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Pilot‐Testing Envision Minnesota’s Conservation Design Scorecard

As conservation‐design developments increase in number, questions have been raised about how well they meet their stated objectives of preserving the environmental integrity of the development site, creating a unique sense of place, and fostering a more open development process that engages neighbors and community members. In 2009, Envision Minnesota created a Conservation Design Scorecard that planners, planning commissions, local officials, developers, conservation professionals, and citizens can use to help answer these and other questions about conservation developments in their community to ensure they are getting the kind of developments they desire. Developments are rated on 10 basic characteristics using measureable criteria: amount of open space, value of open space, connectivity of open space, legal protection of open space, minimal environmental and viewshed impacts, minimal impacts from roads, stormwater managed onsite, wastewater appropriately managed, transparent and open application process, and community sense of place.

In summer 2011, CURA's Community Growth Planning Assistance Center provided a graduate research assistant in landscape architecture, Colleen O'Dell, to pilot‐test the scorecard on 15 existing conservation‐design developments in Minnesota. The purpose of the project was to evaluate the validity of the scorecard by seeing how conservation developments that are generally considered successes or failures scored on the instrument, identify which of the 10 characteristics on the scorecard were most frequently absent or present in developments (and thus might be weighted differently), and determine how difficult it would be for the average person to obtain the information and data necessary to complete the scorecard.

Of the 15 developments scored, 3 achieved an overall grade “B,” 8 earned a “C,” and the remaining 4 earned a “D.” Those that scored highest did particularly well on open space connectivity, permanently protecting open space, wastewater treatment, and sense of community. Those that scored lowest most often fell short on permanently protecting open space, siting for minimal environmental and scenic impact, wastewater treatment, and sense of community. The researcher found that 17 of the 45 questions on the scorecard proved difficult to answer due to the type of data required. In addition, although the scorecard was intended to be used to rate existing developments, the research found that it may also prove useful as a planning tool to suggest improvements in new developments. The results of the project will be used to inform a next generation of the scorecard.

Project Award Date: 
2011-05-00
Community organization or agency: 
Envision Minnesota
CURA Contact: 

CURA Research Areas: