Where has all the farmland gone? : an analysis of a small-town community on the rural/urban fringe of Chicago
McGuire, Christine J.
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This thesis documents a community study of a small farming town undergoing rapid suburbanization. The study targets Kane County, Illinois, an area approximately 50 miles west of Chicago. As suburbanization rapidly expanded, Kane County actively sought an effective way to deal with increasing pressures for widespread, haphazard development. The result was the 2020 Plan that addresses county land use issues for the next 20 years. The plan divides Kane County into three zones from east to west: the Urban Corridor, the Critical Growth Area, and the Agricultural/Village Area. Within each zone the plan allocates specific uses for land and preferred types of development. According to the 2020 Plan, the Agricultural/Village Area will change the least, due to suburban expansion, between now and the year 2020 in comparison to the other two zones. Elbum is a small town located in western Kane County in the Agricultural/Village Area of the 2020 Plan and is the primary focus of this study. Despite the fact that the 2020 Plan states that this area is mainly preserved for agricultural uses and that development will be targeted at the other areas, during the 1990s Elbum experienced more than a 75% increase in population. Associated with this rapid growth in Elbum are large subdivisions and commercial development. The main objectives of this study were to see how a small-town community is affected by suburban expansion and to find out how well the county's 2020 Land Use Plan is working. This thesis addresses four main findings: 1) that farmers and newcomers live in two separate worlds; 2) that contested ideas exist between the two groups; 3) that each of the two groups has a different understanding of the land, along with different priorities for the use of land in Elbum; and 4) that the county?s new land use plan does not appear to be working.