Case Study: Where is the Ideal Location for New Development?

Wetland Loss and Urban Development

An example of suburban growth near a former wetland.

You probably have seen the growthnew malls, new houses, new roads. Many of the new developments have names that represent what was once there. They have names like: Fox Run, Forest Glen, or River Meadow. The land-use change in the United States is evident and ongoing.

According to Dahl (2006), wetland loss in the United States is largely due to urban or rural development and is largely concentrated in the Southeastern U.S. During the past 30 years, many families have left city centers and moved to "bedroom communities." These areas offer affordable, larger homes and include newer facilities, such as shopping malls, soccer fields, and schools. This type of growth is also called "exurban growth." You can easily recognize the growth as you drive along an older highway and notice a housing development where a farm once stood or a shopping mall where there was once a wetland. The question for land-use planners is: How can we accommodate the desire to live "in the country" and protect natural areas, such as wetlands, at the same time?

Areas of observed wetland loss due to exurban growth are shown in orange on this map. Source: Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States 1998 to 2004 (Dahl, 2006).

In this chapter, you will take on the role of land-use planner in Baker County, Florida. The planners use My World GISTM tools in order to determine the best location for issuing a twenty-five acre development permit. The decision is primarily based on the following criteria: to protect wetlands from development; to minimize landuse impact (i.e., re-use or rezoning, as opposed to changing of land from natural forest to residential); and to locate the development within close proximity to existing transportation infrastructure. This hypothetical case is situated in Baker County, Florida, near the town of Macclenny. This area was chosen for this case because it is undergoing urban sprawl (exurban development) from neighboring Jacksonville, Florida.