This CAE working paper looks at McHenry County, Illinois and how effective its farmland preservation policies have been. Land use policies and zoning practices put in place almost twenty years ago are now facing the test as McHenry County has become the fastest growing county in Illinois and one of the most rapidly growing in the United States. McHenry County is about sixty miles northwest of Chicago. The county has 611 square miles and a population of 230,550. The county has maintained a strong commitment to agricultural uses and protection of prime farmland for almost two decades and has been able to keep the premature conversion of farmland to a minimum through a combination of good land use planning policies and the use of large-lot residential zoning in agricultural areas. The greatest influence on a decision by a farmer to continue farming or sell for development is exerted by federal farm programs (now being phased out), tax policy and local zoning ordinances. Most of the conversions of farmland that have taken place in recent years has been through annexations to municipalities. The county is now at a crossroads. The economic pressures on farmers are increasing as developers set their sights on the county and property taxes continue increase. Whether McHenry County can stem the tide of suburban sprawl that has washed over the rest of Chicago region remains to be seen.
McHenry County, Illinois: Farmland at Risk
Center for Agriculture in the Environment Working Paper
DeKalb, IL: American Farmland Trust
November 01, 1997
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