A joint project
of: The Tama County Board of Supervisors and
The Tama County Farm Bureau, June 1999
It is important for
you to know that life in the country is different from life
in the city. County governments are not able to provide the
same level of service that city governments provide. To that
end, we are providing you with the following information to
help you make an educated and informed decision to purchase
The fact that you can drive
to your property does not necessarily guarantee that you, your
guests and emergency service vehicles can achieve that same
level of access at all times. Please consider:
1.1 - Emergency response times (sheriff, fire suppression, medical
care, etc.) cannot be guaranteed. Under some extreme conditions,
you may find that emergency response takes longer than you might
1.2 - There can be problems
with the legal aspects of access, especially if you gain access
across property belonging to others. It is wise to obtain legal
advice and understand the easements that may be necessary when
these types of questions arise.
1.3 - You can experience problems
with the maintenance and with the cost of maintenance of your
road. Tama County maintains almost 1100 miles of roads, but
private roads that are maintained by private road associations
serve some rural properties. There are some county roads that
are not maintained by the county - no grading or snow plowing.
Make sure you know what type of maintenance to expect and who
will provide that maintenance.
- A gravel road that drives "well" represents a delicate
balance between being too wet, (mud, ruts, slippery) and being
too dry (potholes, washboards (corrugations) and dust). The
condition of the road can go from good to bad in a matter of
a few hours depending on rain, snow, temperature and traffic
- matters over which Tama County has no control.
1.5 - Many large construction vehicles cannot navigate small,
narrow roads. If you plan to build, it is prudent to check out
1.6 - School busses travel
only on maintained county roads, not inside subdivisions. You
may need to drive your children to the nearest county road so
they can get to school.
1.7 - In extreme winter weather,
even county roads can become impassable. You may need a four
wheel drive vehicle with chains for all four wheels to travel
during those episodes. Even with four wheel drive, there may
be times when you cannot get to work. Your employer needs to
realize this may happen - before it does. Tama County does not
send excuses to employers for such situations.
1.8 - Natural disasters, especially
floods, can destroy roads. Tama County will repair and maintain
county roads. However, subdivision roads are the responsibility
of the landowners that use those roads. A small streambed can
become a raging torrent and wash out roads, bridges, and culverts.
1.9 - Gravel roads generate
dust. You may contract to have a dust control product applied
to your road, but dust is still a fact of life for most rural
1.10 - If your road is gravel,
it is highly unlikely that Tama County will pave it in the foreseeable
future. Check carefully with the county road department when
any statement is made by the seller of any property that indicates
any gravel roads will be paved!
1.11 - Mail delivery may not
be available to all areas of the county. Ask the postmaster
to describe the system for your area.
1.12 - Newspaper delivery is
similarly not always available to rural areas. Check with the
newspaper of your choice before assuming you can get delivery.
1.13 - Standard parcel and
overnight package delivery can be a problem for those who live
in the country. Confirm with the service providers as to your
1.14 - It may be more expensive
and time consuming to build a rural residence due to delivery
fees and the time required for subcontractors to reach your
1.15 - During the annual "spring
thaw", gravel roads can become very soft and easily damaged
by heavy loads. At these times, we may ask that school busses
use hard surfaced roads only. This means that it may be necessary
for you to take your children to the nearest paved road to meet
their bus in the morning and to pick them up after school. These
conditions may exist for several days at a time strictly depending
on the weather.
Water, sewer, electric, telephone
and other services may be unavailable or not operate at urban
standards. Repairs can often take much longer than in towns
and cities. Please review your options from the non-exhaustive
- Telephone communications can be a problem. From time to time,
the only phone service available has been a party line. If you
have a private line, it may be difficult to obtain another line
for FAX or computer modem uses. Even cellular phones will not
work in all areas.
2.2 - If sewer service is available to your property, it may
be expensive to hook into the system. It also may be expensive
to maintain the system you use.
2.3 - If sewer service is not
available, you will need to use an approved septic system or
other treatment process. The type of soil you have available
for a leach field will be very important in determining the
cost and function of your system. Have the system checked by
a reliable sanitation firm and obtain a permit from the Tama
County Health Department.
2.4 - If you have access to
a supply of treated domestic water, the tap fees can be expensive.
