Lake County, Ohio's sandy soils, lake-effect weather and abundant water supply make it a unique agricultural area. Nursery plants, trees and grapes are its primary agricultural crops. Although the state's smallest county, Lake County's production of specialty crops ranks it third in the state for farm cash receipts. Its soils are some of the best in the world. In addition to being a prominent agricultural county with valuable farmland, it has other unique and valuable natural resources.
Residential development pressure is strong in Lake County because of its rural atmosphere, unique natural resources, proximity to the Lake Erie shoreline and accessibility to Cleveland. The continuing rise of urban land prices and the demand for suburban housing is forcing the county to face many difficult land use decisions.
American Farmland Trust is a private, nonprofit membership organization founded in 1980 to protect the nation's agricultural resources. AFT works to stop the loss of productive farmland and to promote farming practices that lead to a healthy environment. AFT has developed a way to measure the current financial contributions of major municipal land uses. Cost of Community Services studies reorganize local financial records to determine the net effect of various land uses in a single fiscal period. COCS studies compare costs and revenues from residential, commercial and industrial, and farm, forest and open land sectors to provide a snapshot of the financial contributions of current land uses to local governments.
In Madison Village and Township in Lake County, Ohio's COCS study, AFT found the average ratio of dollars generated by residential development to services required was $1 to $1.54. In other words, for every dollar raised from residential revenues, the communities spent an extra 54 cents on average in direct services. These services included education, health and human services, public safety and public works. On the other hand, the average ratio for farm, forest and open land was $1 to 34 cents -- for every dollar raised, after services were provided, 66 cents remained.