Beyond the Size

Small Towns and Land Use: Key Considerations for World-Building

What is a Small Town? Small towns are commonly known for their close-knit communities and smaller-scale businesses.

However, most people do not know the specific characteristics or requirements for an area to be considered a small town. Generally, the definition of a small town varies depending on the country or region.

In the United States, small towns generally have a population of fewer than 10,000 people, whereas in Europe, small towns typically have populations of fewer than 5,000 individuals. However, some regions have unique requirements for an area to be considered a small town.

For example, some areas may consider a town with a population of fewer than 1,000 people to be a small town, while in other regions, a town with fewer than 500 people may be considered small. One thing that is consistent across the world is that small towns are usually smaller in size than larger urban areas.

Historically, the measurement of townships was done in grid squares, which were used to estimate acreage. These squares would be estimated to be one square mile, or 640 acres.

The squares could then be divided further, depending on the area’s population density and size. Acreage estimation was done by calculating the average lot size, which was typically around 0.6 acres.

Factors such as the proximity of buildings to each other would affect this estimation.

The Flexibility of Population Definitions

As previously mentioned, the definition of a small town differs between regions and countries. This flexibility allows for more accurate classification of towns based on their unique characteristics.

For instance, a small town in the United States may have a population of 3,000 people, but in France, a town of the same size may be considered a large town. It is also important to note that the population of a small town can shift over time.

In some cases, a small town may experience a population boom, transforming it into a larger urban area. In contrast, demographic shifts or a decrease in the population due to economic reasons or population migration may lead to a small town’s population shrinking, which can affect the town’s identity and economic structure.

The Art of Estimating Acreage in a Small Town

One of the critical factors involved in classifying a town as small is its size. Size is most commonly measured by acreage, which is traditionally estimated through grid squares.

However, factors such as building proximity and population density can affect acreage estimates. When estimating the acreage of a small town, one must consider the size of the township grid square, which is usually one square mile or 640 acres.

The square can then be further divided based on the area’s population density and size. The estimation of acreage is calculated by finding the average lot size, which can range from 0.5 to 1 acre per lot.

In areas with a higher population density, the average lot size may be smaller, and proximity to other buildings may influence the lot shape. Thus, this type of town may appear smaller, although its population size is substantial.

Areas with lower population densities may have larger lots, which can lead to a more substantial acreage estimation despite having a smaller population size.


The size, population density, and overall characteristics of a small town are all vital factors in determining its identity. The definition of a small town can vary depending on geographic location, and grid square measurements are used to estimate the area’s acreage.

Population density, building proximity, and lot sizes all affect acreage estimation. Understanding these factors helps us to better appreciate and understand what makes a town small, and how they differ from larger urban areas.

When creating a fictional world, worldbuilding is a crucial element in creating a believable and realistic environment. Various factors contribute to the formation and evolution of towns and cities, and understanding these considerations is essential to creating a world that feels authentic to its audience.

Changes in Lot Sizes Over Time

The size of lots and land use within a town can be affected significantly by the town’s growth and historical context. In the early stages of a town’s life, larger lots were necessary for agriculture, livestock, and self-sustenance.

As the town grew and evolved, land use shifted, and smaller lot sizes became more commonplace. With the advent of modern infrastructure, such as public utilities, water supply systems, and transportation networks, the need for large lot sizes diminished.

Instead, smaller homes were built closer together, making better use of the available land and creating more efficient and accessible living spaces. Additionally, zoning regulations often dictate the lot sizes for residential and commercial properties.

This has led to the creation of different neighborhoods within a town, each with its own unique feel and character. Understanding these changes and incorporating them into a fictional world can help to create a richer, more realistic environment for readers.

Effect of Apartment Buildings on Town Footprint

Another essential consideration when world-building is the effect of multi-unit housing, specifically, apartment buildings, on the town’s overall footprint. Apartment buildings increase a town’s density, allowing for smaller lots and more efficient land use.

However, they can also have a significant impact on the town’s overall character and infrastructure. For instance, the construction of large apartment buildings can lead to overcrowding and increase demands on public utilities and transportation networks.

This could lead to the overburdening of these systems, leading to potential service disruptions or decreased reliability. Additionally, large apartment buildings often have a significant visual impact on the town’s landscape.

They can create shadows, block sunlight, and dominate the skyline, affecting the town’s overall aesthetic and character. Balancing the impact of apartment buildings in a fictional world is essential when developing the town’s footprint.

Creating appropriate zoning regulations that balance density, infrastructure, and aesthetics is critical. Understanding the impact of apartment buildings and incorporating them into a world’s rules and structures can make a fictional world more believable and immersive.



In worldbuilding, understanding the changing dynamics of towns and cities and how they evolve over time is essential for creating a believable world. The changes in lot sizes over time, the growth of different neighborhoods, and the impact of multi-unit housing and apartment buildings on a town’s overall footprint are all crucial considerations.

By incorporating these considerations into the development of a fictional world, authors can create a more immersive and engaging world for readers. Whether it is through creating the appropriate zoning regulations that reflect the town’s history or balancing the impact of apartment buildings on the town’s skyline and infrastructure, understanding these topics can help to create an authentic and captivating world.

In summary, understanding the characteristics and unique considerations of small towns, as well as the evolution of land use and housing, is crucial in creating a realistic and engaging world in fiction. Balancing population density, lot size, and infrastructure is integral to creating a believable environment and ensuring that a fictional world remains consistent and immersive throughout.

As such, whether writing a novel or constructing immersive game environments, incorporating these key considerations into the development of a world can help authors create a more believable and captivating environment for readers. FAQs:

1) What is considered a small town?

– A small town’s population varies depending on geographic location, but generally, they have a population of fewer than 10,000 people in the US and fewer than 5,000 people in Europe. 2) How is acreage in small towns estimated?

– Acreage in small towns is traditionally estimated through grid squares of one square mile or 640 acres, which are divided further based on population density and lot size. 3) How do changes in lot sizes affect a town’s evolution?

– As a town evolves, land-use and lot sizes change from larger lots for self-sustenance to smaller lots for more efficient land use in modern infrastructure. 4) What is the impact of apartment buildings on a town’s footprint?

– Apartment buildings increase a town’s density, enabling smaller lots and more efficient land use, but can also affect the town’s infrastructure and aesthetics.

Popular Posts