You may also find that your monthly cost of service can be costly
when compared to municipal systems.
2.5 - If you do not have access
to a supply of treated domestic water, you will have to locate
an alternative supply. The most common method is use of a water
well. The Tama County Health Department grants permits for wells
and the cost for drilling and pumping can be considerable. The
quality and quantity of well water can vary considerable from
location to location and from season to season. It is strongly
advised that you research this issue very carefully.
2.6 - Electric service is not
available to every area of Tama County. It is important to determine
the proximity of electrical power. It can be vary expensive
to extend power lines to remote areas.
2.7 - It may be necessary to
cross property owned by others in order to extend electric service
to your property in the most cost efficient manner. It is important
to make sure that the proper easements are in place to allow
lines to be built to y our property.
2.8 - Electric power may not
be available in two phase and three phase service configurations.
If you have special power requirements, it is important to know
what level of service can be provided to your property.
2.9 - If you are purchasing
land with the plan to build at a future date, there is a possibility
that electric lines (and other utilities) may not be large enough
to accommodate you if others connect during the time you wait
2.10 - The cost of electric
service is usually divided into a fee to hook into the system
and than a monthly charge for energy consumed. It is important
to know both costs before making a decision to purchase a specific
piece of property.
2.11 - Power outages can occur
in outlying areas with more frequency than in more developed
areas. A loss of electric power can also interrupt your supply
of water from a well. You may also lose food in freezers or
refrigerators and power outages can cause problems with computers
as well. It is important to be able to survive for up to a week
in severe cold with no utilities if you live in the country.
2.12 - Trash removal can be
much more expensive in a rural area than in a city. It is illegal
to create your own trash dump, even on your own land. It is
good to know the cost for trash removal as you make the decision
to move into the country. In some cases, your only option may
be to haul your trash to the landfill yourself. Recycling is
more difficult because pick-up is not available in all rural
There are many issues that can affect your property. It is important
to research these items before purchasing land.
- Not all lots can be built on. The Tama County Assessor has
many parcels that are separate for the purpose of taxation that
are not legal lots in the sense that a building permit will
be issued. You must check with the Tama County Zoning Officer
to know that a piece of land can be built on.
3.2 - All of Tama County is zoned and building permits are required
for all non-agriculture related structures. If you buy a property
that has structures on it that were built without a permit,
you may be liable for obtaining a permit and bringing the structure
up to current code requirements. Check with the Tama County
Zoning Officer for additional information.
3.3 - Easements may require
you to allow construction of roads, power lines, water lines,
sewer lines, etc. across your land. There may be easements that
are not of record. Check these issues carefully.
3.4 - You may be provided with
a plat of your property, but unless the land has been surveyed
and pins placed by a licensed surveyor, you cannot assume that
the plat is accurate.
- Fences that separate properties are often misaligned with
the property lines. A survey of the land is the only way to
confirm the location of your property lines. Iowa fence custom
uses the right hand rule. When you face your fence line, you
are responsible for the right hand half of the fence and you
are required to keep it in repair if the adjoining landowner
has livestock. Private agreements on fences can be negotiated
3.6 - Be sure to check with the county engineer before building
a fence near a road so that it is not on the county right of
way. You are not allowed to park vehicles or equipment in the
ditch or along the road right of way.
3.7 - Many subdivisions have covenants that limit the use of
the property. It is important to obtain a copy of the covenants
(or confirm that there are none) and make sure that you can
live with those rules. Also, a lack of covenants can cause problems
3.8 - Homeowners associations
(HOAs) are required to take care of common elements, roads,
open space, etc. A dysfunctional homeowners association or poor
covenants can cause problems for you and even involve you in
3.9 - Dues are almost always
a requirement for those areas with a HOA. The by-laws of the
HOA will tell you how the organization operates and how the
dues are set.
3.10 - The surrounding properties
will probably not remain as they are indefinitely. You can check
with the Tama County Zoning Officer to find out how the properties
are zoned and to see what future developments may be in the
planning stages. The view from your property may change.
3.11 - If you have a drainage
district ditch running across your property there is a good
possibility that the owners of the ditch have the right to come
onto your property with heavy equipment to maintain the ditch.
Residents of the country usually
experience more problems when the elements and earth turn unfriendly.
