Year of Publication

2009

College

Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Executive Summary

PURPOSE:

To analyze information gathered from community leaders and representatives to assist the Bluegrass Regional Planning Council (BRPC) in understanding how the policy issue of sustainable development is prioritized and perceived locally and regionally.

BACKGROUND:

The BRPC conducted a survey as a response to growing interest in the planning community involving sustainable development and more specifically the adoption of sustainable development code. Sustainable development is being defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”1 A. How do public officials and other community representatives prioritize sustainability among other policy issues? The BRPC staff received the full support of the Bluegrass Area Development District with the distribution of the survey through their newly created listserv. Surveys were distributed to judge-executives, mayors, Bluegrass Regional Planning Council members, Regional Transportation Committee members, and Natural Resource & Environmental Protection Committee members. In all, there were 50 respondents of the possible 182 eligible recipients. The major research questions of this survey were as follows:

A. How do public officials and other community representatives prioritize sustainability among other policy issues?

B. How do public officials rate the current sustainability of their community and the region?

C. How are subcategories of sustainability that have been designated by Region Planning Council Staff prioritized?

A comparative analysis was used to decipher preferences for respondents’ answers. In addition, further analysis was conducted using regressions to determine variable relationships between the general background information collected about respondents and how they responded to questions about sustainability.

FINDINGS:

Sustainability as a Low Priority

Survey respondents ranked sustainability as least important among the listed community and regional policy issues. It was determined through regression analysis that if the respondent was not a representative from a city there was a 1.886 increase in the ranking of sustainability on the local level. All other variables that were tested for were shown to be insignificant. On a regional level no variables were shown to be significant at any level and thus none of the independent variables can be used to draw any conclusions.

Sustainability Importance and Current Perception

Improved sustainability was perceived as an IMPORTANT policy issue on both a local and regional scale. Age was shown to influence the perception of sustainability on both the local and regional level. As the age bracket of the respondent increased there was a decrease in the perceived importance of sustainability. In addition, respondents believed that their current community sustainability was FAIR on a rating scale from Excellent to Poor. The tenure of the respondents in their current position was shown to influence how they responded. The longer that a representative was in their current position, the more sustainable their community was perceived as being. For the Bluegrass Area Development District respondents thought the sustainability of this regional entity was GOOD on the same type of rating scale. Education, income, and tenure were shown to influence how respondents answered this question. Again, long tenured representatives perceived the region to be more sustainable. As education and income increase there is shown to be a decrease in positive perception of regional sustainability.

Ranking of Sustainability Measures

Respondents believed that Housing (affordable housing, diverse housing, accessibility) was the most important sustainability measure for their community followed by the Environment (air, water, and soil quality, green infrastructure). Community Character (aesthetics, development patterns) was deemed the third most important measure followed by Natural Hazard (Floodplain Management, Fires), Transportation (Parking, Pedestrian Systems, Transit), and Energy (Renewable Energy, Efficiency Conservation). For the Bluegrass Area Development District, the Environment was seen as being the most important sustainability measure followed by Housing, Energy, Transportation, Natural Hazards, and Regional Character in that order. The importance of understanding these measures is that it will assist BRPC staff in the approach taken for creating and implementing a sustainable development code.

Recommendations:

It is recommended that this research be used as pilot study for further investigation into the issue of sustainability on local and regional levels.

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