Thursday, August 26, 2010

Watch Cabarrus sprawl! And Catawba too!

OK, I'll admit my bias. I thought Union County would be the biggest sprawl-zone in the Charlotte region. Turns out the honor may go to Lincoln County. (It depends on how you're measuring, of course.) Here's why I say that. As I was adding the link to my post about mountain development, I spotted something interesting on the UNCC Urban Institute website: an interactive set of maps of the counties in the Charlotte region that depict visually the development from 1976 to 2010, and projecting forward.

So I did some exploring. I started with Union County, home to Weddington, Marvin, Indian Trail and numerous other one-time crossroads just over the Mecklenburg line that have become full-fledged towns. Here's the link. (Click on the option for interactive map.) A county that in 1976 was almost completely undeveloped (shown in green) by 2010 was fully a third covered in development. From 1976 to 2006 its population increased 171 percent, but its land area that was developed increased 878 percent. What that means, of course, is that the land was developed in a low-density pattern. And here we go again, a tidbit for fiscal conservatives: Multiple studies show lower-density, spread-out development makes delivering of government services (police/fire protection, streets, water/sewer lines and so on) far more expensive per person than a more tightly knit developmental form – you know, the way things looked before about 1970.

But then I started looking at some of the other counties in the region. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a Mecklenburg interactive map. That one would have been eye-popping, I expect. (Update 1:55 p.m. Thursday: Thanks for the help, commenters. Here's the link to the Mecklenburg map, which was working when I checked it at 1:53 p.m. Thursday. And yep, it's eye-popping. Interesting also, besides seeing the green disappear, to see the "protected lands" increase.)

But of those I checked (Anson, Iredell, Lincoln, Catawba, Cabarrus and York) Catawba probably had the most visibly dramatic change. Cabarrus was dramatic as well.

But this Lincoln County stat blew me away: While its population increased 86.2 percent from 1976 to 2006 its developed land area increased by 1,450 percent.

24 comments:

Ken Allen said...

They seem to have Catawba County's county seat in Hickory. It is actually in Newton. Wonder what else they got wrong?

Anonymous said...

Hogwash! Nobody wants to live in Cabarrus county. Harrisburg desparately needs light rail. I'm getting soaked on the cost of gas, but I need a full size SUV because I have a young daughter.

Anonymous said...

There was a Mecklenburg interactive map. While looking at the Cabarrus one there was a list of other links to the right and a Mecklenburg link was included. I clicked on it and there was indeed an interactive map. This is very interesting.

Anonymous said...

The charlotte metro area has grown dramatically over the last 30 years with lots of people moving here from everywhere. That means more houses, stores, schools, roads, etc. have been built to accommodate the rapid growth. Are you really shocked by all of this???

Can you give a comparison of Charlotte area sprawl vs. that of Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and the like? when I foly into those cities, I see development and industry as far as the ey can see. When I fly into charlotte, I still see lots of rural land and trees. Care to elaborate?

Anonymous said...

That's why the statistics show that Wake County is growing faster than we are. Wake county is geographically larger and so most of their suburban growth is in the county. Meck's suburban growth is in the surrounding counties because the city of Charlotte occupies most of the local county.

Anonymous said...

The Mecklenburg map was a little deeper on their site, here is the link. http://ui.uncc.edu/content/understanding-effects-growth-mecklenburg-county

One Step Ahead of Mary said...

I bet you (actually I am 100% certain) that Mary's house was sprawl at one point in time. Ever pictures how Myers Park was strip mined of huge trees 80 yrs ago?

Please Mary, draw us the golden line where the boundary is for new development.

Tim Collie said...

interesting...when you click on their "methods" to see how they glue this data together, it says "coming soon" with no explanation

real credible...and I am a Charlotte grad

Anonymous said...

This should be the link to the Mecklenburg County map:

http://ui.uncc.edu/content/understanding-effects-growth-mecklenburg-county

Anonymous said...

The Mecklenburg interactive map is on the Urban Institute website under the Mecklenburg page, then Multimedia, then "Understanding Effects of Growth in Meck. Co." Tried to paste link, but it didn't work.

Dale Johnson said...

Tidbit for Mary:

It is not the goal, or a responsibility, for the citizens to live a lifestyle that enables GOVCO to provide "services" at the least or most economical cost. It is the responsibility of GOVCO to provide the services that the public demands, within reason, and GOVCO could easily accomplish that with reasonable taxes if it operates with fiscal restraint and spends on needs not wants--services not wealth transfer.

GOVCO follows and supports the citizens, and should not rule and demand of citizens. Restraints, when needed, should be minimal.

Mary Newsom said...

Thanks for the guidance to the Mecklenburg map, it's updated now.

Yep, my 1950 house was indeed sprawl at one point. Even had a septic tank when built. My hubby and I couldn't agree on what kind of house we wanted. I wanted early 20th-century bungalow; he wanted glass and chrome uptown condo, and there weren't any then, plus I don't like chrome. This was one we could both live with. One small correction: Myers Park (where we do NOT live) was a farm, I believe mostly cotton fields. The area where we DO live was also a farm, though the soil is so infertile I wonder what they possibly grew. So most of the tree destruction took place long before the subdivisions were built.

The overall point of the sprawl issue is NOT that cities grow (or not, if the city is Detroit). "Growth" is not a synonym for "sprawl." Some growth is suburban sprawl, some isn't.

The point is the form of the growth in the past 30 years has spread the urbanized area out over a much larger expanse of land than it would have if it had taken place during the first half of the 20th century. Models would include Myers Park, Dilworth, Wesley Heights, Elizabeth, etc.) The extremely low-density form of growth is not fiscally responsible, nor ecologically wise.