Here are some thoughts for you to consider:
- The topography of the land can tell you where the water will
go in the case of heavy precipitation. When property owners
fill in ravines, they have found that the water that drained
through that ravine now drains through their house.
4.2 - A flash flood can occur, especially during the summer
months, and turn a dry waterway into a river. It is wise to
take this possibility into consideration when building.
4.3 - Spring run-off can cause
a very small creek to become a major river. Some residents use
sandbags to protect their homes. The county does not provide
sandbags, equipment or people to protect private property from
4.4 - Nature can provide you
with some wonderful neighbors. Most, such as deer, are positive
additions to the environment. However, even "harmless"
animals like deer can cross the road unexpectedly and cause
traffic accidents. Rural development encroaches on the traditional
habitat of coyotes, mosquitoes and other animals that can be
dangerous and you need to know how to deal with them. In general,
it is best to enjoy wildlife from a distance and know that if
you do not handle your pets and trash properly, it could cause
problems for you and the wildlife.
Owning rural land means knowing
how to care for it. There are a few things you need to know:
- Farmers often work around the clock, especially during planting
and harvest time. Grain dryers may also operate around the clock
during harvest time. This operation may last for several weeks
to a few months. Dairy operators sometimes milk without stopping
and hay is often baled at night. It is possible that adjoining
agriculture uses can disturb your peace and quiet.
5.2 - Land preparation and harvest operations can cause dust,
especially during windy and dry weather.
5.3 - Farmers occasionally
burn their ditches to keep them clean of debris, weeds and other
obstructions. This burning creates smoke that you may find objectionable.
5.4 - Chemicals (mainly fertilizers
and herbicides) are often used in growing crops. You may be
sensitive to these substances and many people actually have
severe allergic reactions. Airplanes that fly early in the morning
apply many of these chemicals.
- Animals and their manure can cause objectionable odors. What
else can we say?
5.6 - Agriculture is an important business in Tama County. If
you choose to live among the farms of our rural countryside,
do not expect county government to intervene in the normal day-to-day
operations of your agribusiness neighbors.
5.7 - Before buying land you
should know if it has noxious weeds that may be expensive to
control and that you may be required to control. Some plants
are poisonous to horses and other livestock.
5.8 - Farm equipment traveling
down a road is slow moving and often covers a large portion
of the roadway. Other drivers need to be aware of the slow moving
equipment. Be aware of equipment when on the road as some tractors
are not equipped with turn signals and can suddenly turn into
a field driveway or farm lane.
Even though you pay property
taxes to the county, the amount of tax collected does not cover
the cost of the services provided to rural residents. In general,
those living in the cities subsidize the lifestyle of those
who live in the country by making up the shortfall between the
cost of services and the revenues received from rural dwellers.
This information is by no means
exhaustive. There are other issues that you may encounter that
we have overlooked and we encourage you to be vigilant in your
duties to explore and examine those things that could cause
your move to be less than you expect.
We do not want to discourage
anyone from purchasing an acreage, but we do want to help those
who are fortunate enough to live in the country to understand
some of the circumstances involved in country living. Country
life is a wonderful way of living and everyone that lives in
a rural area should have the opportunity to have that experience
Please contact the following
Tama County offices with your specific questions.
Assessor, 100 W. High St.,
Attorney, 121 W. High St.,
Auditor, 100 W. High St., Toledo
Board of Supervisors, 100 W.
High St., Toledo 641-484-3980
Conservation, 2283 Park Rd.,
Disaster Services, N. Main
St., Toledo 641-484-3760
Engineer, 1002 E. 5th St.,
Health Service, 129 W. High
St., Toledo 641-484-4788
Planning and Zoning, 129 W.
High St, Toledo 641-484-4788
Recorder, 100 W. High St.,
Sanitarian, 129 W. High St.,
Sanitary Landfill, 2872 K Ave.,
Sheriff, N. Main St., Toledo
Treasurer, 100 W. High St.,
Veterans Affairs/ General Relief,
100 W. High St., Toledo 641-484-3160
The development and production of this guide to country living
in Tama County was a joint project of:
Tama County Farm Bureau
Tama County Board of Supervisors
Cooperating for the
betterment of Tama County