Chapter Library

The Alaska Chapter has the following materials available for loan to any Alaska Chapter member.

APA Training CDs

  • Defensible Design Review: Designing new and reshaping existing patterns of development
  • Smart Growth Street Design
  • New Technologies for Planning and Public Participation
  • The Economics of Density
  • Planning Law in Perspective
  • Strategic Management for Planning Agencies
  • Project Management


To borrow any of the above materials, please contact Laurie Cummings.


Alaska Planning Commission Handbook (pdf)

If you have any suggestions about materials that should be acquired for the library, materials you would like to donate or items you are willing to loan out to other planners, please contact the Chapter PDO.


Alaska Municipal League

Canadian Institute of Planners



International Association for Public Participation

New Zealand Planning Institute

Glossary of Planning Terms

Absentee — a commission member who is not in attendance at a meeting.

Abstain — to refrain from casting a vote.

Accessory Use — a permitted building or activity that is secondary to the main use on the same site. It is allowed without prior review or approval. For example, a smokehouse or tool shed on a single—family residential lot.

Adjourn — to close a particular session; to suspend a meeting or a proceeding to a future time.

Agenda — a schedule of items intended to be take up at a meeting.

Appeal — a request seeking relief from a decision already made by the commission or official.

Borough — a form of regional municipal government.

Buffering — cushioning, shielding, or protection between uses, such as vegetation.

Building Area — the total square footage of a lot that is covered by a building, excluding steps, decks, and patios.

Bylaws — rules adopted by a commission which govern its procedure.

Capital Improvements Program — a list or schedule of public projects that a city or borough intends to undertake over a specified period of time. Projects are prioritized, costs are estimated, and methods of financing are described. The capital improvements program should be consistent with policies in the comprehensive plan and should be updated annually.

Chair — the presiding officer of the commission or of a meeting or proceeding.

Charter — the governing document of a home rule municipality.

City — a form of municipal government.

City Council — the legislative or governing body in cities.

Cluster Subdivision — a cluster subdivision is a form of development that permits a reduction in lot area provided there is no increase in the number of lots permitted under the conventional subdivision or increase in the overall density of development.

Commercial Use — a use of land devoted to commercial or business purposes, such as retail sales, services, or business offices.

Comprehensive Plan — a written legal document, which may include or be accompanied by graphics, adopted by the governing body containing policies that will guide land use and development in the community.

Conditional Uses — uses that are not permitted outright in the zoning ordinance but may be allowed in a zoning district after certain conditions are met which are designed to safeguard neighboring properties.

Dedication — the gift or donation of private property by the owner to a city or borough or other public body. A dedication is completed through the conveyance of written deed or title and a formal acceptance by the public body.

Ex parte Contact — any contact outside of the public hearing in a land use case by a member of the decision—making body and someone wishing to directly or indirectly influence the outcome of the case.

Findings — facts determined by the commission in reference to its decision, either on an application or on a particular phase of an application.

Floor area ratio (FAR) — the gross floor area of all buildings or structures on a lot divided by the total lot area (FAR = total building floor area ~ total lot area).

Goal — a statement of the values and desires of the citizens of an area. A goal provides the basis for subsequent objectives and policies.

Industrial Use — a use of land devoted to manufacturing or industrial processing.

Infrastructure – physical improvements, structures, or installations which provide common services to a community or geographic area, e.g. water, sewer, gas mains, or electric power lines.

Local Government — a city or borough in Alaska.

Majority — more than half. On a public body, the majority is half the total membership plus one.

Master Plan — common use term for "comprehensive plan."

Mayor — the chief elected official in Alaska cities and boroughs.

Minutes — the chronological record of the proceedings of a public body.

Motion — an overture by a member of the commission by which the member attempts to bring a matter of business before the body. Also a request for a particular ruling by a party before an adjudicatory body.

Notice — published information regarding an impending meeting, proceeding, or hearing giving at least time, date, place, and purpose.

Objective — a specific and achievable attainment that is met in partial fulfillment of longer term goals.

