Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP)

Legacy Department

City and Regional Planning

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dyckman, Caitlin S

Committee Member

Goetcheus , Cari

Committee Member

Cunningham , Miller G


Heirs' property resulted from post-Civil War land acquisitions and purchases by African Americans that have been passed down through generations without clear title of ownership or a last will of testament (Mitchell, 2000; Dyer, 2008). As the surrounding landscape develops, growth pressures threaten community integrity and increase property taxes, making it difficult to retain properties (Rivers, 2007b). Encroaching development fails to maintain the cultural context of existing settlement patterns of heirs' properties as well as fails to integrate them into the surrounding landscape (Cross, 2008; Johnson, et al., 2009). The literature has been decidedly silent in addressing the strategies that can be employed to preserve and integrate heirs' property with surrounding uses and mitigate land loss as a result of rural gentrification, leading to the question of: what strategies can planners employ to preserve and integrate heirs' properties into surrounding uses? 232 jurisdictions were selected for analysis throughout the Black Belt, Gullah-Geechee Corridor, and specifically identified in the literature as encountering difficulties with the preservation and integration of heirs' properties with adjacent uses. A review of located planning documentation was conducted and a survey of municipal and county planners and administrators within the jurisdictions selected for analysis was implemented in order to answer the posed research question. Findings concluded that very few jurisdictions containing heirs' property are employing strategies to preserve and integrate it into the urbanizing fabric. Of those jurisdictions that do employ strategies, their efficacy depends on contextual circumstances. Using a Likert-scale, survey respondents were asked to gauge on a scale of one to seven, the extent to which heirs' properties are integrated with surrounding uses. Respondents that reported targeting heirs' properties with the following strategies also identified significant integration: multimodal transportation accessibility; Form-Based Code; mixed use development, development agreements; community development through small area plans or similar instruments; civic involvement and interaction to cultivate community understanding; federal, state, and local funding strategies; legal outreach services; and coordination with lawyers to preserve and integrate heirs' properties. Using a similar Likert-scale, the survey revealed that the participation of heirs' properties in development decisions is greatly enhanced when standard strategies to engage heirs' properties are augmented with the following: advocacy planning; notices posted in churches/recreational and civic centers; notices posted on websites; and locally-distributed or African American focus newsletters. Enhanced participation of heirs' properties in development decisions will contribute to social learning and the incorporation of their interests into planning documentation. However, because the majority of jurisdictions selected for analysis do not employ strategies targeted toward the preservation and integration of heirs' properties, they remain susceptible to property and culture loss as well as the implications of spatial isolation.



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