First Friday: Technology, smarter development, and geodesign

At the March First Friday we learned about data, and how we can influence smarter development using technology and geodesign from Kristy Senatori, Deputy Director of the Cape Cod Commission. The Cape Cod Commission’s mission is to keep a special place special and protect the unique values and quality of life on Cape Cod by coordinating a balanced relationship between environmental protection and economic progress.

Kristy demonstrated information-gathering by giving us tiny devices and asking us survey questions throughout her presentation. With live results on the screen, the surveys showed how the demographics in the room stacked up to the Cape as a whole, and where our beliefs of what was happening on the Cape, development-wise, differ from the statistics.

The Commission recently released a market study, which recommends modifying traditional land use patterns with mixed use development, and redevelopment over new development. They promote smarter development where infrastructure can support it, using innovation and geodesign to find the most cost effective and efficient solutions to our biggest challenges. According to Ms. Santori, we need to increase inter-jurisdictional cooperation, through local comprehensive plans.

The Cape Cod Commission has a data warehouse and is continuing to collect data sets – creating data loops, posting data and adding value to it. They are looking to provide regionalized services wherever it makes sense, reducing cost by working more efficiently.

Historically this hasn’t been done on a regional basis. For example, Cape Cod towns have put separate planes in the air to capture geographic data, which is costly and incomplete (not all towns participate). Now the Commission is putting one plane into the air, saving a million dollars by doing it collectively.

Geodesign is “changing geography by design.” To that end, the Commission is working with ESRI City Engine to create a 3D model of Cape Cod.

They also work with towns to support local development and to stimulate their local tax base. To do this, the Commission created a scenario planning tool which takes land and breaks up the parcel into different scenarios. It then takes each scenario, and runs it through a fiscal model to see what impact it will have on the the town.

The Cape Cod Commission is also charged with a Section 208 Water Management Plan, providing scenarios the towns can implement. Through the use of technology and geodesign they’ve been able to find solutions faster than using traditional services.

There is a lot of data behind the water management plan. Wastewater is not only the Cape’s biggest environmental challenge, it’s our biggest economic challenge. If you’d like to see how it works, the program takes you through a watershed solution scenario.

The technology started with the watershed MVP (multi-variant planner) program, their first attempt at incorporating geodesign. They are also developing a land use MVP, addressing climate change, transportation, sea level rise, and capital infrastructure. For instance, coordinating underground wiring so the road is pulled up once.

One of the last questions on our survey was, “What is most important to you when considering potential development?” Our results showed almost half of us were most interested in protecting the environment, perhaps because protecting the environment would help build dynamic economic centers, create employment and business opportunities, attract income to the area, build reliable infrastructure and preserve historic character.

The Commission has an economic development perspective, with towns working together to save resources. They’re also looking to how we can promote growth where it’s important and how to protect the areas we need to protect.


Kristy Senatori leads the Commission’s Strategic Information Office and the information, innovation and design departments.  After graduating from law school Ms. Senatori worked in the private sector for several years before joining the Commission in 2008 and serving as the Commission’s Chief Regulatory Officer for four years.  Ms. Senatori is currently leading regionalization efforts and smarter government initiatives for the Commission.

Kristy graduated from Hamilton College, received a J.D. from Vermont Law School where she was editor of the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law, and is a member of the Massachusetts Bar.

Cape Cod Online has some photos from the event.


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