Rural Planning and Zoning Adoption in the United States

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Virginia Tech

Planning literature in the United States focuses heavily on urban centers. However, the 2000 Census considers one-fifth of America's population to be rural. To adequately plan for this portion of the American population requires an understanding of the strengths and barriers to planning in rural areas. Such an understanding is noticeably absent from current planning literature. Therefore, this thesis seeks to determine what factors influence the adoption of comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances in rural counties in the United States. Through an evaluation of variables pertaining to urban hierarchy, institutional factors and political processes, two independent variables stand out. For both comprehensive planning and zoning, legislation mandating adoption and higher median household incomes both encourage adoption and show statistical significance. The percentage of the county's work force that works within the county (versus commuting) also positively correlates with zoning ordinance adoption and is statistically significant. In addition to clarifying the processing of planning and zoning adoption in rural areas, this study also provides a review of state planning and zoning statutes and reports primary research on the frequency of land use planning tools in rural America. This study highlights the need for a better understanding of rural planning in general and in particular the political structures and processes in rural areas.

Rural planning, process of adoption, zoning ordinance, comprehensive plan