Mapping Virginia’s Human Settlement Patterns

The New York Times has published an awesome tool for visualizing human settlement patterns. I could play with it all day long! The tool, “Mapping America: Every City, Every Block,” breaks down the nation into Census tracts and displays the population with a dot for every 1,000 people in the map scale seen to the left. (As a cool aside, the dots are color coded by race, making it possible to get a sense of how segregated or integrated different communities are.)

Thus, we can see that the New York metropolitan area — the NY Times’ home turf — is one of the mostly densely settled, if not the most densely settled, places in the country.

We can also see that the Washington metro- politan area, by national standards, is densely populated in the urban core but that the human settlement patterns outside the core are highly scattered, both on the Virginia side of the Potomac as well as the Maryland side. This vivid, high-altitude view (which is the same scale, by the way, as the New York map above) depicts what people imprecisely refer to as “suburban sprawl,” or what EMR and I refer to as scattered, disconnected, low-density human settlement patterns.

Now, let’s zoom in for a closer look at the Virginia side of the Washington metro area. Here we can see the truth in EMR’s oft-stated dictum that if all of Northern Virginia were settled as compactly as Arlington and Alexandria — hardly examples of dystopic density — the entire population could fit into an area the size of Fairfax County. If the region’s population were that compact, imagine the possibilites for creating the same kind of alternative transportation systems — both bus and heavy rail — that allows Arlington to boast of the highest rate of mass transit ridership in the country outside of New York! (At this scale, one dot equals 500 people.)

Finally, let’s take a look at RoVa (the Rest of Virginia), in particular my home town of Richmond, which I love dearly in nearly every way but its extraordinarily inefficient human settlement patterns — a flaw that ultimately may prove to be its economic undoing. Here you can clearly see two small patches of moderate density development (in the Fan, the blue patch, meaning mostly white people live there, and in Church Hill, the green patch, meaning mostly African-Americans live there). You can see low-moderate density in western Henrico County (the upper left-hand quadrant), while the rest is extraordinarily low-density development. Richmonders periodically fantasize about supporting light rail transit but, as the maps shows, the scattered, low-density distribution of the population makes the idea a cruel delusion.

Hampton Roads is no more densely settled than the Richmond area, if you care to check the map. Smaller cities like Roanoke, Lynchburg and Charlottesville are even lower density. Just imagine how expensive it is to provide infrastructure and municipal services to a such a scattered, low-density population. Yes, there are costs associated with providing services to people in an extremely dense environment, too. I’m not suggesting that Virginia should let its urban cores evolve into mini-Manhattans. But I am suggesting that the sweet spot for providing infrastructure is a density comparable to that in Arlington and Alexandria.

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98 responses to “Mapping Virginia’s Human Settlement Patterns”

  1. Thank you! I agree, AWESOME Map!

    here is some FYI:

    " The concept of the census tract was first developed in the United States. In 1906, Dr. Walter Laidlaw originated the concept of permanent, small geographic areas as a framework for studying change from one decennial census to another in neighborhoods within New York City.[3] For the 1910 Census, eight cities—New York, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis—delineated census tracts (then termed ‘‘districts’’) for the first time. No additional jurisdictions delineated census tracts until just prior to the 1930 Census, when an additional ten cities chose to do so. The increased interest in census tracts for the 1930 Census is attributed to the promotional efforts of Howard Whipple Green, who was a statistician in Cleveland, Ohio, and later the chairman of the American Statistical Association’s Committee on Census Enumeration Areas. For more than twenty-five years, Mr. Green strongly encouraged local citizens, via committees, to establish census tracts and other census statistical geographic areas. The committees created by local citizens were known as Census Tract Committees, later called Census Statistical Areas Committees."

    more at:

  2. and one more:

    " A census block is the smallest geographic unit used by the United States Census Bureau for tabulation of 100-percent data (data collected from all houses, rather than a sample of houses). Several blocks make up block groups, which again make up census tracts. "

  3. an even more awesome map – would be to see the settlement pattern differences that have occurred between two censuses.

    For instance, looking the the DC/NOVA and Exurbs maps between 2000 and 2010.

    I'm not sure just how tightly the maps is depicting the census tracts either since in my case – there is a dot about a mile from my house that represents 1000 Asians and I can assure you that no where near to 1000 Asians live in a 2 or 3 mile radius around where I live.

  4. Jim, it would not work.

    You are phantasizing an extensibility of the Arlington paradigm that isn't possible, even if it was desireable. Not only that, but it posits a false paradigm for Arlington to begin with.

    Despite Arlington's relatively high transit use, the vast majority of travel is still by auto. The large majority of Arlington residents work outside the county.

    If you actually put the entire regional population in an area the size of Fairfax, it would grind to a halt from sheer internal friction, no matter what kind of transit you had, assuming you had the billions to build it with and decades to do it.

    EMRs fantasy is about the dumbest idea I ever heard, besides which, so what? Why do such a thing, and what would you then do with all that empty land and vacant homes? Grow squirrels? No, abandoning a resource isn't conserving it.

    Yes, there is Hong Kong, and Sao Paulo, etc.

    So what? What exactly makes Arlington such a sweet spot? I've worked there, and I don't get it, its a giant pain in the butt, generally, and expensive to boot. One of my brothers lived there, but moved west to a larger home, closer to his job, after it moved west.

    Arlington works for some people, but it is no model for everything, and it is still vehicle dependent. Its transit depends on heavy subsidies, and Arlington shot down the HOT lanes there.

  5. Ray – are you saying that Fairfax cannot be New York city some Day?

    You yourself point out that NYC cabs carry more people than the subway and that NYC is very unfriendly to private cars unless you want to pay out the nose.

    how come Fairfax cannot do that?

    Arlington did not kill ALL the HOT Lanes – just the portion that would affect them and their surface streets – and parking… etc – just like NYC "works'


  6. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    Unfortunately, the Times' mapping here is actually really bad, upon investigation. If you look southeast of Richmond on the map you posted, check out Swift Creek Reservoir. Notice something funny? According to this map, 7,000 people live in the reservoir. This is, I hope, not true. 🙂

    What they've apparently done is distributed the dots semi-randomly within the bounds of each census tract, rather than color-code the whole of the tract's area. (There is a certain logic in this—our brains are really bad at calculating area, and a large census tract could easily be perceived as a place with a very large number of people, by virtue of its size, when the opposite is actually the truth.) The problem with this approach is that it can provide the appearance of patterns where none exist—it presents human settlement data as possessing an order that it may not.

    None of this is to say that these maps are without value. I think they're quite clever. But I think that their utility is limited because of the point-based approach that they've taken.

  7. Besides that, it isn't going to happen. Too many TMTs in the world, competing stakeholders. We can't even plan for what we have and are likeley to have, but we will be far better off doing that than indulging in half baked what-if fantasies.

  8. Why, in gods name would Fairfax WANT to be NYC?

  9. Waldo is correct. The data is not distributed correctly at the census block level .. it's random….

    and that's unfortunate because it really does now show an accurate distribution when you zoom in.

    The closer you zoom the more random and generalized the data is.

    The good news is that the data itself DOES EXIST but it will probably take someone with Waldo's skills to do it right.

    re: why would Fairfax want to be NYC?

    that's not the question.

