Friday, June 25, 2010

Relocation Research

Currently up at the Guncounter Forum is a thread about buying rural land: land rights, water rights, searching from afar, etc. etc.

Today this question popped up:
I know I'm jumping on this thread a little late but would like a little info from Chris/Mel if possible.
You had mentioned that Idaho was a "right to farm" state and had other "leave me alone" qualities that pushed it to the top of your list. However you did mention looking at several other states as possibilities. What were any of the other more southern states(these old bones(sad being the same age as Chris and referring to myself as old) can't take the cold much any more) not including deserts that you looked at?
I can do the research of employment rates/income/cost of living, but don't know much about finding laws concerning property rights. I'm hoping to be out of jersey by 35(if my house sells and can find a palatable region). I liked Tennessee and southern Kentucky, the less humid areas of Georgia, the Carolinas(although hurricanes are a big issue in coastal states). And of course any state would need to be "shall issue"(not really a problem south of the mason/dixie).

I wrote up a basic answer at the forum, but we've been getting this question quite a bit lately.

We did look at some of the Southern states, particularly Tennessee and North Carolina because I have family there. However the combination of humidity, heat, and land prices would do us in.

The more important question here is more universal. How do you research important fit issues like property rights and politics?

There's tons of sites where you can compare demographics, climate, taxes, and even gun rights. I've found property rights comparison sites to be thin on the ground and not very comprehensive. If you're a prepper there's James Wesley Rawles' list but the question I think is bigger than that. How do you choose an area to live that fits your needs and politics?

Unfortunately there's no replacement for long, intensive, first-hand research. Months in our case.

If you ask most people, the level of government most capable of making life unbearable is Federal. Bureaucracy, taxes, military movements, "world opinion" all contribute to that outlook.

Let's get this straight right now: the FedGov has absolutely NOTHING on local government. This becomes abundantly clear to anyone thinking of raising livestock, especially dairy cows. The local regulations are numerous and sometimes contradictory.

On the state level are health regulations, minimum housing standards, livestock treatment laws, and even laws concerning how to market the milk.

County level concerns zoning laws and whether or not you can even keep livestock on your back forty.

City and township laws tackle nuisances and neighborhood spats over the smell of the manure.

So determining where you want to live has far more to do with the specific laws concerning that locale that anything the FedGov hands down.

Any serious research into living anywhere therefore requires three different levels of laws.

1. State statutes and the state's constitution.
2. County bylaws and zoning.
3. City codes, if applicable.

To give you an idea we'll start with two of the reasons we moved to Idaho, Right to Farm and water/mineral rights.

22-4503.Agricultural operation not a nuisance -- Exception. No agricultural operation or an appurtenance to it shall be or become a nuisance, private or public, by any changed conditions in or about the surrounding nonagricultural activities after the same has been in operation for more than one (1) year, when the operation was not a nuisance at the time the operation began; provided, that the provisions of this section shall not apply whenever a nuisance results from the improper or negligent operation of any agricultural operation or an appurtenance to it. In the event of an alleged nuisance resulting from agricultural operations pursuant to a federal or state environmental permit or caused by a violation of the permit(s), terms or conditions, the affected party shall seek enforcement of the terms of the permit.

No break law? No nuisance. This was passed in response to a ton of people from out of state moving in and suing the farm next door.


55-101.Real property defined. Real property or real estate consists of:
1. Lands, possessory rights to land, ditch and water rights, and mining claims, both lode and placer.
2. That which is affixed to land.
3. That which is appurtenant to land.

Comprehensive land rights, a necessity for us.

Oh, and there's always this little gem:



Section 11.Right to keep and bear arms.
The people have the right to keep and bear arms, which right shall not be abridged; but this provision shall not prevent the passage of laws to govern the carrying of weapons concealed on the person nor prevent passage of legislation providing minimum sentences for crimes committed while in possession of a firearm, nor prevent the passage of legislation providing penalties for the possession of firearms by a convicted felon, nor prevent the passage of any legislation punishing the use of a firearm. No law shall impose licensure, registration or special taxation on the ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition. Nor shall any law permit the confiscation of firearms, except those actually used in the commission of a felony.

If you can handle a little bit of legalese researching how a state feels about pretty well anything is pretty easy, if time consuming.

If the state passes your criteria, the next level is county.

We live in Bonner County because we want to be near Lake Pend Oreille. However, the tip of the lake is in Kootenai county, so why didn't we consider moving there?


