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Smart Growth

Smart Growth Scorecards

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Do you want growth and development that benefits the entire community? Are you looking for safe, walkable places for people in all stages of life — families, children, and senior citizens? Do you want good jobs and attractive places to live, work, and play?

Across the country, communities have been asking for ways to analyze and rate the policies and regulations that determine their development patterns. Various organizations and municipalities have developed scorecards to help communities assess policies and proposed development projects.

Smart growth scorecards can help your community choose the best tools to ensure that growth and development meet community goals. They can also help you measure your community's progress toward the best possible future. These scorecards can shape discussions about development patterns that can help your community move forward and make growth and development decisions that benefit the entire community.

EPA has collected and organized this set of sample scorecards to help residents, municipal officials, and other community members find resources that can help them. The inclusion of a scorecard is not an EPA endorsement of that scorecard, the organization that produced it, or the results. These scorecards are included only as examples of tools that are available for communities.

If you know about a scorecard that you think should be included in this compilation, send an email with information about the scorecard to

Learn more about smart growth.

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What is a scorecard?

Scorecards are basic assessment tools that help communities achieve at least three things:

  • Municipal-level scorecards can help communities determine how the current regulatory environment, including the community’s comprehensive plan and/or zoning ordinance, influences growth and development patterns.
  • Scorecards help communities view their current development pattern through a smart growth lens based on current conditions in the built environment, for example.
  • Project-specific scorecards can help determine whether a development project meets a community’s smart growth criteria for features such as compactness, walkability, and bikeability. They can also help communities decide whether their desired development type can be built using current codes and policies.

Used with baseline information about a community, scorecards can help create a “build-out analysis” that suggests how communities could grow and develop over time based on current policies. Scorecards can educate residents about development choices. An assessment of current conditions that influence development can lead to a discussion about how growth and development could benefit the entire community. Having an open, inclusive, communitywide discussion on this issue is important.

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How were the scorecards selected?

EPA collected publicly available scorecards and rating systems from across the country. Public and private professionals in land use planning, development, and project design helped choose the scorecards on this web page. The scorecards are educational, informative, and easy to use; in most cases, consultants are not necessary.

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How can scorecards be adopted and adapted to fit the needs of a local community?

The first step in adopting or adapting a smart growth scorecard is deciding whether to focus on municipal policies or on project attributes. Next, review the scorecards from the appropriate category (municipal level, project specific, or component). Elements from several scorecards can be mixed and adapted to fit local conditions. Circulate drafts to developers, citizen groups, decision makers, and municipal staff, and revise the scorecard to reflect their input.

Some scorecards can be completed effectively without extensive research or additional expertise. Others require more in-depth knowledge of connections between local policy and the way projects are built. In most cases, completing a scorecard requires studying a community's land use plan, zoning ordinance, and zoning map.

In addition to plans and ordinances, discussions with planning and development officials (for the municipal-level scorecards) and the developer (for the project-level scorecards) might be necessary. Municipal staff should have all or most of the necessary information. Professional consultants can be helpful if the necessary information is not readily available.

After selecting a scorecard, test it against adopted policies or existing projects and analyze the results to ensure the evaluation is balanced and accurate. Once you are satisfied that the scorecard is useful and relevant, answer the questions and compile the results according to the scorecard’s rating guidelines.

The results for municipal-level scorecards should paint a broad picture of the community, while project-specific results will show how well a development meets established growth and development goals. Communities can adopt many policies and strategies to nurture their strengths and assets and address vulnerabilities.

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Do you need a consultant?

Municipal-level scorecards are intended for an informed general audience. In some cases, residents can complete them on their own or with the help of local planning staff or a consultant. Project-specific scorecards might require more expertise. Municipal officials should be able to provide answers to the questions in these scorecards. Project-specific scorecards can still be valuable to community members, municipal staff, and developers as an educational tool.

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Municipal-Level Scorecards

Municipal-level scorecards are not intended to rate or compare one community with another. Each community will use this information differently. Some might be satisfied with the current development pattern and the policies that help determine it, while others might not. One size does not fit all; each community will structure policies based on their values and priorities. The results for municipal-level scorecards should paint a broad picture of the community.

