Land Use Regulations in Rural Areas

May 28th, 2024

The proper guidance is critical to navigating land use and zoning in rural areas. Planning your real estate investment and sales strategy around land use laws doesn't have to be hard, but it does involve specialized knowledge.

After decades of serving Upstate South Carolina real estate investors, we've learned the intricacies of local land use laws. Read on to learn how to maximize the value of your parcel with the help of Carolina Land Company, The Land Brokers.

South Carolina Land Use Laws

With productive or recreational land, getting the most from your investment involves quickly and accurately telling prospective buyers whether they can use it for their intended purposes. The full range of land use laws can have an enormous impact on land values and dictate how you should market it to the best effect.

Overlapping State and County Regulations

Both state and county regulations can affect land use zoning. It's important to reference both state and county legal codes with any land use law questions you might have. In some cases, one explicitly defers to the other. Other cases require following both sets of regulations.

Hunting Zones

There are four game zones in South Carolina, and the Upstate area includes two. Here, seasonal limits for deer hunting on private or public lands (combined) vary accordingly:

  • Zone 1, in the far upper northwest: Three antlerless deer per season
  • Zone 2, in the greater northwest area: Five antlerless deer per season

South Carolina's deer quota program (DQP) allows landowners with large acreage to apply for a higher quota, based on the density and condition of local deer populations, land size, and agricultural use.

Statewide regulations also permit baiting deer on private lands. Fishing licenses aren't required for ponds on private land.

Agricultural Use

Carolina Land Company also frequently receives questions related to agricultural land use law. When allowed, it often requires siting (aka setbacks) in relation to natural resources, property lines, and vegetation cover. The nature of any animal-related agriculture also affects agricultural use.

There are also waivers and other variances (i.e., exceptions) available. For instance, neighbors can give written consent to allow siting land within a standard setback from shared property lines. South Carolina generally sets a high bar for agricultural nuisance suits in an effort to minimize agricultural land restrictions. This is one area where state regulations almost always supersede those at the county level.

Timber Tracts

South Carolina land with significant tracts of forest can receive the support of state forestry resources to sustain or even encourage growth. State officials are also generally eager to support certain kinds of forestry-related income generation, which usually requires five acres of forest or more. However, timber on less than five acres can often be easily zoned for agricultural use, especially when it's near non-timberland tracts.


Certain counties address recreation activities on private land in detail, while others leave it almost totally wide open. If your land is closer to public recreation land, it's more likely to have at least some restrictions.

For example, high-risk sports activities, such as rock climbing or caving, can draw higher attention from regulatory bodies in areas that attract those kinds of activities. Yet at the same time, the state of South Carolina encourages landowners to "make land and water areas available to the public for recreational purposes" by "limiting their liability" to those who partake.

See Title 27, Section 27-3-10 for more information on the recreational use of private land and liability.

Making the Most of Your South Carolina Land Investment

We've covered the most common types of land use laws rural property owners typically face. Still, you may encounter even more complex zoning rules if you intend to sell or apply your land for commercial use. Not only could this invoke more complex county and state zoning laws, but federal regulations as well.

As one of the oldest real estate brokerages focused entirely on Upstate South Carolina vacant land sales, rural landowners trust us to cut through the legalese and clarify exactly what limitations and opportunities their land affords them and prospective buyers. Knowing so is key to advertising your parcel optimally and securing a quick sale.

If land use and zoning concerns may affect your real estate investment strategy, please contact Carolina Land Company, The Land Brokers, today.