Reports, Tools & References

Rural Residential Development

This report examines the residential use of land in Lancaster County, Nebraska, that specifically excludes the area within the City of Lincoln. The residential uses considered in this report cover a range of developmental forms, including low density lot developments, individual acreage parcels, farm houses, and village residential.

This report considers residential development in Lancaster County as it existed at approximately the beginning of calendar year 1997. The information used in this analysis was drawn from the Lancaster County Assessor's parcel data base (aka, OASIS system) and employs the Assessor's residential land use classification system.

The balance of this report reviews Lancaster County's residential land use within the following four sections:

  1. Study Definitions
  2. Residential Development Totals and Occupancy Status
  3. Residential Development by Lot Size
  4. Residential Development by Geographic Location
1. Study Definitions

This section provides key definitions relating to the review that follows. The section is divided into two major topics:

  • Geographical Elements
  • Residential Use Classifications
Geographical Elements

The analysis in this report examines residential land uses for all of Lancaster County outside of the corporate limits of the City of Lincoln. This encompasses an area of approximately 777 square miles. Unless otherwise indicated, the use of the term "county" assumes that this study area (i.e., the county excluding the City of Lincoln) is being reference -- not the entire extent of Lancaster County as a political or geographic entity.

The County (in this case including the City of Lincoln) is divided into 24 "townships" (also known as "precincts") comprised of approximately 36 square miles each. Each square mile (or equivalent) is called a "section." As illustrated in Figure 1, each township has a "common use name" (e.g., Grant, Centerville, Mill, Lancaster) that is used later in this report to summarize development by township.

Within the County portion of the analysis are also twelve incorporated towns and villages. Each of these jurisdictions has a legally defined corporate boundary, and are, by State law, empowered to oversee zoning within a one mile radius from their limits. (The City of Lincoln has a similar zoning buffer that extends for three miles from its corporate limits.) These areas are employed in summarizing residential land use in the following report.

Residential Use Classifications

As noted above, the primary data source for this analysis was the Lancaster County Assessor's automated cadastral files. These files reside within a data base commonly known as "OASIS." The initial data set was transferred from the OASIS system and appended to graphical files contained within the City-County "geographic information system" (GIS). These combined files were then reviewed for completeness and updated where applicable.

The residential use classifications used in this report were derived from the Lancaster County Assessor's "property class codes" taxonomy. This classification system utilized over 60 property classes to order land uses for taxation purposes. The classes embrace a wide range commercial, industrial, agricultural, exempt, and residential uses.

One of the principal differentiating factors used in the Assessor's classification approach is the property's location relative to the City of Lincoln's three mile zoning jurisdiction. Land within the City's extraterritorial jurisdiction is termed "suburban;" while land beyond the three mile limit is referenced as "rural."

For the purposes of this analysis, the Assessor's applicable residential class were aggregated into four major residential groupings:

  • Acreage
    • SACR, "Suburban Acreage"
    • RACR, "Rural Acreage"
  • Lots
    • SLOT, "Suburban Lot"
    • RLOT, "Rural Lot"
  • Farms with Residential Use
    • FARM, "Rural Farm"
    • SFRM, "Suburban Farm"
    • RFRM, "Rural Farm"
    • SGBA, "Suburban Farm - Greenbelt, All"
    • SGBP, "Suburban Farm - Greenbelt - Part"
    • RGBA, "Rural Farm - Greenbelt, All"
  • Village Residential
    • VRES, "Village Residential"
    • MFV, "Village Multi-Family"
    • DUV, "Village Duplex"
    • THV, "Village Townhouse"
    • MHV, "Village Mobile House"

    (Please note that the "farms" category includes only that farm parcels that was indicated in OASIS as having a residential structure associated with the property.)

    The primary factor distinguishing "acreage" from "lots" was whether or not the parcels were part of a larger, unified residential development. On the whole, the "lots" classification was applied to those parcels that were in subdivision-style developments, as contrasted with "acreage" parcels that were likely to be more isolated parcels not necessarily part of a large development.

    2. Residential Development Totals and Occupancy Status

    As shown in Figure 2 (275K) and presented below in Table 1, a total of 9,526 "residential parcels" were identified in the County, totaling 168,211 acres. The "acreage" category had the largest single number of parcels with 2,767; followed by "village residential" (2,386 parcels); "lots" (2,363 parcels) and "farms with residential use" (2,010).

    Table 1
    Acres and Number of Parcels
    By Major Parcel Classification
    Parcel Classification Occupied Vacant Total
    Acres Parcels Acres Parcels Acres Parcels
    Acreage 14,457
    Lots 4,563
    Farms w/Res.140,641
    -- -- 140,641
    Village Residential916
    Total 160,577

    Overall, approximately 83 percent (7,889 parcels) of the total number of "residential parcels" in the County were found to be occupied. The combined "acreage" and "lots" classifications found about three of every four parcel occupied:

    Class Occupied Vacant Totals
    No. Per. No. Per. No. Per.
    Acreage 2,183 78.9% 584 21.1% 2,767 100.0%
    Lots 1,672 70.8% 691 29.2 2,363 100.0%
    Total3,855 75.1% 1,275 24.9% 5,130 100.0%
    3. Residential Development by Lot Size

    Table 2 on the following page displays the four parcel classifications (i.e., acreage, lots, farms with residences and village residential) arrayed by the following six lot size categories: (1) one acre and under; (2) 1.01 to 3.00 acres; (3) 3.01 to 10.00 acres; (4) 10.01 to 20.00 acres; (5) 20.01 to 50.00 acres; and (6) over 50 acres.

