Making a Plan
This section discusses the importance of planning your acreage site. Topics include mapping existing property, planning for the buildings, mapping land use on the acreage site, considering adjacent property when planning views, landscaping and more.
Planning an acreage helps avoid costly mistakes and ensures all the goals for purchasing the property can be met. Once goals are determined, the next step is to develop a map of the property.
Are Maps Available?
Aerial photographs are available from the Farm Service Agency (FSA). County engineers or county planning offices also may have aerial photographs. Maps may be available from the county assessor, county clerk or county surveyor. The realtor or developer also may have maps. (see Local Contacts).
Making a Map if One is not Already Available
If no map exists, then draw the property to scale onto a piece of graph paper using the dimensions provided by the county surveyor. Graph paper on 8.5 x 11 inch paper with 10 squares to an inch is common. If the lot is 500 feet x 500 feet (5.7 acres) and each square equals 10 feet, you need 50 squares (5 inches) to equal 500 feet.
What is Existing on the Property?
Once a map of the property is drawn, inventory all the features and place them on the map at their appropriate locations. Be sure to look for existing physical features such as:
drainages or waterways, roads, fences, underground pipelines, aboveground wires, existing wells, location of floodplains and wetlands, predominant winter and summer wind directions;
vegetation features such as existing forests, tree lines, prairies, grasslands and croplands;
desirable and undesirable views, and potential noise sources;
buried pipelines, power cables, telephone lines, cable television conductors and easements.
Be creative and try anticipating where adjacent landowners will build houses and plant trees. Also, think about the land uses in the surrounding properties. Could the current use of the land change? If so, how? Is it going to be desirable to screen certain neighboring properties?
What Should be Considered in Choosing a Location for a House?
Place the house to provide the desired views, but realize the only view landowners control is the view to their property line. Beyond the property boundary, the view is controlled by other landowners.
Sewage systems must go downhill, which is critical in properly locating a house.
The location of the driveway is dictated by the safest point of entrance and exit. For safety, driveways should be placed where there is a minimum of 100 feet sighting distance in both directions along the local road. Driveways should follow the lay of the land where possible to create a more aesthetic entrance to the house, and to avoid steep grades (especially on north-facing slopes where snow and ice may accumulate in the winter).
Predominate winter winds are from the west, northwest and north. House and windbreak placements are important. There should be 100-150 feet between windbreaks and driveways or houses to avoid depositing snow onto the house and driveway.
Be aware of underground cables, pipelines and overhead wires before incorporating tree plantings into the plan. Remember, trees planted under wires will be subject to removal by the telephone or power company, and trees planted over underground pipes will be destroyed if any repairs are needed on the pipes.
Source: Adapted for Lancaster County, Nebraska from A Place in the Country: The Acreage Owner's Guide (EC97-2506C).
Other than the Building Site, What about the Rest of the Land?
Decide how much lawn you want around the home. Be sure to consider time and money in maintaining the turf. Typically, many areas of an acreage do not need to be high maintenance turfgrass. Use of buffalograss and other native grasses can lower maintenance while enhancing aesthetics and habitat value.
Review your original reasons for purchasing the land and incorporate areas of land uses consistent with your original reasons for owning an acreage. Some possibilities include:
- garden space
- tree plantings for visual screening or sound barriers
- pasture or hay fields for livestock
- wildlife habitat
- prairie grasses and wildflowers
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