Do large residential subdivisions induce further development? A spatially explicit hazard analysis of land use change in charlotte

Beverly K Wilson, Yan Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Problem: Most previous research on land use change has been conducted at coarse scales with aggregated data, and there are relatively few studies that attempt to establish and examine these linkages at a disaggregate level. In addition, the cumulative effects of large residential developments have been little investigated as potential drivers of land use change. Purpose: We hypothesize that residential subdivisions of 10 acres or more exert detectable priming effects and influence the rate of subsequent development in the vicinity. We use parcel-level data to test whether unilateral development decisions have spillover effects across both space and time. Methods: We analyze parcel changes and then conduct a spatially explicit hazard analysis of land use change in Mecklenburg County, NC, to identify a set of factors that predict which vacant land parcels are most likely to experience a subdivision event (be subdivided) during a given one-year time period. We also perform a sensitivity analysis to assess how the specification of the priming effect measure affects the analysis, and to gain insight into the spatial extent of the hypothesized relationship between large residential subdivisions and subsequent development. Results and Conclusions: We find evidence of a positive association between large residential subdivision events and an increased likelihood of subsequent subdivision activity. The sensitivity analysis suggests that this relationship is robust to changes in how the priming effect measure is specified and declines with distance. This corroborates previous assumptions that major residential subdivisions drive land conversion. Takeaway for Practice: These results suggest that the project review process should consider impacts at a broader scale. Large residential subdivisions warrant attention not only for their localized impacts on traffic, stormwater, schools, and emergency services, but also for the signals they communicate to the larger development community. We find the effects of converting land to residential use cumulate not only over space, but also over time. Thus, they should be examined within the context of existing land use plans as well as infrastructure and service-delivery capabilities. By understanding the factors that explain parcel subdivision events and considering their capacity to induce further residential development, planners and the communities they serve will be in a stronger position to manage growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-22
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the American Planning Association
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Charlotte
  • growth management
  • hazard analysis
  • land development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Urban Studies


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