Vermont Smart Growth Scorecard

Year developed: 2000

Vermont Natural Resources Council Exit

The Vermont Smart Growth Scorecard, an easy-to-use tool developed by Vermont Forum on Sprawl (now the Vermont Natural Resources Council), lets communities assess their ability to handle projected growth and development. The scorecard is arranged into eight categories based on locally developed principles that describe smart growth in Vermont.

Each category has a series of multiple-choice questions that assign relative values to the chosen answers. The section on including citizens in the process of developing goals and strategies is particularly useful. Aggregated scores yield an overall score. The scorecard concludes with resources and suggestions communities can use when they have evaluated their current conditions.

  • Issue categories:
    • Compact centers
    • Transportation
    • Natural resources
    • Open spaces
    • Farms and forests
    • Housing
    • Business diversity
    • Public involvement
  • Number of questions: 43
  • Scale of each rated component: 1 to 3
  • Summary score: Yes: Smart Growth, In Transition, Needs Your Attention

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Colorado Smart Growth Scorecard

Year developed: 2003

The Colorado Smart Growth Scorecard, adapted from the Vermont Smart Growth Scorecard by the Colorado Center for Healthy Communities in partnership with the Orton Family Foundation, allows communities to assess their own situations and make changes based on the answers to the questions. It is divided into 10 categories with multiple-choice questions and relevant resources. Users should work with the sections most relevant to their needs.

  • Issue categories:
    • Compact centers
    • Transportation options
    • Housing affordability
    • Walkable communities
    • Natural capital
    • Business diversity
    • Fiscal analysis
    • Regional cooperation
    • Sense of place
    • Public involvement
  • Number of questions: 60
  • Scale of each rated component: 1 to 3
  • Summary score: Yes: Smart Growth, In Transition, Needs Your Attention

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Southeastern Massachusetts Smart Growth Audit

Year developed: 2003
Vision 2020: A partnership for Southeastern Massachusetts Exit

The Southeastern Massachusetts Smart Growth Audit, produced by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in Boston, the Old Colony Planning Council in Brockton, and the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, is a versatile scorecard for use in the 52 communities in their collective service area. The scorecard is divided into categories that broadly reflect smart growth principles in Massachusetts.

Southeastern Massachusetts Smart Growth Audit Results aggregates all results from the communities that used the scorecard.

  • Issue categories:
    • Encourage growth in existing places
    • Mix compatible land uses
    • Build compactly
    • Provide a range of housing opportunities
    • Create a strong sense of place
    • Preserve open space and critical environmental areas
    • Coordinate public investment
    • Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective
  • Number of questions: 48
  • Scale of each rated component: 0 to 2
  • Summary score: Yes: Smart Growth Approach, Some Aspects of Smart Growth, Not Focused on Smart Growth

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New Jersey Future Smart Growth Scorecard: Municipal Review

Year developed: 2002
New Jersey Future: Scorecards Exit

New Jersey Future's Smart Growth Scorecard: Municipal Review helps residents and decision-makers determine whether a community is "growing smart." It also helps identify appropriate tools to ensure that growth and development benefit the entire community. The scorecard includes seven categories of questions, many of which relate specifically to New Jersey codes and regulations. Communities outside New Jersey can benefit from the basic strategy after adjusting the scorecard to reflect state and local policies.

  • Issue categories:
    • Municipal planning profile
    • Development near existing development
    • Range of housing options
    • Mix of uses
    • Choices for getting around
    • Walkability
    • Protects open space
    • Respectful of community character
  • Number of questions: 37
  • Scale of each rated component: Varies from 1 to 3, with weighted values
  • Summary score: Yes: letter grades from A to F.

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EcoCity Cleveland Design Principles for Great Places

Year developed: 2002-2003

EcoCity Cleveland's Design Principles for Great Places is a broad assessment tool that lets residents and decision-makers rate communities and neighborhoods. The tool can also be used to rate proposed developments. Ideally, this scorecard would be used in conjunction with the municipal-level assessment to provide a comprehensive view of the regulatory conditions that govern future growth and current conditions.

