will go up dramatically. Likewise if your neighbor has property for sale but only one eligibility which property do you think is going to be sold first? If you read the Argus leader classifieds, you will see that they often list the property for sale and list eligibilities as well. This is a great selling tool. So again we have the commissioners controlling everything from whether or not you can sell your land as you see fit to artificially inflating the market value of the property by assigning eligibilities to it. Makes me wonder what is really going on here.
Are you confused yet? This very issue is what many of us have been fighting for for over 2 years now and the commissioners absolutely refuse to listen to us. They must feel that the people in this county are country bumpkins and can’t tell sic ‘em from sour apples. We do not understand for a minute why they can’t leave things alone. Currently you must have 2 ½ acres of land to have a dwelling on it. I don’t see anything wrong with that. If you have property for sale and I agree to your price, what’s the big deal? The next thing you know, it is going to be against the law to live in the country and not farm.


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