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Scenario Planning

Berkeley County Scenario & Likely Impacts Analysis. General Process Map.
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Scenario Planning Process Overview.
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Berkeley County will complete a Scenario Planning and Likely Impacts Analysis to accompany the new One Berkeley Comprehensive Plan. The effort will contemplate alternative growth scenarios for the planning area, measure their impacts and evaluate the tradeoffs for meeting stated community goals in the comp plan while managing the County’s potential financial performance (return-on-investment) in future years.

The growth scenarios created for the analysis will also be used to evaluate infrastructure and government finance trade-offs associated with different development visions, which will influence the creation of the official Future Land Use Map for the new comp plan. Findings and conclusions from the analysis related to government finance, future land use categories, supporting infrastructure and the cost of providing government services will influence One Berkeley recommendations 

Who Is City Explained, Inc.?

Consulting firm City Explained, Inc. actively seeks to align itself with cities, counties, and regions that appreciate and uphold the virtues of community-based planning. The team emphasizes a process-driven approach to sustainable development and town-building; always with an eye toward sound technical analysis, meaningful public involvement and creative solutions for realizing a community’s vision.

The firm relies on creativity and national experience to provide clients with plans that are bold, achievable, and fiscally-responsible. City Explained’s flagship software product — CommunityViz — is widely used throughout North America and the world for scenario planning, decision analytics, and visualization.

What is Scenario Planning?

Scenario planning is a process that considers multiple futures for a planning area based on competing physical, policy or financial scenarios. Scenarios contemplated for the area are not forecasts or predictions, but possible futures that might occur based on physical features, community desires, infrastructure investments, or policy-decisions in the area. They represent possible futures based on what already exists, emerging trends and opportunities or community desires to change the future.

The essential requirement for any growth scenario is that it is plausible, within the realm of what exists today, or what could be in the future.

Each growth scenario contemplated for Berkeley County will include a theme, story and map to convey big ideas or important decisions facing the community. Their roots will be in a series of community meetings in the fall of 2020, which will be further refined by the project team to incorporate additional thoughts and ideas evaluated for the new comprehensive plan.

Detailed information about the alternative growth scenarios will be posted to the project website as it becomes available.

Ultimately, the scenarios themselves will be fictitious stories about the future and offer an objective view of the trade-offs associated with competing growth alternatives. Information presented for the Scenario Planning and Likely Impacts Analysis will be almost entirely data-driven, and the findings and conclusions presented from the analysis will respond to the data considered. It will be important to put this information in the context of the overall planning process for the Comprehensive Plan, and weigh recommendations from the analysis against the community vision and guiding principles created for the new Comprehensive Plan.

What is Return-on-Investment?
Return-on-investment (ROI) is a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or compare the efficiency of a number of different investments combined. ROI for the scenario planning and likely impacts report measures potential returns to Berkeley County in terms of increased local government revenues compared to the relative cost of providing facilities and services to support future growth and development in the planning area.

To calculate ROI, the total benefit (revenues) is divided by the total costs (expenses) for each of the alternative growth scenarios. The result is expressed as a ratio, and a value greater than 1.0 indicates expected annual revenues to the County will be greater than expected annual expenditures. The surplus each year could be available to the County to save for, purchase or finance new capital projects in the planning area.

Certain revenue categories for the County — ad valorem taxes and specific fees — are more sensitive than others to different development types, locations, patterns and intensities in the planning area. And, the official Future Land Use Map in the One Berkeley Comprehensive Plan will provide the first vision and policies for the county that influence the physical distribution of growth and the type of development in the planning area, which are implemented in the county’s zoning ordinance and official zoning map.

The decisions made while preparing and adopting the new Future Land Use Map will directly generate wealth potential for the county in terms of increased, decreased or stable revenues moving forward. Concurrently, the decisions made also impact the type, size, and distribution of different infrastructure needed to support future growth and development, which influences the costs-to-serve for each infrastructure category and might dramatically impact the county and their partners ability to provide specific facilities and services or control tax rates to keep up with anticipated growth.

Direct Links to the One Berkeley Comprehensive Plan
As communities grow, the demands placed on supporting infrastructure continue to rise and eventually necessitate additional capacity improvements to maintain adequate levels of services.

Traditionally, elected officials will rely on rising property taxes and special fees in addition to state or federal funding to pay for future year capital improvements. However, recent decreases in outside governmental funding, increases in construction costs for replacing and expanding infrastructure and facilities, and rising resistance to increased property taxes have led many local governments to reconsider how they fund and program future capital improvements and facilities.

The Scenario Planning and Likely Impacts Analysis is being completed concurrent with the One Berkeley Comprehensive Plan, and provides insights into the opportunities and trade-offs associated with multiple futures contemplated for the Berkeley County planning area. Findings and conclusions from the analysis will be shared with project team members during the comprehensive planning process, and influence the official Future Land Use Map and its supporting recommendations related to land use, natural resources, community facilities, transportation and priority investments in the Comprehensive Plan document.

Issues surrounding infrastructure deficiencies and expensive, unplanned improvements are exacerbated when decisions are made not to follow the adopted Future Land Use Map. To this end, the County’s Planning and Zoning Department should continue their involvement in the Capital Improvements Program and annual budget processes to ensure future development patterns and intensities (the “demand-side” of infrastructure planning) are considered when deciding how to make systems more efficient and less costly to build, operate, maintain, and replace.

Who Else Is Using Scenario Planning to Help Create Their Comprehensive Plan?
Scenario planning is widely used in communities ranging from small, newly incorporated towns to large regions to support more informed decision-making processes. Towns, cities, counties, and regions throughout the country are using scenario planning to develop comprehensive plans, small area plans, corridor studies, regional land use studies, long range transportation plans, growth strategies, and fiscal impact studies. Scenario planning studies to support a new comprehensive plan sometimes, like this one, have their legacy in a regional planning initiative (i.e., Our Region, Our Plan completed in the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorcehster region in 2008).