  • Issue categories:
    • Urban structure
    • Getting around
    • Civic places
    • Charming commerce
    • Neighborhood homes
    • Better buildings
    • Landscapes
  • Number of questions: 47
  • Scale of each rated component: 0 to 50
  • Summary score: Yes: Great Neighborhood, Good Neighborhood, Deficient Neighborhood, Failing Neighborhood.

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Cape Cod Growth Management Audit

Year developed: 2004

Association to Preserve Cape Cod Exit

The Cape Cod Growth Management Audit was sponsored by the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, the Cape Cod Business Roundtable, Cape Cod Selectmen's and Councilor's Association, Cape Cod Economic Development Council, and the Cape Cod Commission. The audit continued discussions on growth and development patterns that began during a series of workshops in 2004. Fourteen Massachusetts towns completed the audit.

The Growth Management Audit is modeled on the Southeastern Massachusetts audit form and tailored to Cape Cod communities’ needs. The audit process allowed communities to understand which policies were affecting their development projects, gather and organize information on policies that were not working, and evaluate a range of policies. The results of the analysis are presented in Facing the Future: A New Look at Growth Management on Cape Cod.

  • Issue categories:
    • Encourage growth in compact, mixed-use villages and centers
    • Provide infrastructure to support growth in suitable locations
    • Encourage compact development and protection of natural resources
    • Provide a range of housing opportunities
    • Protect historic resources and preserve community character
    • Make development decisions fair and predictable
  • Number of questions: 45
  • Scale of each rated component: 1 to 3
  • Summary score: Yes

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Smart Growth Implementation Toolkit: Policy Audit and Code Audit

Year developed: 2004/2005

Smart Growth Implementation Toolkit Exit

Funded in part through a cooperative agreement between the Smart Growth Leadership Institute and EPA, the Policy Audit and Code Audit templates allow communities to assess their development policies and codes.

  • The Policy Audit compares a community's policies to generally accepted smart growth best practices; the policies are organized according to the 10 smart growth principles.
  • The Code Audit allows a community to assess zoning ordinances, subdivision regulations, street design standards, building codes, and other regulatory items affecting development.

The comprehensive analysis resulting from this audit demonstrates the importance of ensuring that all of the relevant regulatory documents support smart growth development approaches.

  • Issue categories covered - Policy Audit:
    Based on the 10 smart growth principles:
    • Provide a variety of transportation choices
    • Mix land uses
    • Create a range of housing opportunities
    • Create walkable neighborhoods
    • Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration
    • Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
    • Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective
    • Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas
    • Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities
    • Adopt compact building patterns and efficient infrastructure design
  • Number of questions: 10 sections with up to 11 questions per section
  • Scale of each rated component: Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor
  • Summary score: No
  • Issue categories covered - Code Audit:
    • Alleyways
    • Bicycle/multi-use trail facilities
    • Parking standards
    • Street hierarchy
    • Street width
    • Street pattern
    • Streetscape features
    • Transit zones
    • Infrastructure and services
    • Land subdivision
    • Use (zoning) districts
    • Mixed-use districts
    • Live-work districts
    • Planned unit development
    • Traditional neighborhood districts
  • Number of questions: 14 sections with up to 15 questions per section
  • Scale of each rated component: Yes/No with room for comments
  • Summary score: No

Click on a community name below to read about the practical application of these tools:

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Commonwealth Capital Scorecard

Year developed: 2006

Commonwealth Capital Program

The commonwealth of Massachusetts initiated Commonwealth Capital in 2005 to distribute state funding for capital and infrastructure based on whether cities and towns were engaged in smart growth. The primary tool was the Commonwealth Capital Scorecard. Communities completed the scorecard, explaining what they have instituted or will institute in a range of categories.

Each community received a score based on their responses. This score counted for 30 percent of the decision on whether a community received a grant or loan from the Commonwealth Capital "family" of grants and loans. Commonwealth Capital was a screen for $500 million in grants and loans annually; it rewarded communities engaged in smart growth and gave capital funding to places that need it for smart growth.

Communities noted that completing the Commonwealth Capital scorecard was a useful exercise for determining where they were in their long-term growth strategy, planning, and overall direction. More than 350 cities and towns completed scorecards in fiscal years 2005 to 2011.

