Parcelization Study


Project Overview 

The parcelization process is highlighted as a critical step in the transformation of rural communties from places that rely on the landscape's perennial yield of raw natural resouces to places that package and sell the landscape itself for consumption and development. Parcelization and the changes it protends represent a largely unidirectional change in the economic base of rural communities that undermines the incentives for long-term investments in traditional resource-based economies.

The process of rural parcelization also provides ongoing challenges for planners targeting habitat, forest, and farmland preservation. An understanding of which landscape features influence parcelization can help planners create more nuanced land division and zoning ordinances. We used Geograrphic Information Systems (GIS) to reconstruct a historical parcel database for six towns in rural Wisconsin and then developed a statistical model to determine the extent to which landscape features and parcel characteristics infuence parcel subdivision. Our results show that proximity to water, roads and agricultural areas were the strongest variables over the 65 year study. Parcel size and topography were also influential, but to a lesser extent.

This project was supported by the National Research Initiative of the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, USDA, Grant #2005-35401-15924.


Parcelization Study Products


Animate parcelization through time

Use this web mapping application to animate through time the changes in parcelization in selected communities. 


​ Peer Reviewed Articles 

Factors Influencing Parcelzation in Amenity-Rich Rural Areas (Journal of Planning Education and Research, 2012)


Parcelization: Forest Change Agent in Northern Wisconsin (Journal of Forestry, 2010)


Land Division/Resource Links
The land division ordinance for the Town of McMillan in Marathon County and an explanation of land division ordinances for towns prepared by Russel Knetzger, AICP. These and other resources can be found at the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Planning Association’s legal resources site.
A model subdivision ordinance for towns hosted at the Wisconsin Towns Association webpage.
Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission’s model land division ordinance and rural cluster development ordinance.
Professor Brian Ohm’s model conservation subdivision ordinance.
A 6 page handout by Foth & VanDyke with diagrams showing examples of conservation subdivisions.

Additional Products

Bayfield County Posters



Final Reports 

Bayfield County Final Report - by Timothy Kennedy, Center for Land Use Education, June 2009


Columbia County Final Report - by Daniel McFarlane, Center for Land Use Education, June 2008