    The question is could they if they wanted to be and I don't see anything that would keep them from it if that is what they wanted.

  10. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    Got to agree with Waldo here, especially since I live not far from the reservoir where all those soggy people make their domicile.
    While I agree the NYT chart is cool, remember data in and data out, especailly coming from the media (of which I have been a proud member of the liberal wing for nearly four decades. Take THAT you conservative dinosaurs! I admit it and say it loud and proud!).
    A couple reflections. A few years ago, I took a free lance with Fortune Small Business which I believe has gone out of print but may be still hanging in online). Our assignment was to report and write little squibs about the best places to live and launch a small business in the U.S. Our starting point was some data base that some hucksters obviously had sold FSB. One of my places to check was Charlottesville, but I was told to place a special emphasis on Lake Monticello. The latter is a lake community with a bunch of mid to expensive homes some miles away from C-ville or anything else. As a Hoo, you know that C-ville has a lot going for it in terms of arts, culture, sports, people, etc. But Lake Monticello?
    Another area that the data base turned out was a suburb in the Dade County area of South Florida. I dutifully honed in on the zip code. It turned out to be pretty much a strip mall of stores that catered to lower middle income retirees and had been going downhill since the 1960s. Another place was Gainesville, which I found to be vibrant, but the free-lance editor of the project, an extremely self-confident but otherwise clueless young woman whose claim to fame had been writing a book about chocolate or something, wanted to down grade Gainesville because she had passed through it once and thought it boring. The FSB money was good although they took four months to pay me.
    Also, you must remember how utterly bogus Virginia Business magzine's "Rich List" annual project was. We were almost always completely guessing at the wealthiest Virginians' net worth. To do the project properly would have taken a person or two a year, but Media General was far too cheap for that.

    Peter Galuszka

  11. E M Risse Avatar

    Mr. Bacon:

    Great find, great post and spot on conclusions.

    When EMR gets to FUTURE SKETCHES on the SYNERGY work program, these images will be very helpful.

    The NYT site is a perfect example of the things Enterprise Media CAN DO if they try.

    Let us all hope Knight Ritter does a repeat of their site on commuting patterns from the 2000 census. If anyone see’s it, let everyone know.

    The only ‘problem’ with these graphics is the use of zip codes, a topic that has been reviewed here before.

    This is the root cause of the problem the Waldo raises. If you understand what is going on, it is not the problem that the Idea Spammers try to make it out to be.

    A glaring example of the real problem is the WaPo rendition of this same census data published on Thursday. The very large zip codes in East Loudoun distort the real status of pattern and density in the Virginia portion of the National Capital SubRegion.

    If they were the same size as the ones inside R = 8 (inner Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria) reality would be much easier to illustrate. Percentage change would be high but the absolute change and Alpha Community scale density would be much lower.

    In spite of this the conclusions you draw are completely correct and are obvious to any who are not trying to spin out excuses for the places they selected to live.

    This discussion is why the work of Professor’s Lucy and Phillips is so important. It is just a shame Bill and Dave cannot resist the pressure to change the name of their books to an incomprehensible mishmash of Core Confusing Words.

    This post is also a great segue to the LAST of the INFRASTRUCTURE Perspectives by EMR which is in draft. It examines the HANDBOOK’s THE THIRD WAY in the battle between New Urbanism and Landscape Urbanism (Forthcoming).

    Keep up the good work.


  12. Anonymous Avatar

    I saw this when it was first posted and it is a shame some of the folks Dr. Risse calls Idea Spammers jumped on the site.


  13. E M Risse Avatar

    Some how the end of one sentence was left out of our comment.

    "The only ‘problem’ with these graphics is the use of zip codes, (the case with the WaPo map) a topic that has been reviewed here before – and the continued use of large (outdated) census tracks."

    THE SHAPE OF THE FUTURE has a whole section on the problem Peter raises about 'Best Places to Live' that is another problem with data use as he points out.


  14. Anonymous Avatar

    I see Hydra Hyde is still at it.

    The core problems with Hydra Spam can be illuminated with two quotes from the hundreds he has posted over the last few weeks when he has realized that his snide remarks will be deleted and he has attempted to post quasi coherent and pseudo informative comments:

    Everything Hydra Hyde says is based on a false hope of reaping unearned profit (due to failure to pay location variable costs) for scattering Urban land uses outside The Clear Edges on NonUrban land.

    Hydra says: “The urban land barons will get rich at the expense of the rural land barons.”

    What he does not understand is that with a fair allocation of location variable costs both inside and outside THE CLEAR EDGE, there are no rich Urban land barons and no rich NonUrban land barons.

    There will be prosperous, happy and safe citizens with Affordable and Accessible Housing and Mobility and Access to Jobs / Housing / Service / Recreation / Amenity.

    This is the frightening vision that caused rich Urban and NonUrban ‘barons’ to chase Henry George out of the US in the 19th century.

    Second, Hydra Hyde’s “sage” generalities are meaningless.

    “Giant urban areas suffer from the same kind of problems. They need massive technological solutions to problems that are easily solved in less dense locations, and this limits their ability to be green. You get economy of scale, but you give up a lot of other economies.”

    Without an understanding of scale he has no understanding of how human settlement pattern evolves and how to create functional patterns and densities of land use and infrastructure to support these settlement pattern.

    Mr. Bacon makes this point very clear but Hyde jumps back on the “Giant urban areas” foolishness.

    Hydra Hyde regurgitates an epistemology that rests on a one legged view of property rights and attracts others who hope and pray Business-As-Usual lasts a few more cycles.

    Hyde could at least try to understand what Mr. Bacon is saying in this post and read Green Metropolis.

    We hope THE LITMUS TEST is up and running soon. Otherwise Mr. Bacon, Professor Risse and others will just get tired of dealing with sophomoric, sarcastic, bullying abuse.


  15. One thing you forget is that the density of new York is made possible and supported by, the miles and miles of lesser density.

    EMR will laugh at this on account of his clear edge idea, but that is not a market construct, and hasnt been sine medieval times. The only places it exists is by force of law.

  16. Snide? And you think EM R is not snide?

    I'm sorry you feel that way, but my remarks are only intended to show that there are other views and other data to consider.

    Despite EMRs contention that we are going to hell in a handbasket and that his way is the only way IF it is not already too late.

    You may remember when he first referred to me as an ignoramus almost alone in my thinking that job centers would move west to Manassas and loudoun.

    How many jobs have moved since then?

    I don't expect anyone to agree with me. I could care less, and I'm not selling anything, except a few thousand hay bales, if anyone is interested.

    But EMR is trying to sell public policy, and he is doing so based on antagonism towards virtually everyone but himself, and with arguments I believe are based on partial and misstated facts followed up with fallacious logic.

    I believe that to the extent his ideas are adopted, they will hurt far more people than they help.

    It is he, not I that has escalated the rhetoric, insults, and unfair intellectual conversation.

  17. I'm not sure I understand why census tracts and blocks are not useful for looking at the distribution of settlement patterns.

    What should we do different to get that data and to be able to see the changes that are occurring?

    I'm especially interested in how the commuting exurbs are growing.