  • Issue categories:
    • Plan for and promote livable communities
    • Zone for and permit compact development
    • Expand housing opportunities
    • Redevelop sites and buildings
    • Conserve natural resources
    • Advance sound water policy
    • Sustain working natural landscapes
    • Promote sustainable development via other actions
  • Number of questions: 27
  • Scale of each rated component: Varies, up to 10
  • Summary score: Yes

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Project-Specific Scorecards

Project-specific scorecards help a community see how a proposed development would affect the community socially, economically, aesthetically, and environmentally and how well it meets established smart growth goals. Each scorecard poses questions to help evaluate current and potential development projects. The questions and answers can also shape the conversation about the community's development patterns. These scorecards rate projects according to a structured standard, allowing comparison of projects.

Smart Scorecard for Development Projects

Year developed: 2002

The Congress for the New Urbanism

The Smart Scorecard for Development Projects helps decision-makers, municipal planners and staff, neighborhood organizations, and developers determine whether a specific project is fulfilling a community's smart growth goals. A comprehensive, technical tool, it is flexible enough to be adapted to a community’s needs. This scorecard can help communities begin to use concepts that enhance discussions about how and where to grow next.

  • Issue categories:
    • Proximity to existing/future development and infrastructure
    • Mix and balance of uses
    • Site optimization and compactness
    • Accessibility and mobility choices
    • Community context and site design
    • Fine-grained block, pedestrian, and park network
    • Diversity
    • Reuse and redevelopment options
    • Process collaboration and predictability of decisions
  • Number of questions: 67
  • Scale of each rated component: Varies
  • Summary score: No

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Mobile, Alabama - Smart Growth Criteria Matrix

Year developed: 2003
City of Mobile, Alabama, Urban Development Department

Mobile's Urban Development Department developed the Smart Growth Criteria Matrix, a project-specific assessment tool to rate specific development projects according to smart growth criteria that the city adopted in 2003. Developers can also use it as a self-rating tool when they are assembling a proposal.

  • Issue categories:
    • Located in desired development zone
    • Located in focused public improvement area
    • Located in existing community
    • Mixed use
    • Residential use
    • Commercial use
    • Street
    • Building
    • Site
    • Transit proximity
    • Ped/bike use
    • Open space
    • Environmental
  • Number of questions: 56
  • Scale of each rated component: Varies, weighted 0 to 5
  • Summary score: Yes

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New Jersey Future - Smart Growth Scorecard: Proposed Development

Year developed: 2002

New Jersey Future: Scorecards Exit

Smart Growth Scorecard: Proposed Development is a project-specific assessment tool used to rate development proposals based on general smart growth criteria proposed by New Jersey Future. Questions are arranged in categories that include proximity to existing development and infrastructure, walkability, housing options, mobility, and open space protection. It is useful for a range of projects, particularly for larger projects.

  • Issue categories:
    • Near existing development and infrastructure
    • Range of housing options
    • Protects open space, farmland, and critical environmental areas
    • Mix of uses
    • Choices for getting around
    • Walkable, designed for personal action
    • Respectful of community character and design
  • Number of questions: 26
  • Scale of each rated component: Varies, weighted 1 to 4
  • Summary score: Yes: letter grades from A to F.

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Maryland - Smart Growth Scorecard

Year developed: 2002

Maryland Office of Smart Growth (now Maryland Department of Planning) Exit

Maryland's Smart Growth Scorecard is an assessment tool used to identify the smart growth attributes of specific development projects. It was developed in coordination with numerous state agencies and went through an informal peer review with the private sector and local governments.

  • Issue categories:
    • Priority funding areas
    • Location
    • Service provision
    • Density and compactness
    • Mixed use
    • Housing diversity
    • Transportation
    • Walkable and transit friendly
    • Community character and design
    • Environmental protection
    • Stakeholder participation
    • Economic development
  • Number of questions: 62
  • Scale of each rated component: N/A, Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent
  • Summary score: Yes

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Austin, Texas - Smart Growth Matrix

Year developed: 2001

City of Austin, Texas

Austin's Smart Growth Matrix is an assessment tool to determine the smart growth attributes of a development project. City staff used the tool to evaluate the quality of the development within the context of smart growth criteria. Projects that significantly advanced smart growth goals were eligible for project incentives.

