path for a sustainable future

Development Scenarios: Choose Our Future

To define a sustainable approach to development and investment, a model was developed using land use, transportation and employment data, the results of which were used to evaluate two development scenarios projected into the future. The scenario model serves as a valuable resource for Onondaga County, providing an effective way for planners and citizens to understand the relationships between policy choices and the resulting impacts to communities. By quantifying the impacts of land use development changes over time, the scenario model identifies how all of our choices, large and small, impact our desire for efficient, affordable and attractive communities.

How the Model Worked

Two hypothetical future year land development scenarios were created and mapped for Onondaga County (a more detailed discussion of the modeling behind each development scenario can be found in the Scenario Modeling Exercise Technical Memorandum):

  • Future A – Our current trend, pace and pattern of growth that we’ve been experiencing over the past several decades, projected into the future; and

  • Future B – A pattern of future development that emphasized infill around existing population and employment centers and was reflective of Smart Growth principles.

To compare these two scenarios, a series of measurable indicators were identified. These indicators were based on core community values, the results of the ENVISION OUR FUTURE Public Workshop, municipal interviews and other public comments, as well as previous research and outreach efforts by SOCPA, SMTC and other organizations.

Once the scenarios were developed, their impacts on County-wide development patterns, demographic characteristics and environmental features were calculated. The final step in the scenario modeling exercise involved comparing the impacts of each scenario to one another. Onondaga County residents were then provided several opportunities in the fall of 2011 to vote for the scenario they preferred, including four open houses held across the County.


The open houses were held at the Oncenter, Onondaga Lake Park, Marcellus Town Park, and Manlius Village Center. To reach as many residents as possible and to accommodate their busy schedules, a virtual open house was also featured on

During the open houses, each participant was provided a ballot and asked to review the scenario model results and vote for a preferred future. The results from the four open houses and the virtual open house were then gathered and combined. Through these venues, County residents overwhelmingly indicated their support for the Smart Growth scenario. In fact, almost 90 percent of respondents preferred the Smart Growth approach over the continuation of our current development trends.

Model Results & Benefits of Smart Growth

Based on the results of the scenario model and comparisons between the two future scenarios, when compared with current development trends, development based on Smart Growth principles could result in:

For additional details about the results of the scenario model, download the Scenario Modeling Exercise Technical Memorandum.