Planning & Zoning

History of Jasper County Land

When Adam Tool, William Highland, John Frost and John Vance looked across the untouched prairie and staked the first land claims in Jasper County in April 1843, they probably thought there would always be plenty of land for everyone for whatever they wanted to do. They were wrong! A century and a half after those first settlers arrived in what is now Monroe, the county's population has grown 10,000 times to approximately 40,000, the economy has diversified, the farming practices have changed dramatically, and a host of conflicts and issues surrounding land availability and use have arisen.

Preservation of prime farm ground, waste management, ground water quality, wildlife management, soil erosion, air quality, urban sprawl, corporate farms, hog factories, and private property ownership rights were not topics of concern for those first settlers. Today, as we begin the 21st Century, these and a myriad of other land use related topics are very much on people minds and affect everyone in some way.

Land Use Issues

Land use issues did not surface overnight. The county passed its current zoning ordinance in 1981. That ordinance is still in effect today. But just like everything else, land use issues change, and the county is taking steps to try and correct some existing problems as well as become proactive with regard to addressing the new issues as they arise. As the county continues to grow, and more of the existing farm ground is converted to other uses, the land management plan and corresponding zoning ordinance will need to be continuously monitored, rewritten, amended and updated to minimize the conflicts that occur when different land uses adjoin one another, and to maximize the benefit of what we now know is a very limited resource.


In addition to rewriting existing ordinances, new ordinances will be required to address problems that had not existed previously. For example, a new Sub-division Ordinance is currently being considered to correct problems that have occurred as a growing number of urban dwellers seek to leave the problems associated with high density city living, and choose to reside outside the corporate limits in large lot, low density, rural developments.

Geographic Information System

Because land use/management issues are complex, change quickly; and are often highly volatile, quick access to the most current and correct information is necessary to make good decisions. In order to provide everyone in the county with the best and most accurate information as quickly as possible, the county has implemented the use of a Geographical Information System (GIS). A Geographical Information System is a computerized information and mapping system that can rapidly provide pertinent information in an easily understood and interpreted format. GIS is widely used by many other counties, cities, states and countries throughout the world, and has proven to be an invaluable tool in the decision making process.

Just like those first settlers, we can not know what lies ahead. We only know that there will be change, and that the wise management and use of our limited land resource is a necessity.