Where can I actually build a house in the County and how much land do I need?

This is a question that is coming up a lot lately so let me help clear up the mud. Caribou County has zoning laws and a zoning map in place which is required by Idaho Statute 67-65. The map provides clarity for what each piece of land in the County is zoned. The current zones in the County are:

  • Agriculture
  • Low Density Residential
  • High Density Residential
  • Commercial General
  • Light Industrial & Warehouse
  • Industrial
  • Special Lands

Each of these zones caters to a different type of use. These uses are regulated so as to avoid having uses next to each other that aren’t compatible. For example, houses do not belong next door to a manufacturing facility that has a lot of noise and or odor. Just like it wouldn’t be wise to establish a subdivision next to a dairy farm. That’s because these uses aren’t compatible with each other. Additionally, each of these zones have minimum land size requirements so as to ensure the land space is adequate and sizeable to meet the needs of the uses in that Zone. Since housing is the hot topic lets talk about what the requirements are if you want to build a house in the County.

The minimum parcel sizes for a residence is as follows:

  • Agriculture Zone - 40 acres
  • Low Density Residential - 20 acres
  • High Density Residential ½ (.5) - 5 acres depending on waste disposal method

If you’re wanting to subdivide the lot size minimums are as follows:

  • Agriculture Zone – 40 acres
  • Low Density Residential – 10 acres
  • High Density Residential – ½ (.5) acre – 5 acres depending on sewage disposal method

So why is there such a difference in how much land is required?

Each Zone has an adopted description of the characteristics of the land in that zone and what its intended use is. The minimum lot sizes were selected based on what the allowed land uses are in each Zone and what would be required to maintain the integrity of those uses. Here are the characteristics of each of these land types we’ve been discussing (they’re referenced from the County’s Zoning Code):

  • Agricultural (AG): 3.02.01. The agricultural designation is to be applied to land which includes prime farmland, and which has not been divided into small agriculturally unusable parcels. The Agricultural Zone is not intended to accommodate nonagricultural development. Factors to be considered in designating land for agricultural districts should include, but not be necessarily limited to the amount of prime farmland in the area, existing lot sizes and land uses in the area and the character of surrounding land uses.
  • Low Density Residential (LDR): 4.02.01. The Low-Density Residential designation is to be applied to existing neighborhoods with larger, rural-sized lots, and for areas of underdeveloped land which will serve as buffer areas between agriculture districts and urbanizing areas. Factors to be considered in designating land for LDR districts should include, but not be limited to, availability of county services and roads, types of surrounding land uses, and suitability of land to safely handle individual well and sewage systems on lots five acres or more in size, or higher densities with central or municipal water and sewer systems.
  • High Density Residential (HDR): 5.02.01. The High-Density Residential designation is to be applied to existing smaller lot neighborhoods which are currently developed for residential use and are designated to remain so by the Comprehensive Plan, and for areas of undeveloped land which are deemed suitable and appropriate for development of residential uses according to criteria set forth in the Comprehensive Plan. Factors to be considered in designating land for High Density Residential districts should include, but not be limited to, availability of county services and roads, surrounding land uses, the suitability of the land for extension of municipal services.

As you can see from the characteristic descriptions of each zone they cater to different needs within the County. Additionally, each of the Zones place an important role in conducting wise growth. For example, the HDR Zone is typically going to be found right next to incorporated Cities within the County, while the AG Zone will typically be found further away from the Cities. The LDR serves as a buffer between concentrated housing subdivisions like you may find in the HDR and the much more rural facets of the AG Zone.

Wise land use development laws help protect both the citizens and businesses as well as natural resources of the County. The intention of the County is to allow growth and encourage development where it can be best supported. Subdivisions and large housing developments (regardless of lot size) require certain levels of service which become much harder to provide the more rural and sprawled out they are. These services include access to EMS and Fire services, road maintenance and repair, and living needs such as grocery stores, service stations, etc.

Watch for my next article where I go in depth into all the zones of the County and their intended purposed and allowed uses. If you have questions about your land or land that you are looking at purchasing in Caribou County please contact me at 208-547-1780 ext. 25 or PandZ@co.caribou.id.us

Authored By: JoAnna Ashley, Caribou County P&Z Administrator