Planning & Zoning

Black Hawk County utilizes a 28E Agreement with the City of Waterloo to provide Planning and Zoning services. The primary objectives of Planning and Zoning in Black Hawk County are to:
  • Preserve the availability of agricultural land
  • Consider the protection of soil from wind and water erosion
  • Encourage efficient urban development patterns
  • Lessen congestion on the street or highway
  • Secure safety from fire, flood, panic, and other hazards
  • Protect health and the general welfare; to provide adequate light and air
  • Prevent the overcrowding of land
  • Avoid undue concentration of population
  • Facilitate the adequate provision of transportation, water, sewage, schools, parks and other public improvements
Comprehensive Land Use Plan
Planning and Zoning is also intended and designed to meet the specific purpose of Chapter 352, Code of Iowa, as amended, to provide local citizens and local governments the means by which agricultural land may be protected from nonagricultural development pressures. This is accomplished by the creation of the Black Hawk County Comprehensive Land Use Plan, as amended, the adoption of the Agricultural Land Preservation Zoning Ordinance, and the establishment of agricultural land preservation areas, so that land inside these areas shall be conserved for the production of food, fiber, and livestock, thus assuring the preservation of agriculture as a major factor in the economy of this county and state.

It is further the intent of Planning and Zoning to provide for the orderly use and development of land and related natural resources in Iowa for residential, commercial, industrial, and recreational purposes, preserve private property rights, protect significant natural and historic resources and fragile ecosystems of this county including forests, wetlands, rivers, streams, lakes and their shorelines, aquifers, prairies, and recreational areas, and to provide for the efficient use and conservation of energy resources.

Land Evaluation Site Assessment System
To implement these objectives, Black Hawk County has adopted the Agricultural Preservation Zoning Ordinance, a Subdivision Ordinance, and a Comprehensive Plan. As part of the Comprehensive Plan, Black Hawk County has recently adopted a Land Evaluation Site Assessment (LESA) System, which is a growth management tool first created as a result of passage of the Farmland Protection Policy Act in 1981.

Lesa Handbook
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was charged with developing a means of implementing the Act. Subsequently, the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), which is part of the USDA and is now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), developed the National Agricultural Land Evaluation and Site Assessment Handbook. The Handbook was published in 1983 with the purpose of teaching state and local governments how to develop, adopt, and implement LESA Systems at a local level.

How It Works
The LESA System is a means of assisting policy makers by offering a more thorough, objective means of evaluating the agricultural potential of land during the decision-making process. It is a growth management technique for assessing a particular site’s ability to support agriculture, to then be used as a tool to protect agricultural land, and to provide for a consistent land use planning and development analysis tool geared toward agricultural land preservation. LESA, in its design, is also a tool that is flexible in that the factors, their scoring maximums, and their assigned weights were developed at the local level. The LESA System is meant to be supported by, as well as help implement, the Black Hawk County Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Zoning Ordinance, and Subdivision Ordinance.