    We are doing a transportation exercise down our way called "Scenario Planning" and the first step is to document the current settlement pattern distribution and density but then the next step is to ASSUME a level of growth in the coming years AND to decide WHERE (if we could) allocate that new growth to go.

    I will tell you right now that the new growth is being allocated to the existing road corridors like I-95 and in higher densities – as opposed to more of the same – geographic "spreading" out along the radial roads.

    The only problem is that most folks who decide to commute – are not looking to live in a dense NoVa style housing development – i.e. 8DU and up.

    They basically are looking for 4DU and lesser density that they can commute from – in a solo car or in some cases from the home to commuter lot for a van or bus or to the VRE commuter lot.

    Will people still commute 50 miles south to live in a "UDA" ?

  18. The ideas I present are not even my ideas: the come from respected scientists and scholars, and I generally provide references that anyone who cares to can check. If that is what you call idea spamming, you are welcome to your opinion. An anonymous opinion isn't worth much in my book.

  19. Most people are not 50 miles commuters and never have been. You know this but you continue to float this dead red Herring.

  20. Arlington didn't have the power to stop all the hot lanes, and they could nly sue where they had standing.

  21. we have enough 50 mile commuters in the Fredericksburg Area to clog up I-95 for hours on end.

    Compared to the million + that live in Fairfax and environs it may not seem like much until you stand beside I-95 at rush hour and realize that the entire argument about I-95 and the Texas Transportation Institute study about lost time from congestion, etc…is …about these commuters and their impact on the Washington Area transportation network….

    People who are merely trying to drive through the Washington Area are on I-95/495 including truckers will divert to other roads like I-81 and 301 just to not get tied up in the Washington commute traffic.

    It is indeed a SIGNIFICANT impact to the transportation grid no matter whether you agree with the numbers or not.

  22. Arlington had the standing and the power to stop the HOT Lane initial project unless they cut out parts of it which is what they did.

  23. Anonymous Avatar


    If you read the work of Lucy and Phillips that Prof. Risse has referenced in the past you will find that they do use census data, census tracks, census block groups and census blocks. It is how they uses them that makes the difference.


  24. CJC – can you fill me in a bit with the short version?

    I assume that you mean that the census data itself is not at issue and that it is how various groups interpret it….

  25. E M Risse Avatar

    Upon further review:

    Further notes on the NYT census map.

    This is not yet the 2010 Census data but foretells how we might hope the data from the Census could be accessed.

    We would guess that this was a proprietary project the use of which was sold to Enterprises when it first came out. Now that its useful life for competitive purposes is nearing and end, it was made available to NYT. Still a very nice tool.

    On the other hand it does have, and states that it has, the ‘even distribution of dots’ problem noted by Waldo. And the dots are distributed by Census Tract.

    If one looks at the county scale dot maps produced in THE USE AND MANAGEMENT OF LAND – PART FOUR of TRILO-G, you can see the value of smaller scale distribution.

    American Community Survey data is not collected in a way that can be represented at smaller scales. It is sample survey data. Not individual imumeration data.

    Think how great it would be to have this scale of data at the Cluster scale linked up to Google Earth.

    One note on CJC’s comment to Larry G:

    The Census Tract is not a great tool even inside THE CLEAR EDGE.

    Outside THE CLEAR EDGE, the Census tracts are so large and so Gerrymandered that they are of little help.

    That is one good reason why the definition of the organic components of human settlement patterns are so important.

    In the analysis found in "Confronting SubUrban Decline," Lucy and Phillips originally started using Census Tracts but upon the advise of an early reviewer, shifted to the use of Census Blocks and Block Groups as stand-ins for organic components of settlement patterns.

    It is a shame those 1930s citizen committees were not continued, they might have generated a component configuration akin to the organic components.


  26. Living In Williamsburg Virginia Avatar
    Living In Williamsburg Virginia

    Excellent info.

    Darryl and Ruth : )

  27. The "battle" between new urbanism and landscape urbanism.

    This is the way EMR sees it. All of his words about everyone paying their fair locational costs, free market, fair and equal treatment of individuals, and government of the people and for the people are all LIES. For him this is a religious jihad in favor of open space and conservation which must be won at any cost. Even stooping to smearing and attacking those that have different and more egalitarian views.

    "New growth is being allocated……"

    And you don't see anything wrong with that? You don't see how utterly screwed up that very idea is?

    Why not just come right out and say that we are going to take millions from some people and give it to others?

  28. " …….if that is what they wanted.."

    Well, how long have they been arguing over Tyson's?

    Maybe Fairfax should adopt the governors approach and put up toll booths at every border crossing to collect the business user fee and cover charge (this isn't a tax). You want to work in Fairfax, you got to live in Fairfax, like DC cops do. Secede and become East Virginia. Balkanize and become locavores. Only buy stuff made locally, and never, ever buy anything made by a foreigner that has to be transported.

    Yeah, that'll work. That'll fix those 50 mile commuters.

  29. " with a fair allocation of costs….there are no rich urban land barons and rich rural land barons"

    What are you going to do, outlaw wealth? You planning on eginneering the fair costs so that they exactly offset the income? What will you use for incentive, warm fussiest for the general good?

    I might be a lot of things, but at least I'm not a Communist.

    This is an example of the incoherency of EMRs argument. I have no problem with fairly sharing costs. I don't even have a problem with government recapturing some of what EMR calls unearned profits, as long as government helps create them.

    However, if we take at face value his call for fair sharing of local costs, then there is nothing to prevent amassing enormous wealth once those costs are fairly covered.

    But now, we can see this for what it really is. Fair allocation of costs means " I'm going to take all your money, and you have no right to profit."

  30. Maybe you can enlighten me on what consists of unearned profits.

    I own some stocks and bonds. For the past forty years my profit averages 7.5% per year, even after the recent temporary setbacks. I didnt lift a finger to earn that money. Does that mean it is unearned and I shouldn't have it? What if I only did it for 20 yrs or 10 or 5 years? What about 5 weeks or 5 minutes or 5 seconds? When does it become unearned profit?

    My wife's property is worth a substantial sum these days, but she didn't make that happen. Is that unearned profit that you would like to take away? The place is substantially the same as it was in 1840, except a little smaller, why go after her unearned profits, and her father, and grandfather. I suppose you think that if she sells, she has got a "windfall" after close to 200 years.

    Now, if you want to see who really made money, add up the profits from all the people who now own bits of once was part of the farm. THEIR collective profits DWARF whatever my wife will make. What is your plan for their unearned profits?

    After all, I gotta do something to make a living so I gotta have some earned profits. I net maybe 50 cents per bale of hay. Will you at least allow me that as honest profit?

    How about my place in Alexandria? An acre of land assessed at $5000 in 1988. In 1989 it was assessed at $80,000. Same land. How did that happen? I put a house on it. But they assess the house separately. Just because the land has something sitting on it the land is worth more?

    And you think that is my fault, and it is unearned profit? I'll tell you what. You take the $75 k in profit (which I don't have yet, so you get nothing, until later) . And meanwhile, you can pay the taxes on it. I'll take the difference and put it in the market where I can get some real unearned profit.

    So okay, the land is worth a little more. I buried water and sewer pipes in it, so that's worth $10k. Plus the house foundation. That still means the land is magically worth $35 k more than I have in it: money I haven't seen yet, but still pay taxes on. You want my unearned profit, and the taxes that go with it?

