On the discussion sites of licensed real-estate appraisers, they have a witty saying about how to tell the difference between urban, suburban and rural homes. This witty saying involves standing on the porch (maybe naked) and peeing off the porch (or not) and whether anyone can see you and whether the police come if they are called. Even though these postings come from licensed real-estate appraisers, I do not believe that this is how you determine if a community is rural or suburban.
I have not yet decided whether I believe that North Salem, New York is suburban or rural. I struggle to describe it to people. Efforts are clearly made by those in power in this community to emphasize the rural flavor of the place. The North Salem Open Land Foundation, founded in 1974, protects over 900 acres of land here, through purchases, donations and the maintenance of conservation easements. The Foundation is practically invisible in the community, but their efforts are not.
There are no sidewalks in North Salem, but I often see snakes sunning themselves on the pavement. Many roads have no lines painted on them and no shoulders. Some roads not wide enough for two cars to pass, and there are still plenty of unpaved roads. I see hunters in our yard and in the post office. The mailboxes are on posts here, and some bear the scars of people driving by and attempting to smash them.Yet for all these rural features, there is no smell of cows. Our next-door neighbor had swimming pool water delivered, by water truck. The other neighbor keeps a car in the driveway under a car cover. Many homes have Invisible Fence installed to keep the dogs close to the house. Even more have elaborate deer fencing and decorative fencing, two things I would not expect to see outside of the suburbs. The community is served by hourly MetroNorth trains to New York City, even in the middle of the night. The North Salem Architectural Review Board minutes include lengthy discussion of color and roof shape of a proposed installation of pre-fab pump house not visible from the road.
There is decorative informational signage marking historic sites throughout North Salem. And there are BMWs. But the one thing that convinces me that I live in a suburb is the regular presence of the North Salem Parking Patrol cruiser.