Sustainable metropolitan development: a look at planning and development in Atlanta, Georgia
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This study analyzes the relationship between comprehensive planning and actual development (as measured by changes in welfare) for 158 jurisdictions in metropolitan Atlanta. Relying on ecological economics for a method to measure welfare and planning literature for a method to evaluate the content of comprehensive plans, this dissertation uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. Development is measured for four dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social, environment, and resource) using a modified Genuine Progress Indicator, and the metropolitan Atlanta area is found to have had weakly sustainable development from 1980 to 2000. In all places, economic welfare increased and resource welfare decreased. Social and environmental development had mixed results with about half of jurisdictions showing increases in environmental welfare while less than a handful showed increases in social welfare. Comprehensive plans were found to have a range of overall plan quality scores (the average of scores of policy statements in a plan) from 1.3 to 3.2 with a mean of 2.3 out of a maximum of 4. Of 2564 policy statements, 541 (or 21\%) were high quality statements scoring 4/4 points while 708 (or 28\%) received no quality points - they were weakly worded, vague, and not measurable. The average commitment to sustainable development (percent of policy statements in a plan that are related to a principle of sustainable development) is 39\% with a minumum of 9\% and a maximum of 80\%. Plan policy statements coded for principles of sustainable development were found to have significantly higher quality scores while overall plan quality scores were not found to be correlated to the plan commmitment to sustainable development; this implies that plans are generally either rigid (having highs scores) or visionary (having high commitment to sustainable development) overall. Plan quality was found to have a significant negative relationship with sustainable development, when dimensions are considered. This relationship was stronger for plans completed within the study time period (before 2000), suggesting that this relationship may be causal. The negative result is unexpected and leads to a rejection of the hypothesis that high quality planning would be significantly and positively related to development. On the other hand, plan commitment to sustainable development was found to be weakly positively related to sustainable development although the dimensions of this relationship changed over time. As such, the hypothesis that commitment to sustainable development would be significantly and positively related to development cannot be rejected. These results hold even when looking at distinct growth patterns across the metropolitan region, suggesting that the relationships between plans and development may be applicable to other places.