    You got a deal. Go ahead. Put your money where your ignorant mouth is.

  31. Sorry about that. I got a little carried away. But really, enlighten me on unearned profits. Are those the ones I only got through working my way around excess government restrictions, that killed my competition? Those you can have. I hope you share them with the losers and not use them to build a Taj mahal government center.

    But back to Alexandria. After I made all that money on the land, by investing in water pipes and foundation, I still needed a house. So, I went and bought one. Paid $45k for it. Sawed it in half, moved it to Alexandria and put it back together. So $60k Max, in 1989. The day I move in the structure is assessed at $157,000 dollars. I almost fainted. I argued with the assessor.

    "Are you kidding me? I can buy this house all day long for $45,000 dollars, how do you figure? "

    Well, now it is located in Fairfax, he said.

    "You are kidding me, if I buy a pickup truck in west VA and bring it here it is suddenly worth 6 times as much? First you tell me the land is worth more because of the house, then you tell me the house is worth more because of the land. Are you freaking nuts?"

    "This is the same place that you fought me over tooth and nail for eighteen months. Which I then built in 12 weeks. After you said it was impossible, that it would sink into solid rock. This isn't an assessment, its an invitation to arson. If this dump Burns down tonight, I could replace it in eight weeks and make another hundred grand, the way you calculate.

    So, there is another hundred grand, of unearned profit.

    You want it? Ill sell it to you, you pay the taxes and upkeep. I'll share the rent and the eventual profit. No problem.

    You feeling a little bit like Fannie Mae?

    So really, explain to me about unearned profits and how they are somehow my fault and some unspeakable evil besides.

    Really, I'm stupid, I don't get it. Please explain to me. Only please, oh please, don't throw me in that briar patch.

  32. [ Chuckle, the key word to enter my last post was "rant".]

    And just to show how fair minded I am, ill make the same deal on the farm (with wife's permission). You get the unearned profrit, eventually, and in the meantime you pay the tax on it and cover your share of the losses.

    Any takers?

  33. I didn't think so.

  34. James A. Bacon Avatar
    James A. Bacon

    Waldo, thanks for pointing out the problems with the mapping. I do believe there are a couple of houseboats on the Swift Creek Reservoir, but I sincerely doubt that hundreds of people literally live on (or in) that body of water. 😉

    I'm guessing that the NY Times is relying upon an algorithm that pinpoints the central location of a cluster of people, which is actually somewhat scattered.

    Presumably, the display of the data works better at a high-altitude level than on a granular level.

  35. Jim – the data for granular does exist – it's census block data I believe.

    There are about 39 sub-levels below the tract level and the data is the actual enumerated count data.

    The other thing from EMR's perspective is the way the boundaries are drawn for blocks an tracts and it appears to have not a whole lot to do with anything of a substantiative nature – just arbitrary.

    but the CONCEPT is a winner!

    we just need to convince Waldo or his circle of programming wizards to take this on – perhaps integrate it with what he does on Richmond Sunlight or VPAP!

  36. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry said:

    “Jim – the data for granular does exist – it's census block data I believe.

    “There are about 39 sub-levels below the tract level and the data is the actual enumerated count data.”

    No, Larry, you are not correct.

    Please pay more careful attention to what Prof. Risse says. See his comment from 4:44 yesterday.

    This is NOT 2010 Census data, this is a summary of data from the 2005 to 2009 American Community Survey data.

    The graphic does not SHOW Census Block Groups and Census Blocks, it only shows Census Tracts because the data is taken from random sample surveys, NOT from individual Household enumeration.


  37. Anonymous Avatar

    The random distribution of the race data is made at the Census Tract scale to avoid race profileing.

    The notation on the face of the graphic makes it clear that this is not Census Tract data.

  38. Anonymous Avatar

    CJC is right about the source and the random distribution.

    Beyond the race map, the more interesting data is in the household income distribution, etc.

    As noted by Jim Bacon this too confirms the views put forth in Professor Risse’s two books.

  39. E M Risse Avatar

    Anon 8:16 is not correct on one point:

    This IS Census Tract data. This American Community Survey data does not exist for any component below the Census Tract level. Ten year Census data does exist but is hard to dig out. That is why the Lucy / Phillips work is so important.

    An interesting aside:

    This American Community Survey data has been available to those willing to pay for it to be made useable (Wal*Mart, Target, Exxon, and every one of those drug companies that build look-alike drug stores – Yes the gross overbuild of drug stores raises the cost of medical services) since at least the mid-80s. More and more have been using it in the 90s and the 00s for Radial Analysis-based Service facility location decisions.

    Full Disclosure: EMR served on a Transportation Research Board (Nat Acad of Science) committee to help the Census Bureau craft the questions in the American Community Survey in the 90s.


  40. here's the info I found:

    " A census block is the smallest geographic unit used by the United States Census Bureau for tabulation of 100-percent data (data collected from all houses, rather than a sample of houses)."

    isn't this actual data?

  41. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry my boy, I do not know how Bacon and Risse put up with you.

    This quote is right BUT the graphic is not 100 percent data (the 10 year census)it is SURVEY data collected from random sample surveys to which there is not a very large response so the data is not valid below the Census Tract level.

    Please, please, do not clog the air waves with these questions.

  42. I KNEW the graphic was random – I pointed it out myself but what I say was that the data for more granular depiction DOES EXIST and if someone was willing to do a graph incorporating it – they could.

    I do not think you are reading what was written guy – do you want me to go back and get the quotes?

  43. Anon – here is what I wrote previously:

    " Waldo is correct. The data is not distributed correctly at the census block level .. it's random….

    and that's unfortunate because it really does now show an accurate distribution when you zoom in.

    The closer you zoom the more random and generalized the data is.

    The good news is that the data itself DOES EXIST but it will probably take someone with Waldo's skills to do it right."

    did you not read this or are you just making wind with your lips?

  44. Okay, so we don't know what the data says or whre it came from or whther it is worth anything.

    We are either going to transmute the entire area a la EMR so we can aford to have mass transit (that still. Doesn't work, or else we are going to have to fix the transportation system we have.

    Either one is going to cost big bucks: who wants to raise taxes?

    I re-posted the following from the previous thread in which TMT suggests jitneys as one possible solution.


    At least in the Greater Washington, D.C. area, the providers of shared vehicles are having significant financial problems. WMATA and local governments running bus lines. Part of that problem stems from the out-of-line wage and benefit packages paid by WMATA and some local governments.

    One potential solution to increase shared vehicle use would be to authorize private jitney service with little more than safety regulation. But that would threaten the drinkers at the public trough.




    I suggested Jitneys here what, ten years ago? But Jitneys threaten taxis as much as they threaten the public bus services.

    Winston and Shirley go to great lengths to show that the type of ownership and governance make a huge difference in transit costs, with the most expensive systems being arranged so that politicians can use them as patronage slots.

  45. Second, Hydra Hyde’s “sage” generalities are meaningless.

    “Giant urban areas suffer from the same kind of problems. They need massive technological solutions to problems that are easily solved in less dense locations, and this limits their ability to be green. You get economy of scale, but you give up a lot of other economies.”


