Understanding the Effects of Growth in Union County
Research being done at UNC Charlotte through a collaboration called RENCI has shed new light on the effects of growth on counties in the Charlotte Region.
For the last few decades, much of the Carolina Piedmont has experienced dramatic population growth. Attracted by the region’s mild climate and strong economy, people from other parts of the country have been pouring in, changing the region in significant ways. The most visible consequence of this growth has been the increase in development. Narrow country roads winding through pastoral scenes of small farms and rolling hills have been replaced by multi-lane expressways connecting countless subdivisions and strip centers. And every indication suggests this trend will continue. The interactive map on this page shows actual changes in Union County from 1976 through 2006 based on analysis of satellite data. The projections past 2006 reflect a possible future based on these trends. The Center for Applied GIS (CAGIS) at UNC Charlotte developed the model, which has first been applied in the Charlotte regions, but has since been expanded to other regions of the state.
Union County’s development “footprint” (average number of developed acres per person) went from 0.05 acres in 1976 to 0.48 acres in 2006. So, while population increased 171 percent, land area development outpaced the population change, increasing by 878 percent.