Fiscal impacts of land use planning decisions : sprawl, sustainable development, and simulation in public process
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Digital analytic tools offer great potential to enhance town and city planning. Software that facilitates the modeling of possible urban design future scenarios can help planners and stakeholders in a city simulate economic, ecological, and social impacts of urban design choices. The Envision Tomorrow analytic suite is a software program that has been used to enhance participatory, small-group urban planning exercises in the Sustainable Places Project in four small cities in central Texas. This suite features formula-based measurements that relate aspects of the built environment, such as parking ratios and land uses, to indicators related to sustainability impacts. These outcomes range from demographic and density characteristics of new planning scenarios to their effects on municipal budgets and household water and energy consumption. Envision Tomorrow is analyzed in terms of its use in the Sustainable Places Project. While the town scenarios designed in this process reflect strong sustainable design principles, process analysis and stakeholder interviews suggest that the analytic indicators did not have major impacts on the community design process itself. Software use should be combined with more focus on outreach and education efforts to make modeling more representative and effective.