Tips for Rural Living
It is important for you to know that life in the country is a little 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 rural land.
The fact that you can drive to your property does not necessarily guarantee that you, your guests or emergency service vehicles can achieve that same level of access at all times. There may be questions 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.
Fremont County maintains 900 miles of roads, but private and public roads that are not maintained by the county serve many rural properties. There are many public roads that are not maintained by anyone (subdivision roads, etc.) Make sure you know what type of maintenance, blading, snow removal, etc., to expect and who will provide that maintenance prior to finalizing your purchase. FYI – Fremont County road crews plow snow to the outside of the road, remember this when choosing a site for your mailbox, also it is your responsibility to clear your driveway approach.
School buses travel only on roads that have been designated by the school district as bus routes. Check with your school district, if you have school age children, you may need to drive them to the nearest bus stop.
During severe weather, even the best maintained roads could become impassable. You may need a four-wheel drive vehicle or chains to travel during those episodes, which could last for several days. Natural disasters, especially floods, can destroy roads. Fremont County will repair county maintained roads; however, other roads are the responsibility of the landowners that use those roads. Because of these circumstances emergency response times (sheriff, fire suppression, medical care, etc.) cannot be guaranteed. The Fremont County Road and Bridge Department require various permits for things such as utility lines, access roads, signs, etc. Check with them to see if your road falls within their jurisdiction.
The majority of the roads within Fremont County are unpaved. Be aware that unpaved roads pose many challenges such as dust, rutting and mud. If your road is unpaved, do not assume that one day it will be. Be sure that you consider these issues when making your decision to locate in rural areas. For more information contact the County Road and Bridge Department. Many large construction vehicles cannot navigate small, narrow roads. If you plan to build, it is prudent to check out construction access.
Mail delivery is not available to all areas of the county. Ask the postmaster to describe the system for your area. Newspaper delivery is similarly not always available to rural areas. Check with the newspaper of your choice before assuming you can get delivery.
Your property easements may require you to allow construction of roads, power lines, water lines, sewer lines, irrigation ditches, etc. across your land. Check these issues carefully.
Many property owners do not own the mineral rights under their property. Owners of mineral rights have the ability to change the surface characteristics in order to extract their minerals. It is very important to know what minerals may be located under the land and who owns them. Also be aware that adjacent mining uses can expand. These can include gravel-mining operations.
You may be provided with a description of your property, but unless the land has been surveyed and pins placed by a licensed surveyor, you cannot assume that it is accurate. Fences that separate properties are not always aligned with the property lines. A survey of the land is the only way to confirm the location of your property lines.
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 between neighbors. Homeowners associations 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 expensive litigation.
If you have an irrigation or drainage ditch running across your property there is a good possibility that the owners or their representatives of the ditch have the right to come onto your property to maintain the ditch. Water rights that are sold with the property may not give you the right to use the water from any ditches crossing your land without coordinating with a neighbor who also uses the water. Other users may have senior rights to the water that can limit your use or require you to pay for the over sizing or other improving of the ditch. It is important to make sure that any water rights you purchase with the land will provide enough water for your needs. The water flowing in irrigation ditches belongs to someone. You cannot assume that because the water flows across your property, you can use it. The State Engineer’s Office can answer these questions for you. Flowing water can be a hazard, especially to young children. Before you decide to locate your home near an active ditch, consider the possible danger to your family.
Public water or sewer and other services may or may not be available in rural areas. Contact the servicing municipality to see if sewer service is available to your property. If sewer service is not available, you will need to obtain a Permit to Construct an approved septic system or other treatment process. Since 1976 Fremont County has required a Permit to Construct or modify any residential small wastewater (septic) system. If you are buying a home built after 1976 a permit should be on file with the County Planning & Rural Addressing Department.
The type of soil you have available for a leach field will be very important in determining the cost and function of your system. Some soils in the County will not absorb septic effluent. There are some areas of Fremont County that contain soils with highly expandable clays such as Bentonite which crack foundations, twist beams and make the installation of conventional septic systems difficult, expensive and sometimes impossible. Bedrock near the ground surface can also impact building and septic system construction. Many areas of Fremont County also have a water table near the surface. Some areas have water tables, which fluctuate greatly in depth depending on the season. Information on soils, bedrock and water tables can be obtained from the Natural Resources Conservation Service or the Fremont County Planning & Rural Addressing Department. Some platted lots in Fremont County (ex: Atlantic City and South Pass City) have lots which individually do not allow for modern construction practices on single lots. Multiple lots may be required for adequate spacing of wells and septic systems.
