An official website of the United States government.

This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2021. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work. More information »

Smart Growth

Smart Growth Self-Assessment for Rural Communities

The Smart Growth Self-Assessment for Rural Communities (2015) is a compilation of strategies, organized by 11 common "goal areas," that villages, towns, and small cities can use to evaluate their existing policies to create healthy, environmentally resilient, and economically robust places. This self-assessment was developed as part of EPA's Smart Growth Implementation Assistance project in Madison County, New York. For more information about the project, see Smart Growth Self-Assessment for Rural Communities: Madison County, New York.

Cover of Smart Growth Self-Assessment for Rural CommunitiesDownload the Smart Growth Self-Assessment for Rural Communities (PDF).

What does it do?

This self-assessment helps communities identify gaps in their policies, plans, codes, and zoning regulations by asking a series of "Yes" or "No" questions. All communities begin by completing the self-assessment's Revitalize Village and Town Centers section, which gives a baseline indication of smart growth development policies within the jurisdiction. It goes beyond regulatory issues to help communities take stock of their local initiatives, strategies, and plans.

Rural communities are not all the same, and this tool shares practices that a variety of rural places have used to improve their economies, environment, health, and quality of life. It includes resources and examples from communities around the country.

Who should use it?

This self-assessment tool is broad and interdisciplinary. Each section focuses on a specific set of issues and will likely require input from multiple parts of the local government, as well as from community residents and other stakeholders.

Although a community does not necessarily need to complete all sections of the self-assessment, this tool works best when communities use it comprehensively and a local leader facilitates the process, such as a mayor, city manager, town planner, or anyone with a broad community focus.

How can this tool help rural places?

This tool addresses the challenges that face smaller communities. Rural communities often lack staff capacity and resources. This tool helps prioritize strategies and identify low-hanging fruit that can move a community closer to its economic, social, and environmental goals. Because rural communities often do not have zoning or development codes, this self-assessment focuses on policies, programs, and initiatives rather than strictly regulatory measures.

Using the tool

The individual sections of the tool are linked to fillable MS Word documents (which will download automatically when you click on the link) in the numbered list below. At the bottom of this page is the link to the complete PDF.

Goal Areas

XI. Use Energy Efficiently and Provide Renewable Energy (fillable version)(5 pp, 36 K, 2016)

Find more resources on smart growth in small towns and rural communities.

You may need a PDF reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.