We want to be able to use our land for agricultural purposes and personal purposes. One of these purposes is a personal rifle range.

Rifle ranges are incredibly sticky subjects for many, many counties. Not so for Bonner.

Personal rifle ranges are permitted in Agricultural, Forestry, and Rural zoning areas, provided that "Gun clubs and rifle ranges shall have a minimum area of 5 acres. Target areas shall be at least 600 feet from any existing dwelling, except that of the owner or caretaker."

The kicker is EVERY parcel zoned Agricultural, Forestry, or Rural is 5+ acres. That, and 90% of the private land is zoned for one of those uses. In fact, the state purpose behind Bonner County's land usage designations is to preserve those industries and the "rural character" of the county.

Yeah, we read a major "fuck you Californians" between the lines when we first looked at zoning too.

So yeah, to say that the county has no issue with people setting up a range on their own land is an understatement. In fact, when asking our neighbor for recommendations for areas to test the long-range rifle, he told us to look up so-and-so who lets him shoot on his land all the time. "Just be prepared for them to want to come along and try out your guns."

Did we mention we love the people up here?

This is what Kootenai county has to say about rifle ranges:


A. Zones permitted:

1. Agricultural, agricultural suburban, rural:

a. Minimum area: Ten (10) acres.

b. Target areas shall be six hundred feet (600') from any existing dwelling and three hundred feet (300') from any property line.

c. All facilities shall be designed and located with full consideration to the safety factors involved with such a use.

d. Off street parking for all patrons will be provided.

e. A site plan shall be submitted with the application. (Ord. 393, 12-14-2006)"

Sure, those are all reasonable expectations. But note how Bonner County government assumes you're not an idiot, but Kootenai has to make sure your plans measure up.

This is not an isolated example either. Most of the two counties' codes follow the same form; Bonner County's minimalism vs. Kootenai's desire for extra regulation.

What the county you live in decides to codify tells you a lot about how that government feels about the county's residents.

However, state and county still can't compare with the sheer pettiness of city government. If the area you're looking at passes the state and county sniff test, take a look at the city.

We don't live in an incorporated area. The closest city is Sandpoint, and we did NOT want to live in Sandpoint.

The short of it is the city council. Long version? The controlling, hypocritical, arbitrary and capricious acts of the city council.

Take some hippies. Transplant them into paradise. Give them power.

The big issue right now is the BID. The BID is a tax on Sandpoint businesses that pays for marketing for all of Sandpoint.

The businesses think the funds are being misspent (over 60% of the revenue goes to "administration') and so ran a petition to get rid of the tax. If they got signatures from 51% of the business owners by square footage the BID would be gone.

Lets clarify that... Not 51% of the business owners, or 51% of the population... The amount of tax paid is assessed on a square footage basis, so they decided the vote would be allocated the same way. They added up all the business zoned square footage in the area the BID applied to, and gave each business owner vote proportional to their share of the square footage. This of course gave huge weight to the larger businesses, like the Safeway, which are not locally owned.

The accusations are still flying as many of the signatures were "disqualified" under dubious criteria. For example, if the business was a partnership or sole proprietorship, then only a single assignee, whose name was listed first on their business license, could certify their vote. If the other partner signed, then they disqualified their vote. They also disqualified local franchisees and business managers of local branches of national chains, because they weren't the ACTUAL business owners.

That ended up disqualifying more than half the vote.

The drama is truly massive for a small town. And yeah, starting a business in Sandpoint, home based or no, is not on the table for us.

Oh and how much does the tax amount to? $104,000 a year. Not a month... per year... for all of the businesses combined.

Pretty trivial amount right? Well not to the people of North Idaho. If it was being spent as it was chartered for; improving parking (parking in Sandpoint is horrible), making local improvements, and business development, they'd be OK with it. But because 60% of the funds are actually being used to (at least in part) pay the salaries of two low level bureaucrats... No Go.

Have I mentioned how much I love these people?

Pay really close attention to the local newspaper for your intended area. What the news can tell you about city government is really important. Read the city codes, see how the regulations and allowable fines stack up. Check out whether your city council is made up of people with lives outside of town hall, or whether they get their rocks off making other people miserable.

If you can wade through all of the information (and it is a lot) then you'll really know if the area you're looking at is a good fit for you, your lifestyle, and your values.


Cross-posted to We Few