  • Issue categories:
    • Determine how and where development occurs
    • Improve our quality of life
    • Enhance our tax base
  • Number of questions: 27
  • Scale of each rated component: Varies, weighted 1 to 5
  • Summary score: Yes

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TND Design Rating System, Version 2.2

Year developed: 2005

The Town Paper Exit

The TND Design Rating System, Version 2.2 is a comprehensive, project-level assessment tool to rate development projects in a range of places, allowing comparisons among proposed projects. It also explains the tenets of traditional neighborhood development (TND). Each category has a definition, a method section for collecting data to rate the category, and a scoring system. Communities can decide which rating system components are most important and best reflect their values.

  • Issue categories:
    • Housing choice
    • Mixed use
    • Connectivity
    • External connections
    • Proximity
    • Location
    • Streetscapes
    • Civic space
    • Architectural aesthetics
  • Number of questions: 9 (broad categories)
  • Scale of each rated component: 1 to 5, then weighted
  • Summary score: Yes

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New Westminster, British Columbia - Smart Growth Development Checklist

Year developed: 2004

City of New Westminster, British Columbia: Planning Exit

New Westminster, British Columbia, developed the Smart Growth Development Checklist to assess proposed development projects by adapting the New Jersey Future proposed development scorecard. The scorecard enables applicants (developers) to have useful discussions with city staff about proposed developments. Communities interested in adapting a model scorecard to their own needs could compare this scorecard to the original New Jersey Future scorecard to see what changes New Westminster made.

  • Issue categories:
    • Accessibility
    • Housing choice
    • Efficient use of public funds
    • Protection of open space and natural areas
    • Placemaking
    • Shorter commutes and more transportation choices
  • Number of questions: 29
  • Scale of each rated component: Yes or No
  • Summary score: No

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Charlotte, North Carolina - Sustainability Index

Year developed: 2005

City of Charlotte Economic Development

Charlotte's Sustainability Index evaluates development and redevelopment projects that have requested city participation in transit corridors, business districts, and neighborhood infill areas. Broader than some project-level tools, the index rates projects based on the city council's strategic priorities, including healthy neighborhoods; efficient use of public funds; community safety and prosperity; and financial need, risk, and return. This index is particularly useful to communities interested in development and redevelopment projects that support policy goals.

  • Issue categories:
    • Supports healthy neighborhoods
    • Expands transportation choices
    • Uses public resources as a catalyst for desired outcomes
    • Builds competitive economic edge
    • Promotes design for livability
    • Builds planning capacity
    • Safeguards the environment
  • Number of questions: 17
  • Scale of each rated component: Excellent, Good, Fair
  • Summary score: Yes

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Component Scorecards

These scorecards help communities and residents assess specific aspects of their neighborhoods.

Bikeability Checklist

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center Exit

The Bikeability Checklist, produced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, and U.S. Department of Transportation, lets people rate the safety and efficiency of using a bicycle to get around. A user can review the questions, then take a ride in the community to shops, work, or a friend's house. Upon returning from the ride, the user can answer the questions in the checklist.

The checklist includes suggestions for making a community safer for bicyclists. These suggestions are organized based on the categories in the checklist and are divided into actions that can improve the community immediately and those will take longer. The checklist also includes an extensive resources section.

  • Issue categories:
    • Places to bicycle safely
    • Surface quality
    • Safety of intersections
    • Automobile driver behavior
    • Ease of use
    • What could make things safer?
  • Number of questions: 7
  • Scale of each rated component: 1 to 6
  • Summary score: Yes

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Walkability Checklist

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center Exit

The Walkability Checklist, produced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, is similar to the Bikeability Checklist. Users should familiarize themselves with the checklist before heading out on a walk in the community and answer the questions when they return. The checklist contains information for making improvements immediately and in the future and provides extensive resources.

  • Issue categories:
    • Room to walk
    • Ease in crossing streets
    • Automobile driver behavior
    • Ease in following safety rules
    • Was the walk pleasant?
  • Number of questions: 5
  • Scale of each rated component: 1 to 6
  • Summary score: Yes

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