Suburban Sprawl

Avoiding Suburban Sprawl

In November, 1996 the Town of Huntersville adopted new ordinances to guide the development of our community. These ordinances reflect the Town's new focus: coordinating growth based upon the time-honored principles of traditional town planning. Simply put, the elected officials and the committee that prepared the new regulations determined that Huntersville would not be consumed by the same suburban sprawl that has already engulfed large portions of the Charlotte region. The Towns of Cornelius and Davidson have adopted similar policies; together, the three towns cover 100 square miles of Mecklenburg County. This large area will, over time, evolve in a manner substantially different from the pattern that dominates the rest of the Charlotte metropolitan region.

Sprawl Characteristics

"Sprawl" is the term used to characterize the predominant pattern of development that has occurred over the last five decades in the United States. This pattern is typically marked by the following characteristics:

  • Development at very low land-consuming densities
  • Eradication of farmland and other open spaces that define the character of a community
  • Expensive extensions of water, sewer and road systems to serve far-flung development
  • Expensive reliance on the automobile as the only viable transportation option
  • Houses arranged around cul-de-sacs rather than interconnected streets
  • Look-alike strip malls as opposed to traditional village centers
  • Minimal pedestrian amenities
  • Urban traffic volumes in non-urban settings as suburb-to-suburb commutes become more prevalent
  • Zoning codes that mandate rigid separation of land uses

Conserving Uniqueness

Of great concern to the individuals who drafted Huntersville's new growth policies was the fact that suburban sprawl oftentimes eradicates a town's uniqueness by establishing conventional building patterns that disrespect the existing fabric of the community. Huntersville has, until very recently, been a small rural town with a modest central business district, numerous working farms, and extensive woodlands. Certainly no one expects Huntersville to remain this way forever--but there are steps that can be taken to accommodate new development that respects the values and characteristics that are unique to Huntersville.

The irony of most suburban development is that it often promises "life in the country" but typically delivers a finished product that, when combined with other suburban development, eliminates the "country" characteristics that drew new residents and businesses in the first place.