Degree Type

Creative Component

Semester of Graduation

Spring 2020


Community and Regional Planning

First Major Professor

Biswa Das


Master of Community and Regional Planning (MCRP)


Community and Regional Planning


In order to regulate loss of agricultural land, Story County, Iowa implemented a Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) system. LESA is a scoring system created by the United States Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service (USDA SCS) in 1981 and adopted by Story County in 1985 to help county planners evaluate parcels. LESA uses multiple variables to determine a parcel’s score, that if high, is unlikely to permit non-agricultural development in order to preserve agricultural land. Currently, Story County planners manually score the entire LESA process, however, manual scoring increases the risk of error, does not allow humans to see the surrounding spatial context, and can be inconsistent and time consuming. To improve the LESA system in Story County, the study covers the creation of a LESA decision support tool for Story County using ArcGIS software and Python GIS programming. The LESA decision support tool builds efficiency by automating the land evaluation section of the LESA process, and seven of the ten steps in the site assessment section, for a total of eight steps. The automated LESA process helps give parcels consistent scores, provides spatial context, and helps to save planners’ time. It is expected that this tool will aid Story County planners to become more efficient and effective in making land-use decisions.

Copyright Owner

Nelson, Gabriel

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