Information for Rural Living
The content below is provided for informational use in your decision-making process about rural living. If you are contemplating buying or building a home in the unincorporated area of McPherson County, it is important for you to know that living in these areas is different from life in the city.
Agriculture is very important to the McPherson County and State of Kansas economies, and has priority in the rural areas. It is the policy of the State and the County to conserve, protect, and encourage the development and improvement of farmland for the production of food and other agricultural products. Kansas has a right-to-farm law to help protect agricultural activities from nuisance lawsuits.
Local farmers often work from early morning until late at night, especially during the planting and harvesting seasons. With this activity there can be a lot of noise from farm machinery near your home; increased vehicle traffic to and from the fields; dust, dust pollen, and mold spores from crops and crop residue; and possibly the lights of equipment shining onto your property. It is possible that normal and accepted farming practices may be disruptive to your lifestyle and/or affect your personal health.
- Land preparation and other operations can cause large amounts of dust, especially during windy and dry conditions.
- Farmers sometimes burn their crop stubble after harvest. This may cause a lot of thick smoke, an odor, and burning ashes falling on neighboring property.
- Fertilizer, herbicides, and chemicals are often used in farming operations. Wind may drift these chemicals onto neighboring property.
- Concentrations of animals may cause objectionable odors and attract flies.
- Some farm animals can be dangerous.
- Clay soils are expansive and may damage foundations. Information on county soils is available from the McPherson County Kansas State University Research and Extension Office, Kansas Association of Conservation Districts, or USDA National Resource Conservation Service.
- Wild animals can be fascinating neighbors, but they may also pose dangers. Deer cross roads unexpectedly. Skunks are odoriferous. Coyotes, badgers, skunks, raccoon, opossums, and other animals cause damage to gardens and buildings, and can cause the death of pets. Hunting of animals takes place in rural areas and is controlled by the property owner.
Roads and Access
The fact that you are able to drive to your potential future home site on a beautiful, sunny day does not mean that this will be the situation at all times. With snow, ice, and flooding occurring, the following should also be considered;
- McPherson County maintains over 290 miles of paved roads and over 40 miles of sand or graveled roads. The twenty-five townships in the county maintain over an additional 1,200 miles of mostly sand surfaced roads. The condition of these roads varies greatly. The total amount of paved county road mileage makes it difficult to maintain the roads at a level you may be accustomed to.
- County policy may prevent you from having direct driveway access onto a county road. Paved county roads are classified as arterials for high speed through-travel, and therefore your access may be limited. Check with the County Public Works Department for more information.
- Extreme weather conditions may create difficult driving conditions. Rain, ice or snow can turn sand roads into a hazard. Flood waters may close roads temporarily. Snow, especially if drifting, may make roads impassable.
- Vehicles cause dust on unpaved roads. Unpaved roads may be slippery when wet, possibly making it difficult to steer and brake. Braking distance on sand roads is much greater than on paved roads.
- The township road intersections often do not have stop signs or other traffic control devices.
- The bridges on township roads are usually narrower than bridges on major roads.
- Large, slow-moving farm vehicles and equipment often travel the rural roads.
- Low-use/low-maintenance roads may not be upgraded.
- Mail delivery may not be convenient in some areas.
- School bus routes should be considered if you have, or will have, school-aged children.
- Traveling on unpaved sand or gravel surfaced roads will increase vehicle maintenance costs.
Utilities and Services
Electric, natural gas, cable television, Internet and other services may not be available at the same level as in the city. In the case of water supply and sewage treatment, they may be your own responsibility as the property owner.
- If a public sewer system is not available to the land that you are contemplating buying, you will be required to construct and/or maintain an on-site wastewater system to serve your house. This system, depending on the type, may be expensive to install and maintain, as well as time consuming and unpleasant. Permits for wastewater systems are issued by the County Health Department and you should contact them for further information.
