Using GIS technology to help plan future growth in Union Township, Michigan

Mark Francek, Jesse Frankovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the next decade, new subdivisions, malls, and roads will be built in Union Township, Michigan. A challenge for township officials is to plan for urban development while at the same time protecting prime farmland, soils, and wetlands from degradation. This study uses GIS to (1) delineate current land use patterns in Union Township, Michigan; and (2) suggest land suitable for future development based on digital data available from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, using variables such as water table depth, prime farmland, wetlands, slope greater than six percent, and floodplain extent. We updated land use changes since 1978 with photo interpretation and fieldwork. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) were used to update the road network. Our analysis shows that roughly a third of Union Township is already developed, a quarter is suitable for development, and the rest is unsuited either because land has a high water table, wetlands present, slopes exceeding six percent, or is prime farmland. We recommend that that the largest continuous tracts of prime farmland, which are located in the northwest and southwest portion of the township, be preserved from development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-51
Number of pages11
JournalGreat Lakes Geographer
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Farmland preservation
  • GIS
  • Land use
  • Soils
  • Sprawl


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