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Land Use Planning Tools

Sustainable land use planning generally requires the analysis of a vast array of data. Below are innovative methods, computer software applications, and resources for interpreting land use data and evaluating planning alternatives.  

A Geographic Information System (GIS) software program for mapping, measuring, and analyzing urban ecosystems. The program considers trees and other natural resources in the community development process. It allows users to create ecological maps, conduct technical analysis of the ecology, summarize results, and create graphic presentation materials. CITYgreen allows users to analyze storm water, summer energy savings, carbon storage and sequestration, air quality, and urban wildlife.

Community 2020
HUD's Community 2020 software Version 2.0 is a computer program packaged with geographic and demographic data. It is a full-featured desktop Geographic Information System (GIS) for Windows, the result of a joint venture between HUD and Caliper Corporation. It offers the full functionality of Caliper's Maptitude.

With Community 2020, HUD not only has made its huge program data sets available to the public, but also has packaged the data with an easy-to-use, high quality GIS tool for understanding, using and communicating place-based information to others.

The Community Image Survey
Based on the Visual Preference Survey developed by architect Anton Nelessen, the Community Image Survey is a very effective tool for educating and involving community members in land use planning. The Survey consists of 40 slides of design characteristics that are presented for review at a public meeting or workshop organized to discuss some aspect of the land use and transportation planning process.

CommunityViz software developed by The Orton Family Foundation allows users to create and manipulate a virtual representation of a town and explore different land use scenarios. Professional planners, citizen planners, landowners, and interested citizens can use this software to make informed and collaborative decisions about possible changes in their community. Communities will be able to visualize and evaluate different land use patterns, and make informed decisions on issues specific to their own communities.

Driven to Action: Stopping Sprawl in Your Community
A report from the David Suzuki Foundation that says sprawl is responsible for increased air pollution, rising obesity rates and loss of agricultural land includes a user-friendly toolkit designed to help communities stop sprawl.

Geographic Information Systems: A Tool For Improving Community Livability
This fact sheet from the Local Government Commission offers more than 20 case studies of how local government policy makers in communities around the nation are using Geographic Information System (GIS) software to create more livable, vibrant, resource efficient communities.

Green Developments 2.0 CD-ROM
Green Developments is an interactive CD-ROM that fully describes an exciting new field in which environmental considerations are viewed as opportunities to create better buildings and communities by working with the environment instead of against it. It features 200 case studies; 400 visuals; resource details, including financial details; and web links to key related sites. You hear the architects talking about their designs, see how the buildings have taken shape, and listen to residents talking about their neighborhoods while viewing them.

Growing Smart
APA's Growing Smart project has resulted in a collection of useful information on growth and the management of change in U.S. communities. This has been compiled in the new Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook: Model Statutes for Planning and the Management of Change.

InfraCycle Fiscal Impact Software
InfraCycle software is a fiscal impact tool that calculates the life cycle cost of municipal infrastructure (fire, police, roadways, sidewalks, street light, park land, recreation facilities, storm water, sanitary sewers, garbage collection, transit, schools, school busing). Municipal revenues can be calculated from sources such as taxes, levies, development charges, application fees, etc. Revenues are compared to costs to determine if revenues will support costs. The software can be used for large or small projects. Silver City, New Mexico, for example, has acquired the software to assess the impact of a proposed 6,000-acre annexation.

Planning for Community, Energy, Economic, and Environmental Sustainability (PLACE3S)  
A land use and urban design method created specifically to help communities understand how their growth and development decisions can contribute to improved sustainability.

Smart Growth Network 
An information network that assists private sector, public sector, and NGO partners in creating smart growth in neighborhoods, communities, and regions throughout the country. The network facilitates information sharing on financing for infill and brownfields redevelopment, tools for evaluating development options, and pilot money-saving investments which reap economic and environmental benefits.

Smart Growth Survival Kit
In this kit, the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions brings together information and references to help environmental commissions and citizens incorporate natural resource protection and State Plan consistency into their local plans.

Smart Places
SmartPlaces is a tool for geographic decision-making, developed by EPRI. SmartPlaces enhances decision-making insight in target marketing, economic development, land-use planning, transportation systems, facilities management, environmental remediation and protection, energy forecasting, water allocation, and resource control.

SmartPlaces is used to evaluate the implications and opportunities of alternative plans. It offers innovation in the planning process through interactive design, evaluation, and illustration of proposed activities. The system runs on a PC using ESRI's ArcView software. Smart Places provides a user approachable set of tools for the exploration, design, modification, illustration and evaluation of alternative planning scenarios.

Smart Scorecard for Project Development, a tool for quantifying elements of smarth growth, was designed by Will Fleissig, a Denver, Colorado developer.

Smarter Land Use Project Planning Kit
This kit provides hands-on tools for modeling residential, commercial and park projects from 2 to 200 acres and includes the Smarter Land Use Guidebook.

Social Cost of Alternative Land Development Scenarios (SCALDS)
The Federal Highway Administration has sponsored the development of a prototype model to estimate the full cost of alternative land use patterns. The EXCEL-based spreadsheet is called the Social Cost of Alternative Land Development Scenarios (SCALDS) model. The model estimates monetary and non-monetary costs associated with urban land development at the metropolitan scale. The full cost accounting framework uses average cost data, derived from a variety of national studies, as the default values for the calculation of costs.

Visual Preference Surveys
Visual Preference Surveys are a tool to help communities establish a common vision of what their localities should look like. The A. Nelessen Associates website highlights the results of community visual preference surveys for a number of projects.

Land Use Planning Information Network (LUPIN)
California’s on-line tool available for planners, local and regional governments, conservationists, developers, landowners, and others involved in planning. LUPIN provides an aggregate view of information relevant to land use and environmental planning.

INDEX is GIS-based software for measuring community indicators. It is a framework model that is customized for each application according to indicators and functions selected by local stakeholders. Its main functions usually include data management, public information, scenario analysis, and indicator tracking. The scope of indicator measurements normally includes land-use, housing, employment, transportation, infrastructure, and the natural environment. Customizations are developed in either ArcView or MapObjects, and are licensed to the client organization for subsequent local use.

Growth and Quality of Life Tool Kit
The NGA Center for Best Practices, from the National Governors Association, provides a Growth and Quality of Life Tool Kit that offers examples of successful strategies used to encourage growth that supports state and local priorities.

Sustainable City
A collaborative research endeavor to create a computer simulation program for any town or city to see itself - and its surrounding environment - as a whole system.

Location Efficient Mortgage (LEM) 
The Location Efficient Mortgage (LEM) is an innovative mortgage product that is being offered in Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles to low- and moderate- income borrowers who are interested in living in urban areas served by public transportation systems.

Last updated: February 3, 2004

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