Smart Scorecard For Development Projects January 2002
In the past, communities have used tools such as standard zoning codes, performance codes,
indicators and design guidelines are early cousins of the SPS. In a more general way, we have
looked at other communities that have used various components included in the SPS. Fort Collins,
Colorado has used both a point-system and a smart growth-oriented code as has Boulder,
Colorado, in addition to using performance-oriented criteria in implementing its growth
management program. There are a handful of communities that are attempting something similar to
the SPS and Austin, TX has the most-sophisticated and most-applicable example.
It is important to reiterate how and where the SPS might fit in a typical planning framework. Most
zoning dictates exactly what standards need to be met, such as allowed (or dis-allowed) land uses,
heights, setbacks, parking requirements and the spacing of tree-plantings in exact measurements.
We describe this as the "thou shalt or thou shalt not" approach. Design review was introduced to
allow for a more discretionary review. The guidelines that accompany such a program, assuming
they are not mandatory, describe what aspects of a proposed development is preferred.
Performance standards are more outcome oriented, in that they identify a prescribed standard with
regard to level of service road standards, air quality, or natural habitats, etc., but not necessarily
how to achieve such a standard. (See Appendix A for more on precedents that use points and
The Scorecard can be used to translate general community objectives contained in a Comprehensive
Plan into project-related criteria. It can augment the objectives identified in a Specific Area Plan or
designated growth corridor. The Scorecard can also support generic design criteria (contained in a
city’s Land Use Code). That is, target a project plan review toward specific performance.
The idea of a Smart Scorecard should be used as a way to complement the primary planning tools
at the local level – Comprehensive Plan, Community Vision, and the Land Use map. It can also
be helpful for those communities that do not have a strong planning infrastructure
– updated comprehensive plan; specific zoning tools based on district plans; linked capital
improvement and transportation plans, etc. It should not be seen as a replacement for zoning or a
good Comprehensive Plan. It might be useful in rapidly growing rural areas that have not yet had
the time or resources to update a Comprehensive Plan or zoning code to reflect growth-related
issues. The Scorecard can act as a measuring device to evaluate the relative impacts, merits and
likely performance of a proposed project. If used as a monitoring device, it can assist local
jurisdictions over time to achieve many of the objectives of the Smart Growth Agenda (see
Appendix B for how to initiate a local Smart Growth Program).
SMART PROJECT SCORECARD
Typically, a community’s ability to establish a new vision and direct development occurs through
planning and zoning tools. A Comprehensive Plan identifies goals, objectives and criteria for
elected officials and staff to use in setting regulations and reviewing project proposals. It usually
requires 2-3 years to undertake a major community-wide planning effort, and another 1-2 years to
draft accompanying zoning and other code changes, with an additional 1-2 years before projects
respond to the new regulations. Plans, policies and codes can have an enormous impact over time
if the community truly backs up the staff and elected officials when the rubber meets the road – on
the project level.
The following checklist can be used by local jurisdictions to evaluate whether proposed
development projects are reducing impacts and fulfilling community goals. The topic headings
translate the Smart Growth principles into more specific criteria and benchmarks that we believe are
the most critical for local planning commissions and city councils to focus their attention. The
Scorecard audience is primarily for City staff, Planning Commissioners, City
Councils, neighborhood organizations, and project applicants.