Local groups concerned about suburban sprawl and congestion are taking note of a new report that lists the Charlotte-Gastionia-Rock Hill, S.C. area as the nation's fifth most sprawl-prone large metropolitan area. The report, out this week from Smart Growth America, a national research group fighting for sustainable growth and land-use policies, studied development patterns at 221 metro areas and 994 counties in the U.S. as of 2010.
Among metro areas with more than 1 million people, Charlotte ranked fifth in sprawl among large metro areas and 25th worst overall. Hickory ranked first overall in the study, which factored in residential and employment density, accessibility of the street network, strength of downtowns and activity centers, and the mix of homes, jobs and services in neighborhoods.
The Centralina Council of Governments, which works with government agencies in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties, also felt the study pointed out the need for thoughtful efforts to guide growth and development. It has been working on a three-year effort called Connect our Future that aims to build a 14-county regional framework for growth. The group has been holding meetings around the region, soliciting input from more than 2,000 people in its first phase alone, and more than 4,000 overall. When asked in one survey to name the transportation feature most important to them, about the same percentage of those responding mentioned having more sidewalks, trails and other safe places to walk (21 percent) as mentioned getting more roads (22 percent).
"What they support is exactly what Smart Growth America and other organizations have indicated is essential for growth that is healthy," said Jim Prosser, Centralina's executive director.
The project expects to publish by year's end a framework designed to give local governments guidance and advice on planning for growth. To give your thoughts, visit connectourfuture.org.