    OK, you say this statement is meaningless, but you do not say why.

    Based on my experience and observation I still beleive this to be a true statement. Big cities need massive technological infrastructure that needs to be custon engineered for each instance, and then maintained for decades by successive eams of highly skilled individuals.

    Big cities are expensive, and money is a good proxy for resources used: therefore cities cannot be as green as folks like Owen claim.

  46. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry my boy try to get a grip on yourself.

    When the Census Bureau (or a contractor) mails out the survey forms to a small percentage of the Households in a Census Tract, the form has a bar code for the CENSUS TRACT.

    There is no place on the form to put location specific information.

    When a small percentage of forms are mailed back to the Bureau they are tabulated by CENSUS TRACT.

    There is NO DATA on where the information came from within the Census Tract.

    Please repeat after me: There is no data below the Census Tract scale from the American Community Survey. PERIOD.

    Now please repeat the following four times to yourself:

    There is no 100 percent data from the American Community Survey.

  47. what is it about this that you do not understand anon?

    " census block is the smallest geographic unit used by the United States Census Bureau for tabulation of 100-percent data (data collected from all houses, rather than a sample of houses)"

    you're being a jerk so I'll not encourage you further.

  48. Anonymous Avatar

    " census block is the smallest geographic unit used by the United States Census Bureau for tabulation of 100-percent data (data collected from all houses, rather than a sample of houses)"

    The data in the NYT graphic that Mr. Bacon liked to is NOT 100 percent dats, it is sample survey data.

    What do you not understand about that?

  49. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    we just need to convince Waldo or his circle of programming wizards to take this on – perhaps integrate it with what he does on Richmond Sunlight or VPAP!

    Unfortunately, the Venn diagram of programmers and open government activists, at least within Virginia, appears to overlap on exactly one person: me. But, sure—I'll put this on my list, to do after the next three open government sites I've got planned. 🙂

    (Incidentally, to clarify something that I don't think you were saying, but that I don't want anybody to erroneously infer is true: I don't have anything to do with VPAP, other than being a big fan of theirs!)

  50. Yes.. I knew you were not connected with VPAP but I admire you both for your separate but incredibly important efforts and both of you seem to be capable of dealing with visualization of data.

    so thanks!

  51. Larry: it seems to me that anon is correct on this point.

  52. "A one legged view of property rights….."
    Yes. Everyone has the same right to have their property protected.

    That means no group has the right to get more protection for their property than others get – even if they are a majority.

    We all must share the environment we live in, therefore we have equal rights to use the environment – and equal obligations to protect it.

    You have some kind of problem with equal protection under the law?

  53. "The gross overbuild of drug stores raises the cost of medical services."

    I seriuosly doubt that CVS is stupid enough to build a drug store that competes with its brethren.

    This is another thoughtless and baseless declaration-as-if-it-were-fact.

    Competition lowers prices. It is one reason I think there should be fewer farms. The ones that are left will make more money. The ones that exit will make more money. Whoever buys the property will make more money, and so will the community around it.

    Besides all that, more drugstores means more access and less travel and energy to get there. Travel that is tax deductible, and raises government cost. If you posit a walkable society, you would need far more (and therefore smaller, less efficient) drugstores to provide the same accessibility. Overall, the cost would be higher, not lower, because as you consistently point out the cost per square foot is higher.


  54. If EMR believes in market forces, his solution for the Hydra problem is very simple. He should hire me to be his writer.

    I'm not getting paid for this, so anything would be a raise. My father was a science editor, and I recall exactly how he grilled his authors to make sure they got out THEIR message, and did it in a truthful manner that was fully supported by the available data.

    I'm quite sure I could do a better job of getting his message out, in a believable manner, and in a way that won't alienate the entertainment industry when he suggests confiscating their profits to support education.

    And, I actually have metrics to prove my point.

    15 cents a word, and you can not only shut me up, you can turn me to your side. Its a bargain.

  55. Waldo:

    How did your solar project turn out?

  56. Ray – I seriously do not think you folks are reading what was said.

    I AGREED that the NYT map did NOT depict actual data but random data.

    I was right behind Waldo in pointing that out, in fact.

    But I went on to say that the actual enumerated data DOES ALSO EXIST at the census block data and is AVAILABLE to be used to generate a map that DOES reflect enumerated data if they wanted to go to the trouble of actually getting and using that data.

    If you understand databases and data – you'll realize that using the representative data was a way for them to put together that map in a reasonably short amount of time and that if they used the actual enumerated data – it would be a huge slug of data probably 10 to 20 times as large …..

    but the data DOES EXIST.

    and that was the point.

    If you WANT to do a map visualization of the ACTUAL DATA ….as a TOOL for evaluating settlement patterns and the changes to them over time –

    you can do this….

    but it's a bigger, tougher problem that the one the NYT tackled.

    They did a good job – as far as they took it but when you zoom in, you realize that they are using representative data not actual enumerated data.

    My SOLE POINT was that the actual enumerated data IS AVAILABLE.

    The marketing world is well aware of this by the way.

    The target demographics down to the neighborhood level with things like political and product mailings.

    It's a BIG business.

  57. and just to point out the obvious folks –

    when you do a census redistricting as we are right now, you need the enumerated data and the enumerated data is the data that you see right now in the existing maps that will be used as a starting point to shift boundaries.

    And you cannot know where to shift the boundaries unless you know how many people will end in affected by the boundary shift.

    so you KNOW the DATA MUST EXIST – right?

    it's the ORIGINAL REASON for the CENSUS to start with!

  58. Anonymous Avatar


    We all hope you had a good nights sleep and took your meds.

    Most of us understand what you were trying to say about data and that you are not correct in your sweeping assumptions.

    The only “100 percent” data is the 10 year census SHORT FORM.

    This form provides enough information to carry out the Constitutionally required enumeration actions – e.g. redistricting – but does not cover all the topics found in the 10 year Long Form or in the American Community Survey (ACS) which change from year to year.

    In fact all the Census data is Survey Data except for the Short Form.

    The limitations of Survey data are summarized on the face of the maps at the NYT site to which Mr. Bacon linked in this post.

    Drilling down to get information at the Unit, Dooryard, Cluster, Neighborhood, Zip Code, Village and Community scales take time, money and talent. In addition, there are limitations due to privacy considerations.

    That is why, as Prof. Risse has pointed out, the work of Lucy and Phillips is so important.

    Much of what you say about the value and the need for further dissemination of, and access to, the data by citizens is correct but not the sweeping generalization about data existence.

    Understanding human settlement patterns and how to quantify them is not rocket science.

    It is much more difficult.

    Since you and some others that frequent this Blog have demonstrated a reluctance to try to understand the basics it is understandable that you did not fully grasp the data issue.

    Because I have access to the Blog that Prof. Risse maintains for (as well as by and with) former students, I know that he will be further addressing your understanding about settlement patterns in the fifth post on INFRASTRUCTURE. Hopefully that will help.

  59. " Drilling down to get information at the Unit, Dooryard, Cluster, Neighborhood, Zip Code, Village and Community scales take time, money and talent. In addition, there are limitations due to privacy considerations."

    Tell me how redistricting is accomplished without knowing the actual enumeration data – location and race without having to know the persons name or other identifying info.

