Sun Prairie development (copy)

A hotel under construction last year in Sun Prairie. A regional development plan informed by a new survey could influence the scope and density of future development.

With Madison’s population expected to grow by 160,000 in 25 years, regional planners are banking on an accessible survey tool to help inform the direction of future growth.

A Greater Madison Vision is an effort to create a regional development plan that will reflect the priorities of the communities it represents by using an online survey that allows citizens to simulate different planning priorities. The hope is the survey will reach 10,000 people and help save money for taxpayers and businesses in the coming decades by predicting where growth will occur and how.

The Capital Area Regional Planning Commission is partnering with marketing firm DesignCraft to create the survey, which will go live on Sept. 12. The survey will feature four parts designed to determine resident preferences for future development.

Ald. Larry Palm, District 12 and chair of the CARPC, said the survey is designed to be more accessible than a traditional survey by allowing residents to design their region’s future by responding to four types of change: environmental, technological, societal and population-related. The survey indicates how different priorities would theoretically alter future realities, such as average miles driven, average household energy costs and emergency services costs.

Steve Steinhoff, deputy director of CARPC, said the hope is to engage all interested parties in the planning process, not just the individuals with the time and money to make it to listening sessions and meetings. He said he hopes the survey will be compelling and user-friendly enough to draw interest from all corners of the region, especially among rural and minority communities that usually have low participation in planning processes.

The test survey does not allow respondents to place equal priority among any two goals, forcing some difficult decisions. For example, respondents will have to choose whether they prioritize clean energy over expanded housing options or community resources.

Palm said the commission will be working with youth organizations to help spread awareness and promote engagement with young people who are in high school or older. The commission will also provide incentives to youth who help spread the word about the program and adapt their advertising strategy to fit each community covered by the plan.

Steinhoff said the commission is tailoring its outreach methods based on recommendations from community leaders.

“In Monona, we met with the mayor and they said, ‘We have a radio station that reaches thousands of people,’” Steinhoff said. “We’re having conversations just like that all over.”

Palm said the commission is basing its approach on a successful regional planning initiative in Salt Lake City, Utah, which designed its plan through similar steps meant to determine long-standing community goals and direct development to achieve those goals. In Madison, CARPC has already taken surveys to identify community goals, which include fighting poverty, increasing jobs and creating affordable housing.

The newest survey will use that data to present people with different development scenarios that could achieve those goals, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Palm said the survey results will help create a regional plan that should lead to greater savings for taxpayers down the line.

Better planning can help utility companies like Madison Gas and Electric save money by helping the utility plan more efficient means of providing energy to customers, Palm said. Cities can likewise use it to better determine where to make investments in infrastructure or services that will conform to future development.

“My main goal is for cities to use this to save money on providing services, utilities will use it save money and not charge ratepayers, and non-profits will be targeting services which are best suited for their constituents,” Palm said. 

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