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Where Are We Going? - Frequent Questions

Where Are We Now? | Where Are We Going? | Where Do We Want to Be? | How Do We Get There? | Let's Go! |

Step Two
Trends Analysis
Bulldozer clearing lot of debris

Q. How can we get our planning commission to take our study seriously if we're not doing fancy computer models to predict traffic, runoff, and other results of development?

A. You can approach this problem in several ways. One is to try to find a supportive member of the planning commission, and bring that person in as a partner to assist in your planning process. Then, hopefully, they will help to sell the trends analysis, and ultimately the vision, to the planning commission.

A second approach is to actually use some simple mathematical models. Some examples are the methods suggested in The Cost of Growth, or in Community Economic Analysis: A How To Manual. [PDF, 97 pp., 230KB]

A third approach is to use estimates and common sense to predict the direction of change, then to format those predictions into snazzy-looking, tables, charts, and sketches. They will look more impressive than a written narrative or chalkboard sketches.

Q. Do we have to look at all the issues that we included in our analysis of Where Are We Now?

A. Not necessarily, but your analysis will be more complete if you do include social, environmental, and economic factors. Your community assessment developed in Step 1, however, may have shown some problem areas, and you can focus there. Or you may want to limit your trends analysis to some hot community issues, perhaps flooding or transportation or retail sales, in which case you would probably do well to consider all the social, economic, and environmental impacts related to that one issue. See the discussion on Indicators to help you choose key trends to measure.

Q. What's the difference between doing a trends analysis and doing visioning?

A. The trends analysis is an effort to predict what your community will look like in the future in the absence of intervention. Visioning is imaging what you would ideally like your community to be like in the future.

Q. We made forecasts that frighten some of us, but most people said "So what?"or "That will never happen." No one is interested in taking any action. What can we do to catalyze change?

A. You might try one of several approaches. The problem may be that your facts are not convincing. You may need to make a further effort to gather some hard data, or present the data you have in a more polished, possibly visual way.

A second approach would be to look for the issues that affect people's hearts and pocketbooks. Think of how the trends you identified relate to children or the elderly, or how they will affect an especially beautiful scenic drive. On the economic side, will increased runoff cause flooding? Will taxes rise because the drinking water source is becoming polluted?

A third approach would be to make a new effort at broad-based community involvement. If your initial effort included mostly people from one segment of the community, try to broaden participation. Community leaders may then see that your information has buy-in from a wide spectrum of interests, and will take it more seriously.

Q. We don't have anyone on our team who is skilled at mapping. How can we depict our trends on a map?

A. No particular expertise is necessary if you start with a base map such as a US Geological Survey map. Exit EPA Click for DisclaimerYou can then put a layer of clear plastic film such as Mylar over it, and mark changes on the plastic. Or you can duplicate the map and mark directly on the paper.

Q. Our trends analysis is so negative! We hate to bring everyone down.

A. If your trends analysis is negative, use the results to move the group directly into answering the question "Where Do We Want to Be?" The best response to seeing a future you don't want is to plan one you do want.

Q. We can make a reasonable prediction about trends for the next 5 years, but feel much less confident about 10, 15 or 20 years. How do we handle this?

A. While it is certainly difficult to predict what will happen in 10-20 years, many decisions are being made now that will determine the future of your community. Decisions about zoning, road-building, business investments, land preservation, and education will affect you, your family, and the environment for 20 years and beyond. Focus on these basic community-building issues.

Also, you may wish to reflect your level of uncertainty in your report. Charts could show a solid line for the first 10 years, and a dotted line thereafter. Or perhaps you would want to develop two scenarios for the longer range -- perhaps fast growth and slow growth.

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader, available as a free download, to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more about PDF, and for a link to the free Acrobat Reader.


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