    They know this right down to the house and street level guy.

    and it's that information that determines where the new boundaries are drawn.

    stop being a jerk.

  60. Regardless of how much data we have or how well we understand it, the point of this had to do with the supposed efficiency of areas with higher densities.

    If the claim is that individual famileis living in apartment units and not owning a car buy and use less energy than suburban dwellers who live in larger homes with more exterior walls, commute to work and cart vanloads of kids around, then I get that.

    But if the claim is that denser areas are inherently more efficient and use less energy, then I don't think so. I think if you consider the total energy use of a large urban areas and divide that by the total of people who live and work there, then you find out that cities are giant energy hogs.

    As it stands now, half of the worlds population live in cities, but cities account for 80% of our energy use.

    Just consider the energy used for commuting. The first argument assumes that all that gas is consumed by the suburban household. But if you consider all the energy used to truck potatoes into the city, is that energy used by the city, or by the farmer? You might just as well consider that the energy used in commuting is energy used by the city to truck in workers, same as it needs energy to truck in potatoes and celery.

    You could have urban farms, and more urban dwellings to cut down on commuting, but both of those increas the energy needed by the city and increase the stuff that has to be trucked in from away.

    Or, you could make room for potatoes and all that other stuff inside the city, but that lowers density.

    Obviously this is a nonlinear multivariate problem, but all that means is that the flat claim that denser areas are soemhow more energy efficient is almost certainly wrong.

  61. They know this right down to the house and street level guy.


    Nah. They don't need that kind of precision in drawing boundaries for legislative districts. The boundaries are not that accurate.

  62. " The boundaries are not that accurate. "

    you guys are a scream!


    do you think after they redraw the boundaries that you can go to any old precinct to vote or do you think they tell you which is the precinct you vote in and who it is that represents you that you can vote for?

    Have you ever looked at a voting district map?

    apparently not… eh?

    ya'll are funny…you must be students – who don't actually vote… eh?

  63. No, but I think that just becasue the black population is 10.6257% of the US population not every district is 10.6257% black.

    If the requiresment is on district for every 40,000 voters, I assume we don't take that literally, and the real answer is 40,000 plus or minus 800, or something.

    And anyway, a whole bunch of people have moved since the census, already, so by the time you get the districts drawn they are both wrong, and based on stale data.

  64. Hah! After I remarked yesterday that driving would continue to increase everywhere, even in the Himalayas, and even if they had to invent motorized yaks, I heard a story on NPR on exactly that topic.

    The kingdom of Bhutan, long dependent on goat paths and foot traffic through the mountains has begun a nationwide campaign to build new roads. The goal is to make it easier for people to live and trade in the countryside, so they wont move to the cities.

    People interviewed went on about how their new road made everyone's life better. They could trade more stuff in more places, farther away and increase their market to sell and their choices when buying.

    Mobility and access, anyone?

  65. " In the United States, a farm-to-market road or ranch-to-market road (sometimes farm road or ranch road for short) is a state road or county road which serves to connect rural or agricultural areas to market towns. These routes serve as a better quality road, usually a highway, which allows farmers and ranchers to transport their products to market towns and/or distribution centers."

    and then we have:

    " Rural electrification is the process of bringing electrical power to rural and remote areas. Electricity is used not only for lighting and household purposes, but it also allows for mechanization of many farming operations, such as threshing, milking, and hoisting grain for storage; in areas facing labor shortages, this allows for greater productivity at reduced cost."

    so these two ideas, in effect, created the exurbs also.

    Once the roads were built for the farms and electricity delivered to where the roads went – people could work in the city and live in the county.

    I wonder how that angle plays into the settlement pattern conundrum.

  66. Dreamer.

    There is not one farm in the five counties surrounding me that makes a true profit, except for the handful getting federal subsidies, if you call that profit.

    One of my farm friends is happy to tell you how great farms are for the county.

    He gets 80,000 a year in subsidies.

    Because most farms require off farm income to keep them going, they are a conduit that provides a portion of city income to farm vendors.

    If there are good roads, it is easier to sell the farm product, but more importantly it makes it easier to sell the money losing farm.

    The anti road, anti development, save the farm crowd will tell you that (all of those things) are terrible.

    What they don't say is how a bunch of money losing farms are good to the county for. Instead they brag that farms pay twice in income what they pay in services.

    How long will that last when farmer/commuter have to pay tolls designed to prevent bad citizens from commuting 50 miles?

  67. Well we know these two things:

    1. – that most "farms" that we are familiar with are artifacts of an earlier agrarian culture and no longer really are productive suppliers of food.

    2 – there are – everywhere – a plethora of food stores with a plethora of farm-produced food for sale and "shortages" are virtually non-existent.

    3. – interstate highways have essentially killed "local" farming.

    4. – "preserving" "farmland" no longer able to turn a profit growing food – as a strategy to keep it from being used for other purposes – deemed harmful to the cause of efficient settlement patterns – does not really work very well

    One of the vast misunderstandings about 'rural' farmland is that a substantial part of rural in many areas is not currently farmed and probably never was – and it is called Forest and people who move to the exurbs LOVE FORESTS!

    In fact, I bet if you took a poll and asked prospective suburbanites if they wanted to move to a house surrounded by "farms" they'd only like that idea if the farm was no longer a productive operation but rather "preserved".

    Where I live – THE MOST APPEALING site for a home after waterfront is to back up to a historic park – which is guaranteed to be forever.


  68. no longer really are productive suppliers of food.

    Lets not confuse productive with profitable. Local farms produce a LOT of stuff, but they just don't make a profit at it. Maybe they even make a profit on farm operations, but not enough to cover health insurance. so there is an off farm job to provide health insurance and a steady cash flow, to offset that once a year windfall on christmas trees.

    Agreed, there are plenty of food stores and seldom a shortage of products.

    interstate highways have essentially killed "local" farming

    I don't think that is the case. When I sell at the Alexandria Market I use the interstate to get there. The interstates run both directions and they help as much as hinder.

    What is killing local farming is more complicated than that.

    One thing that is killing local farming is local farming: there is too much competition.

    Too much competition comes from too many farms and too much land in production. Too much land in production is the result, first, of tractors, second, of increases in productivity, and third, of zoning.

    Tractors took draft animals off the land around 1945. Before that, the drat anaimals needed 25% of the farm land just to feed them.

    Suddenly you had 25% more usable land, and then you got 600% more production out of modern crops, fertilizers, and pesticides.

    EMR claims we have way too much land available for urban development already: we will never use it all. OK fine, but the same thing is true for farmland, so whats the problem?

  69. EMR claims we have way too much land available for urban development already: we will never use it all. OK fine, but the same thing is true for farmland, so whats the problem?

    One problem is that you cannot get out of the farm business. If youare zoned agricultural, you cannot do anything else, and not only that, but it is the only zoning designation that you MUST participate in.

    Otherwise they will change your designation to one they won't allow you to participate in. If you do not farm your agricultural land, they will designate it residential, but you still won't be able to build residences on it.

    This will raise your taxes substantially, so the name of the game is to farm just enough to meet the ag requirement, and not so much that you lose more than the tax bill would be.

    "preserving" "farmland" no longer able to turn a profit growing food – as a strategy to keep it from being used for other purposes

    Again, you have to be careful how this is stated. You can make a profit on the agricultural operations, not much of one, not enough to li=ve off, but enough to augment the other income. If my farm income is 10% to 25% of my regular income, thats maybe OK for 2 days a week.

    The problem is ROI, not profit. You can make 5% to 7% on your farm operations, but if you have to buy the land or take the value of land into account then your ROI is 0.000004%. And there is nothing youcan do about that, because you do not control the value of the land. If it is worth more doing something else, then it is worth more doing something else. there is nothing youcan do about it and nothing the conservation agencies can do about it.

    That is why they do not want to own the land, but only the development rights to it. Which, as I have pointed out is a fundamental problem. Which development rights are they buying? The original ones proised when zoning first arrived, or just the ones remaining after the county stole the others through dwonszoning. And STOLE is the operative word, because if they are worth buying now, they were worth buying then.

    Preserving the farm land through conservation easements has worked quite well for preserving the farmland. Conservation easements so far have proven quite durable.

    What hasn't worked so well is accurately assessing the true cost of this. A truck stop on my farm adjacent to Rte 66 might not be good for efficient settlement pattern and still be a whole lot better for the economy than letting the land sit there growing bunnies and heavenwood trees.

  70. What hasn't worked so well is accurately assessing the true cost of this. A truck stop on my farm adjacent to Rte 66 might not be good for efficient settlement pattern and still be a whole lot better for the economy than letting the land sit there growing bunnies and heavenwood trees.

    What hasn't worked so well is that those who want things a certain way, those doing the "deeming" are not the ones bearing the costs. Twenty years ago I might have wanted to build another house on the farm. If I had I could retire today (my birthday) in comfort instead of scraping by.

    Now it is too late. Even if I had permission tomorrow, it is too late. I needed that 20 years to get the cash flow right. I don;t know what the county thinks they gained by denying me permission, but it easily cost me a half million dollars, and I doubt whatever they "gained" from their decision was worth anywhere near that. And that money would have helped the farm, not destroyed it.

    Instead, some landlord in a planned development is collecting that rent on a crummy apartment.

    "One of the vast misunderstandings about 'rural' farmland is that a substantial part of rural in many areas is not currently farmed and probably never was – and it is called Forest…"

    Dead wrong on this one, Larry. I've got an areal photo of the area around my farm dationg to 1933, and there is not a tree to be seen. People heated with wood, and all that land was used for grazing. Draft animals was part of it.

    Before that, during the civil war most of the forest around here was burned in an attempt to hunt down Mosby, and deny him cover.

    Such forest as we have now is mostly either trasy growth on abandoned farm land, or cultivated growth intended for future logging.

    Where I live – THE MOST APPEALING site for a home after waterfront is to back up to a historic park – which is guaranteed to be forever.

    Partially correct. What you are talking about is hedonics, where we compare the values of similar properties compared to what is around them. This way we can put a value on things that are unpriced, like bike trails.

    EMR says the most valuable thing to have around your property is a city. But you are correct, backing up to preserved land is a close second. Being close to shopping center is way up there, too. Surprisingly, sidewalks lower the value. And no one in their right mind wants to back up to a working livestock farm or quarry.

    And be caeful about that forever promise: it aint so. Iknow people who paid extra for their lot in a fancy golfcourse subdivision because it backed up to preserved wet land, not slated for development. Guess where they put that new high tension power line?

  71. A good part of my opinion about "local" farms is based on a simple observation of what is offered in the way of food products in your local Giant or Walmart.

    Stroll through the produce and try to find a product that was grown locally.

    What percent ?

    On the Ag and forest.

    It's true that forests WERE cut but a lot of that land was never put into productive farming and I define "productive" as sufficient to allow a family to exist on the profits as it's sole source of income and no one needs to go out and find a non-farm job.

    there are REGIONAL farms that provide chickens, eggs, dairy, etc but they are not family farm operations by and large but what amount to industrialized operations that use automation and mechanization in place of manpower.

    Could you actually grow the entire food supply of turkey's on a footprint that would fit inside of the clear edge?

    That would be.. could you grow and slaughter and package fresh poultry inside the clear edge sufficient in number to provide for all the poultry food needs for the population inside the clear edge?

    I think you could.

    but we don't.

    Instead the daily/weekly supply of chickens/turkey's is trucked in by 18-wheelers… that as far as I know return to get more with an empty trailer.

    Why do we not grow the chickens inside the clear edge?

    because.. we'd have to truck in their feed and truck out their poop. right?

  72. It is hard to sell to giant, but that does not mean that local farms are non productive. You seldom see Virginia beef in the store because much of it is raised and bred for breeding stock. The rest is shipped west to feedlots.

    There are lots of active and productive small farms that contribute millions to the economy, they just don't keep much for themselves.

    However, there are lots of local outlets for local products. In my IGA store, nearly every section has some choices made locally.

  73. If you define prodaictive as profitable enough to support the family, the there are basically none. You need a better definition that includes tax and lifestyle issues.

  74. We would have to truck in the feed ……

    At least the trucks would be full both directions. But you would be trucking a lot more low value stuff. Which is exactly why we ship VA cows to where the corn is and ship steaks back.

  75. The clear edge would be a lot farther away. The area required to support London is 175 times the size of the city.

    Any fair consideration of the supposed low energy use of an urban needs to take that into account.

  76. there are some local products in the stores but vast majority are not local.

    The people in North Carolina love pig farms until floods hurt their sewage lagoons….

    but the folks in Faquier, Prince William Stafford and Spotsy are not going to agree to "preserve" all their farm land by turning them into pig farms.


    Frank Perdue has to raise his chickens on Delmarva or west of Harrisonburg though – not near the clear edge of Nova.

    My point is that we have a plethora of food – a huge bounty of food in thousands of stores throughout the NoVa region and someone makes money on it but for the most part not local farmers living on local "farms" although I hear that the Govt is now providing grants for "hoop house" farming.

  77. That's right.
    In fauquier the book of regulations for a confined feeding operation is four inches thick.

    It is entitled fugeddaboutit.

    You are right, there is too much food and too many farms. So why are people so crazy about preserving them at the same time so many people cannot afford homes?

    Because pretty horse farms nearby make their homes worth more.

    But local farming is still a multimillionaire dollar business, and not all of it involves food. But without decent profits all those businesses are mostly charities, one way or another. But you are missing the boat by focusing only on food.

    There is lots we could do to allow farms to be more profitable. We could start by not charging them twice what they cost us. We could allow auxiliary dwellings, like the one I wanted, to improve cash flow. We could allow co-operative to sell group health insurance. We could make it easier to have events and ancilliary businesses. We could have government sponsored and provided farmers markets. Government owned and managed equipment for rent to farmers. Pest and weed management services. I wasnt able to get temple AG labor, but government could. Govt could rent the land it wants set aside for flood plain. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    Almost anything would be an improvement over the present screw job.

    And for some that still wont be enough. For them, we need to allow a reasonable way out that doesn't require a huge developer to take over.

