Research Shows WNC Development Up 568 Percent in 30 Years
Anyone traveling through Western North Carolina is immediately struck by the natural beauty of the region. From Pisgah National Forest to the Pigeon River, undeveloped areas still exist–but new research shows they are quickly shrinking.
According to a study just released by the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI), land development in the North Carolina mountains increased 568 percent from 1976 to 2006. Meanwhile, population increased 42 percent during the same period. The result is an increase in the average number of developed acres per person from 0.06 acres in 1976 to 0.30 acres in 2006.
How has this rapid urban growth changed Western North Carolina and what challenges will the region face over the next 20 years? Researchers at UNC Charlotte’s Center for Applied Geographic Information Science (CAGIS), a research partner with RENCI at UNC Charlotte, are collaborating with RENCI at UNC Asheville to address these and other urbanization issues. The study was made possible through funding from the City of Asheville, the U.S. Forest Service and RENCI’s home office in Chapel Hill.
“This versatile study from RENCI at UNC Charlotte has allowed us to gain maximum benefit from the limited resources available in today’s economic climate,” said Jim Fox, director of RENCI at UNC Asheville. “Being able to use this study at a variety of scales has proved invaluable.”
Fox added that UNC Asheville has used the study’s results in conjunction with the City of Asheville, Buncombe County, the local Land of Sky Council of Governments and the U.S. Forest Service.
Using historical satellite imagery, and population data and forecasts, the researchers have developed an Urban Growth Model that generates statistical and visual representations of likely trends in developed land area.
By examining historical and forecast patterns of urbanization, RENCI researchers hope to assist policy makers, planners and land conservationists in developing tools to understand and prepare for rapid urban growth. Fox said local stakeholders already are showing an interest in the study’s results.
Analysis of historical satellite imagery indicates that between 1976 and 2006, development in the 19-county region occurred at an average rate of 17 acres per day, outpacing population growth nearly 14-to-1. The model forecasts that by 2030, the average rate of development in the region will be 16.3 acres per day and development will continue to outpace population growth 2.5-to-1.
Looking forward, the model predicts that by 2030, an additional 145,374 acres of land in the 19-county region will be developed, which is the equivalent of an area roughly the size of Alleghany County or nearly six times the acres within Asheville’s city limits.
The full research report is available at http://ui.uncc.edu/content/nearly-570-increase-development-western-nc-mo....