Alf said...

Interesting charts. I know you've written extensively on these issues, but I disagree with most of what you say.

It's accepted that low-density population costs more for police, fire, water and sewer services. I'd be interested in learning where the break-even/going into the red point is for county services from a tax revenue/value standpoint. For example, 1000 1-acre lots valued at x = tax revenue of y vs. a model of higher density with a mix of smaller lots, condos, townhouses etc.



I'd

Sam said...

I quit reading after Mary said "I'll admit my bias"

That will never happen.

Anonymous said...

Questionable and suspect.

UNCC charts graphs and maps are done by young students who have no real experience in this area.

The only correct way to determine maps like this is to hire professional experts paid to go back 55 years and put together interval growth patterns.

In addition this fails to take into account the depression recession that has stopped new contruction in its tracks and looking at the future it does does appear anything will change but only get worse.

Urban delapidation also needs to be taken into account also and isnt showing how far out this deterioration extends.

This whole map is inconsistent inaccurate and highly suspect and should not be taken as as fact and has an error ratio factor of at least 50% or higher.

Go with the pros and experts for more accuracy.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Anon, At 11:55 said, "Hogwash! Nobody wants to live in Cabarrus county. Harrisburg desparately needs light rail. I'm getting soaked on the cost of gas, but I need a full size SUV because I have a young daughter,"

Oh, never mind - it'll never make it through moderation.

Dale Johnson said...

Mary whines: "The point is the form of the growth in the past 30 years has spread the urbanized area out over a much larger expanse of land than it would have if it had taken place during the first half of the 20th century. Models would include Myers Park, Dilworth, Wesley Heights, Elizabeth, etc.) The extremely low-density form of growth is not fiscally responsible, nor ecologically wise"

Who defines those opinions, Mary? You and other elite statists? Obviously most of the general population doesn't agree or supply wouldn't have been developed to meet demand. More that 70,000 wealthier tax payers over the past decade moved from Mecklenburg to Union--you would enact laws to force them to remain in Mecklenburg? These folks exercised choice of how to allocate resources they had earned but you judge them irresponsible and unwise? Pure arrogance, Mary.

All living creatures want to propagate and live comfortably--humans have the same desire, or no one would expend resources on autos or live in suburbs. Europeans wouldn't have settled the New World, and those that did would have stayed along the coast, and the continuous westward migration would never had occurred without our natural desire for space and comfort. Propagate and sprawl--basic human nature--legitimate nature. Without minimal constraints?--of course not--but statist like Mary are advocating stronger intervention. Minimal restraints that insure one doesn't kill the golden goose.....

I'll not sacrifice my natural desires and legitimate choices just so GOVCO can spend less dollars on legitimate services we vote on ( and taxes we agreed to by vote) just so GOVCO can spend money on wants rather than needs, on what are generally unconstitutional uses of taxes. Sprawl IS constitutional.... whether it is "wise" is up to individuals and their representatives.

Anonymous said...

I love my 1/2 acre.

I love my cul de sac.

Its called America. We have "choices" how to live.

If you are 25 and single or an empty nester, feel free to live Soviet style on the light rail in a high rise.

Once size doesn't fit all Mrs Newsome. In the USA we are not confined by geography.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Hogwash! Nobody wants to live in Cabarrus county. Harrisburg desparately needs light rail. I'm getting soaked on the cost of gas, but I need a full size SUV because I have a young daughter



Who wants to live in Mecklenburg County? I would rather live in Cabarrus County than put up with the BS in Mecklenburg.

And how does having a young daughter justify having a full size SUV?

Anonymous said...

"It is the responsibility of GOVCO to provide the services that the public demands...".

That's probably why they built that bridge to nowhere in Alaska.

Just because the customer is always right doesn't mean the public is always right.

Anonymous said...

When the national economy collapses completely - it appears to be on its way there - and tax revenues become even scarcer, those "settlers" out in the boonies will wonder who is going to supply water, sewer, fire, police and educational services to their far-flung mini-estates.

In fact, local governments will be wondering the same.

That predicament will finally get the attention of 21st century hermits and government officials.

The solution won't be to continue hiding the cost of services in a common pool. The solution will be to tax each household according to the true cost of providing them those services.

Hope the folks in Green Acres thought to put in wells and septic tanks, can take time off to home school their kids, and bought a shotgun.

Steve said...

"And how does having a young daughter justify having a full size SUV?"

A lot of kids are really fat these days.

As for sprawl, it impacts not just those who choose that life style, but it imposes burdens upon the rest of the county. I've lived in Union County a couple of times over the years, first south of Monroe and then later in the Weddington-Marvin area, so I've observed some of the process of change. They've followed policies that increase demand for services at a faster rate than taxable valuation has gone up.

J said...

"Multiple studies show lower-density, spread-out development makes delivering of government services far more expensive per person than a more tightly knit developmental form – you know, the way things looked before about 1970."

I was born in 1970. You aren't blaming me for all this, are you? ;-)

But seriously... where you said "The extremely low-density form of growth is not fiscally responsible, nor ecologically wise" - it actually is ecologically wise in one way. The one and only way you can fully partipate in the local government's recyling program is to live in a single-family house. If you live in a condominium or an apartment, you are out of luck.

If you really want people to embrace living in high-density housing, you should be pushing the local government to stop excluding multi-family housing residents in this way.

Anonymous said...

Remember the summer of 2008? Enjoy those cul-de-sacs and SUVs when the price of gasoline skyrockets to $10 a gallon, because we've finally pumped the earth dry. And don't come whining to "GOVCO" to do something about it.