  78. I could use a couple of hoop houses, but don't have ten grand lying around to risk on the farm.

  79. when people move to Spotsylvania and are asked what attracted them – they'll invariably cite the "rural character" …

    and then allow that they much prefer that surrounding their subdivision than….other subdivisions…..

    ha ha ha

    One fella got up at a hearing for a new subdivision proposal and said that " if he knew that the land abutting his back yard was going to be developed into a subdivision also – he would have never moved there.

    There was no laughing from the audience just nods of approval from the packed room of fellow "come-heres" who all bemoaned the fact that the reasons they moved here are being "ruined" by "growth".

    Last year the residents of an upscaled gated development successfully stopped a clone that was going to be built down the road – on the grounds that the historic and rural character would be "destroyed" by that subdivision which would allows others to follow.

    Mind you – the folks who made that argument lived here for less than 10 years. many less than 5 and ALL of them moved here because they LOVE the "rural character".

    Now – if our county was operated like Facquier we'd not now be infested with come-heres so I think you are a lucky guy to only be surrounded by salt-of-the-earth types who are committed to truly preserving "rural character".

    You need to move to Spotsylvania to fix your problem.


  80. Haven't heard from EMR, maybe he flew back to British West Indies.

  81. " Snow surrounds a hoop house built partly with federal funding at a 164-year-old farm in Unionville….

    this sounds like it is right up your alley – govt funding:

    " Funding available to help farmers extend the growing season while protecting natural resources"

    and I'd think EMR would like this idea also….

  82. Moving the farm is not so easy. Maybe when spotsy runs out of land they can annex fauquier.

    It is not the salt of the earth that are "saving" this place. It is those with more money than God. Chandeliers in the horse barn types. The regular residents say its your land, you should be able to do what you want on it.

    An environmentalist is the last sob to get his house in the country.

  83. but they're saving it from the "come heres" who proudly allow "enviro-weenies" in their ranks.

    In fact, the "come-heres" do all the politically correct things to earn those very important "I care and I'm Green" credentials.

    Thank you fellow landowners for protecting you from these green weenies who once they establish a foothold have a never-ending list of complaints to whine about.

    Believe me Ray – you are MUCH better off without theses settlement pattern locusts who clearcut "rural character" wherever they go and then blame it on "unmanaged" growth from good ol Boss Hogg boys trying to reward their land-rich, dollar-poor cousins by selling worthless rural land for big bucks to come heres.

  84. What, protecting me by taking a half million out of my pocket now, and a lot more later?

    These clowns are going to protect us to death.

    Figure it out. Loudoun county added 250,000 people. On average every one of them earns more and owns more property than an average fauquier resident who got left behind by growth.

    If the idiots that run this place expect me to run a scenery business, that's fine with me. But they need to figure out how to get me paid enough to stay in that business. It does not have to be all growth or no growth. It does not have to be riches for some and purgatory for every one else.

    But please don't try to convince me I'm better off. I'm just paying for things other people get.

  85. The folks who moved in here did exactly like those folks you describe. They just did it sooner a nd on a grand scale.

    If those folks want to protect that farm, they can buy it and let it sit as long as they like.

    But getting what they want at someone else's expense by whining at a meeting is just wrong.

  86. are you counting all those folks who owe more on their mortgage than the house is now worth and their monthly payments are going up because taxes are going up to pay for all the infrastructure and schools that growth has required?

    I think your idea that people get wealthy from buying homes needs a bit of a make-over.

  87. They wont buy it because they can't afford to.

    But they think someone else should own it for them.

  88. No Makeover required. It is still true that the greatest source of wealth for most people is their home.

    It matters not that they temporarily owe more than it is worth. If they don't use that as an excuse not to make the payments, they are still paying into their account every month instead of the landlords. Or they can get out best they can and buy the house next door for half and start over.

    Plenty of people had stock purchases that were upside down too. But, if they kept buying, they should have made a lot of money by now.

    Lets face it, we went through a stretch when nothing was safe, but if you made the payments, you had a place to wait it out.

    I don't think a temporary bump changed the whole picture.

    Lots of homes were foreclosed, but it was still a fraction of all homes.

  89. I'll say it again, on average people in loudoun county have gained more in personal income and value of property owned whether you start 40 years ago 30 years ago or ten years ago. And that average is in spite of the fact that loudoun added a hundred times more people. The overall wealth generated in loudoun is emerging like 130 times the wealth generated in fauquier.

    Sure they pay more taxes, but they are still better off, after taxes. The value of what they built continues to appreciate faster than what fauquier conserved.

    This is no mystery. Take a 200 acre $7 million dollar farm and plant 100 homes on it and you have got $50 million in property.

    Sure you have to put in all the work and materials. So what?

    It is a drop in the bucket compared to the work and materials you would put in before the farm made $50 million, somewhere around 200 years from now.

    Better off, my foot. And you can take that in the Egyptian sense.

    Ok, so fauquier has kept a certain bucolic charm. After 40 years we now know what it costs.

    It is on the order of $14 billion in lost wealth.

  90. In 2008, 37 families paid just under $74 million dollars for homes in Fauquier county.

    I wonder if they are under water on their mortgage?

  91. The tax exempt real estate alone, in loudoun is worth nearly half as much as all the real estate in fauquier.

  92. tax exempt or tax deferred ?

    tax deferred property that in an area destined for future growth basically allows speculators to buy up large swaths of land – much like margin trading on the stock market.

    tax deferred property that is not destined to grow is basically a deferred tax that won't be collected for a long time and thus of no use to those who are speculating.

    tax exempt property as far as I know is stuff like churches and charities not for-profit land sales.

  93. Politically correct I care and I'm green.


    There is nothing politically correct about taking what you want at someone else's expense. If you can't figure out a way to ensure the end results are not financially equivalent, you don't have a plan.

    Not even the end results, necessarily, but at least the end opportunity.

  94. I don't have a problem with what the greenies are doing. I'm not saying I like what happened in loudoun. I just don't think the costs of getting what they want are distributed fairly. More government help to those they screw over is one way to level the playing field. If they want to save the farm next to them, they should be prepared to pay a fair share of the locational costs.

  95. The land use deferral is a deferral because if you stop the land use they claw back the taxes for the previous five years. Since it takes five years to get in the program it is no use to speculators who are speculating for less than eleven years.

    Maybe spotsy has some other program for land already planned for eventual development.

    For land not planned for development no speculator would buy the land. They buy an option on the land, and then try for rezoning. If successful, they exercise the option.

    The report I read referred only to exempt property, which I took to be government and church buildings. Imagine, loudouns churches and govt buildings alone are worth half of all of fauquier.

    Starting from the same level loudoun has developed 150X the value fauquier has conserved.

  96. Imagine your county enacts a policy that makes your property worth 100k more. You could pay the additional taxes for a long time before you were in the hole.

    But if they reduce the value of your property, then you are in the hole, permanently.

  97. a frequent complaint by the landed gentry in England in the early 19th century, that the advent of the railroads caused poor city dwellers to "needlessly travel about the countryside".

    From carpe diem

  98. Iteresting article on the 5 myths of suburbs this weekend. They are expensive to build, but that is because of all new stuff, cities ae still more expensive to maintain, and we can expect the suburbs to densify over time, naturally, So cheer up, EMR.

    The article notes that taxes are higher in sprawling Atlanta than in Growth controlled Portland, but what it doesn't say is that Atlanta is far more affordable.

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