- Rural water districts serve parts of the rural areas of the county. You should check to see if the land you are contemplating buying is served by a water district. Even if served by a water district, the district’s system and policies may restrict your water use. If you need to drill an on-site water well, you should check the situation thoroughly. Although McPherson County receives between 25 to 30 inches of precipitation annually, the availability of groundwater, and its quality, may not be guaranteed. Groundwater quantity and quality in some parts of the county may not meet your needs. A permit is required from the County Health Department to drill an on-site water well.
- Natural gas service is not available to all rural county areas. In some areas propane gas (a.k.a. liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)) may be the only fuel source. LPG is normally more expensive than natural gas.
- An electric service power line may not be located close to the land you are looking at. If a power line is not within a certain distance, you may have to pay for an extension of service to the land. The costs of this extension may be based on a per foot charge, and an additional charge for each power pole needed. You should check out the total costs of such an extension if the land is in this situation. Winter ice and wind storms can bring down power lines and you may be without power for many hours.
- It may take longer for fire, medical, and law enforcement service to respond to an emergency in the country than it would in the city.
Those who live in the country often experience nature at a greater intensity, both positively and negatively, than the city dweller.
- Even normally dry creeks can flood after heavy rains. County Zoning Regulations do not allow building in an identified 100-year flood plain, including wastewater systems. Flood plain maps are available for review at our office.
- Inclement weather, such as ice, flooding, or snow, may make roads impassable, isolating you from work, shopping, school, or emergency assistance. All major roads will be plowed and opened before minor roads are opened.
- There are no tornado warning sirens in unincorporated areas of the county.
Zoning and Subdivision Regulations
Zoning Regulation Notes
- Your lot will need to meet minimum Zoning Regulations and Subdivision Regulations.
- Zoning Permits are required for new houses in unincorporated county areas with the minimum lot size at 40-acres.
- There may be existing easements on the land that are not visually apparent. These easements may give another party the right to build a pipeline, install a facility or utility, and/or prevent you from building where you may want on the site. Be sure to check for any easements through a title search.
- Upon closure of the sale, you may be provided with a plat drawing of your property. To be accurate the land needs to have been properly surveyed by a state-licensed surveyor and monumented with property pins.
- Zoning changes may occur in any area, bringing change to the rural setting.
Subdivision Regulation Notes
- Subdivisions may have private restrictive covenants that place limits on what can be placed on the land. You should check to see if there are any covenants on the land you are thinking of buying. A copy of any deed restrictions can be obtained from the County Register of Deeds.
- Subdivisions may have roads or other facilities that are private and maintained by the subdivision lot purchasers. Maintenance fees and operations may be overseen by a homeowners association. If the roads or other facilities are maintained by a homeowners association there may be annual fees that you will be expected to pay.
- Some cities in the county have extraterritorial jurisdiction beyond the city limits. You may also need to work with city officials in such locations.
- If a landowner wishes to subdivide their 40-acres, they must:
- Fill-out and file a Lot Split Application;
- Adhere to all Subdivision Regulations and the County Sanitation Code; and
- Complete and submit a official plat
- Regulations allow no more than four subdivisions per 40-acres, with each lot between 10-20 acres.
- Most division of property that creates new tracts of less than 40-acres require platting. In some cases, a property may qualify for an Exemption as a Historic Farmstead.
- A Zoning Permit cannot be issued to build until all Zoning and Subdivision Requirements are met.
- Subdivision changes may occur in any area, bringing change to the rural setting.
Please remember, there is a difference between country living and living in the country. Making the decision to live in a rural unincorporated area should be approached with as much knowledge as possible.
The above information is by no means exhaustive. Do not assume anything when making your decision, instead make every effort to gather and consider all of the facts bearing on your decision - the pros and cons.
The information was prepared by the following entities:
- McPherson Board of County Commissioners
- McPherson County Planning Board
- County Planning and Zoning Administrator
- County Public Works Director
- County Sanitarian.