Contact the servicing water district to see if you have access to a supply of treated domestic water. 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. Permits for wells are granted by the State Engineer’s Office. The quality and quantity of well water can vary considerably from location to location and from season to season. It may also be difficult to find enough water to provide for your needs even if you can secure the proper permit. Cisterns (water tanks) are another alternative.
Fremont County has been made aware of more exacting definitions of wetlands resulting from newly adopted delineation methods by the Army Corps of Engineers. Some wetlands are not easily recognized and may not appear very wet. If you intend to do any construction in a wetland or suspected wetland, contact the Army Corps of Engineers regarding required approvals under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Fremont County does not administer the 404 program, nor require permits under it as a part of compliance with the regulations. It is the responsibility of the property owner to apply for all federal permits. If you have any questions, please contact: The Army Corps of Engineers, 2232 Del Range Blvd, Suite 210 Cheyenne, Wyoming 82009.
If a piece of property has never been developed chances are good it has not been assigned a physical address. Many services such as gas, power, telephone will not install or turn on services unless the property has a physical address. The physical address is also what is entered into the 911 emergency service, so if you do not have an address assigned by the county, you may not be in the 911 system. If you decided to purchase a rural property it is a good idea to check with the Fremont County Planning and Rural Addressing Department to find out what the physical address is, or if there is no address assigned, we can help you get an address for your property.
It may be necessary to cross property owned by others in order to extend utility 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 extended to your property. Trash removal can be quite different in a rural area than in a city. In some cases, your trash dumpster may be several miles from your home. In some cases, your only option may be to haul your trash to the landfill or transfer station. Contact the Solid Waste District (332-7040) for the facility in your area.
Rural residents usually experience more problems when the elements and earth turn unfriendly. Here are some thoughts for you to consider. The physical characteristics of your property can be positive and negative. Trees are a beautiful amenity, but can also involve your home in a fire and cause damage during strong winds. Building at the top of a forested draw should be considered as dangerous as building in a flash flood area. Defensible perimeters are very helpful in protecting buildings from fire and inversely can protect the land from igniting if your house catches on fire. If you start a fire, you are responsible for paying for the cost of extinguishing that fire. Contact the Fremont County Firewise Program if you have any questions about protecting your property from fire dangers.
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. A flash flood can occur, especially during the summer months, and turn a dry gully into a river. It is wise to take this possibility into consideration when building. Spring run-off can cause a very small creek to become a major river. Some residents have had to use sandbags to protect their homes. The county does not provide sandbags, equipment or people to protect private property from flooding. For more information, contact the Fremont County Emergency Management Agency.
Agriculture is an important business in Fremont County. If you choose to live among the farms and ranches of our rural countryside, do not expect county government to intervene in the normal day-to-day operations of your agri-business neighbors. In fact, Wyoming has “Right to Farm” legislation that protects farmers and ranchers from nuisance and liability lawsuits. It enables them to continue producing food and fiber. Wyoming also has an open range law. This means if you do not want cattle, sheep or other livestock on your property, it is your responsibility to fence them out. It is not the responsibility of the rancher to keep his/her livestock off your property. Before buying land you should know if it has noxious weeds that you may be required to control. Some plants are poisonous to horses and other livestock. The Fremont County Weed and Pest District can provide you with that information.
Animals can be dangerous. Bulls, stallions, rams, boars, etc. can attack human beings. Children need to know that it is not safe to enter pens where animals are kept. Teach your children by example to honor all posted no trespassing signs.
Last but not least, control your pets. As per County Commissioner Resolution No. 93-8 “Dogs running at large in unincorporated areas within Fremont County are a public nuisance”. Wyoming Law 11-31-107 states that “Dogs running livestock against the wish of the owner of the livestock may be killed at once…”
There may be other private property rights issues that relate to agriculture. The Fremont County Cooperative Extension Office at (307) 332-1044 or 857-3693 can help you with these issues.
We have offered these comments in the sincere hope that it can help you enjoy your decision to reside in Fremont County. It is not our intent to dissuade you, only to inform you.