    As would be anticipated, the distribution of parcels by size varies by the development category:

    • Acreage -- 89 percent are from 1 to 20 acres in size, with almost two-thirds (62 percent) in the 3 to 10 acre category;
    • Lots -- 98 percent are under 10 acres in size, with 65 percent between one and ten acres in size;
    • Farms With Residential -- 85 percent are 20 acres or greater; and
    • Village Residential -- 96 percent are under one acre in size.

    A review of both the occupied and vacant status by parcel shows little variation. The number of occupied and vacant parcels by category tends to parallel the summary totals. The acreage category does show a very modest differential between occupied and vacant, though vacant parcels typically remain under 20 acres.

    This is further demonstrated in terms of the average parcel size in acres. As presented below in Table 3, the average parcel size reveals a similar pattern with village residential parcels being the smallest, followed by lots, acreage, and finally farms with residential uses.

    Table 3
    Average Parcel Size in Acres
    by Category
    Parcel Category Average Parcel Size in Acres
    Occupied Vacant Total
    Acreage 6.62 9.15 7.16
    Lots 2.73 2.99 2.80
    Farms with Residential 69.97 -- 69.97
    Village Residential 0.45 0.63 0.48

    4. Residential Development by Geographic Location

    This section of the report examines the geographic distribution of rural residential development within two major geographic division: (1) Rural Residential by Township; and (2) Rural Residential by Jurisdiction.

    A. Rural Residential by Township

    Tables 4, 5, and 6 display rural residential uses within each of Lancaster County's twenty four townships.

    Table 4 lists the total number of acres and parcels for each major residential use category by township. The percentage distribution of each residential use category by township is also shown in Table 4 (continued). Among all townships, Grant (greater southeastern Lincoln area) has the largest number of residential parcels with 1,219 and similarly has the highest percentage at 12.8 percent of the total County. Grant was the only township to exceed the 1,000 parcel figure. In terms of acres, Elk, Denton, Oak and Little Salt townships possess the greatest number of residential uses owing largely to the significant number of residential uses associated with farms -- each township exceeding 9,000 acres in recorded residential uses.

    Occupied acres and parcels by township are shown in Table 5. Once again, Grant township has the largest number with 960 occupied parcels. The distribution of residential acres is again headed by Elk township, followed by Denton, Little Salt and Oak.

    Vacant residential land by township is presented in Table 6. As the "farms without residential uses" category was excluded from the assessment of vacant land, this Table includes only acreage, lot and village residential. Grant township has the greatest number of vacant residential parcels with 259 parcels, followed closely by Yankee Hill township (greater southwestern Lincoln area) with 256 parcels. Waverly township eclipses all others in terms of village residential, resulting from significant number of such parcels in the City of Waverly.

    Focusing specifically on the residential land use categories of "acreage" and "lots," the inventory of occupied and vacant parcels is dominated by the four townships that engulf most of greater Lincoln area. As shown in Table 7, Grant (SE), Yankee Hill (SW), Lancaster (NE) and Lincoln (NW) townships account for nearly half of the combined total of "acreage" and "lot" categories -- nearly 2,400 of the total 5,130 parcels. This total is weighted toward the "lots" category, with these four townships containing approximately 69 percent of the County's total number of rural residential "lots."

    Also as exhibited in Table 7, approximately one quarter of all "acreage" and "lots" parcels in the County are vacant. Within the four townships surrounding Lincoln, the vacancy rates range from a high in Yankee Hill (SW) township of 34.5 percent to a low of 21.4 percent in Lancaster (NE) township. Among all townships in the County the highest recorded parcel vacancy was in Middle Creek with a rate of 41.5 percent, while the lowest vacancy rate occurred in Mill township at 6.5 percent. (Mill township also exhibited the smallest number of parcels; a total of 46 parcels out of a total 5,130 parcels County-wide.)

    A map illustrating the relative distribution of "acreage" and "lot" parcels by township is presented in Figure 3. It also portrays the relative occupancy status of these parcels by township. The "Map Overview" This map illistrates the toatl number of acreages and lots by township. The size each circles reflects the relative number of such parcels in each township. Occupancy and vacany rates are slao indicated by the colored segments of each circle. The red segments denote parcels with dwellings while the gold segments inactive vanct parcels.

    B. Rural Residential By Jurisdiction

    As noted previously, the incorporate cities and villages within Lancaster County have zoning jurisdiction that extends beyond their respective legal limits -- three miles in the case of Lincoln and one mile for all other incorporate entities. Table 8 displays the acres and number of parcels by residential use category for the jurisdictional areas of the cities and towns in Lancaster County. (Please note that in the case of the City of Lincoln, only rural residential parcels outside the city limits but within the three mile area are included; the figures for all other towns include residential uses both within the town or village's legal limits as well as within their respective one mile zoning jurisdiction.)

    As might be expected, Lincoln dominates in terms of the number of rural residential parcels within its sphere if influence -- an estimated 3,256 parcels of the County's total 9,526 parcels. This is about equivalent to the number of parcels County-wide that are solely within the County's jurisdiction -- or 3,298 parcels.

    In considering just the "acreage" and "lot" parcel categories, Lincoln accounts for approximately 56 percent of the total County-wide, including two out of every three vacant "acreage" and "lot" parcels, and over three-quarters of the total number of vacant "lots."