Urban sprawl is rapidly transforming the landscape of Kentucky’s prime farmland from a dominant agricultural land use pattern to a patchwork of dispersed and loosely defined parcels. This state, located in the east central portion of the U.S., is not unlike many states considered rural, nor is it unlike many rural regions found throughout the world where urban sprawl is concentrated in metropolitan areas that are often encroaching into these rural areas. Authors have argued for and against urbanization patterns generally understood to be sprawl on the basis of social, economic, and biophysical opportunities and constraints. Finding consensus in the literature about defining and measuring urban sprawl is difficult. This paper demonstrates a method for cost effectively measuring urban development using National Land Cover Data, Census data, and ancillary data across 34 counties. Based on seven indicators framed around the amount, configuration, and per capita land usage, an amalgamated sprawl index (ASI) is demonstrated through an example in north central Kentucky, USA. While the public believes this growth area of Kentucky is rapidly sprawling, this study indicates the pattern of sprawl is spreading faster in areas not obvious to this same public.

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Published in Sustainability, v. 5, no. 5, p. 1809-1828.

© 2013 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).

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