Plat, final — an approved subdivision map that is filed in the district recorder's office. It must contain the information required by AS 29.40 as well as that required by local ordinances such as a legal description of all properties in the subdivision, street rights-of-way, easements, and lot lines. Final plat approval is usually given upon completion of the improvements or the posting of a bond guaranteeing construction of the improvements.

Plat, preliminary — a draft map showing the proposed layout of subdivision submitted to the staff and the platting authority for preliminary approval.

Public Hearing — a public proceeding at which the public is given the right and opportunity to speak regarding a particular matter or issue.

Quasi—judicial Action — a judicial action taken by a public person or body (i.e., the planning commission) who is not a judge. It involves an official decision on the respective rights or claims of parties appearing before the body making the decision.

Quorum – the number of members of a body who, by law or rule, must be present in order that a meeting be convened.

Record – a document kept in the ordinary course of business by a governmental unit. Also the written expression of the proceedings of the commission. Meeting minutes are one form of record.

Rezone — the reclassification of land from one land use zoning designation to another.

Right—of—way — is a legal right of passage over another's property and the area through which that right exists. It most commonly refers to the streets and sidewalks, trails, curbs and gutters (if applicable), and utilities.

Setback — the distance that a building must be set back from a property line or right—of—way. Setback requirements will often differ with the zoning district and are included in the zoning ordinance.

Variance — a waiver of the provisions of the zoning ordinance when strict application of the ordinance would cause exceptional, practical difficulties, or undue hardship to the property owner. Property standards in the ordinance are adjusted because the specific location, topography, shape, size or other environmental features of a lot make it impossible to comply with the zoning regulations as written. The variance allows the property owner to use his/her land at the same intensity and develop it for the same uses allowed others in the same zone.

Zoning — an application of the police power to regulate the use of land and the improvements on it for the protection of the public health, welfare, and safety. Zoning regulations establish standards for development and create a number of different zoning districts or classifications of land. Development and construction must be consistent with these criteria before being approved by the commission or the governing body.

Types of Plans

Airport Master Plan

What is an airport master plan?

An airport master plan helps the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plan the future of Alaska's airports. The airport planning process involves listening to input from airport users, community members, and regulatory agencies, and then identifying an airport's needs and issues. The goal of the master plan is to identify improvements that accommodate aviation demand while also resolving any operational, environmental, or other challenges. The airport master plan then describes both the needed improvements and the timing of these improvements over the short and the long term. The planning horizon will typically cover a 20-year time period.

How long will the planning take?

Development of the airport master plan will take about two years. During this time, team members will assess the conditions and needs at the airport, develop a range of alternatives for addressing those needs, develop the controlled aerial photography, contour mapping, and layout plans to depict the airport improvements, complete an environmental impact analysis of proposed improvements, and compile this information in a final airport master plan that will guide airport development over the next 20 years.

Airport Master Plans

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport

Girdwood Airport Master Plan Update

Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)

What is a Capital Improvement Plan?

The capital improvement program (CIP) is one of the most powerful tools for implementing a community's comprehensive plan when CIP projects are linked to the goals and objectives of the comprehensive plan. The CIP ultimately influences the pace and quality of development in a community.

Contents of the CIP

A completed CIP contains a list of capital improvement projects by priority, information about each project, a schedule for seeking funding, and a construction schedule. The CIP will include projects that are needed right away and projects that will be needed over the next five or six years. Each year as the projects are funded and completed the CIP is updated to add new projects and to reflect changes in community needs and priorities.

Comprehensive Plan

What is a Comprehensive Plan?

According to the Planning Commissioner's Handbook, the comprehensive plan is a blueprint for guiding development in a community and includes information on the many facets of a community such as population/ demographics, physical conditions, land use, the environment, transportation, and legal and fiscal aspects. The plan reflects the vision and direction of residents. Through the comprehensive plan's vision, goals, objectives, policies and implementation strategies, it provides a framework for decision-making regarding land use, transportation, housing, public facilities, and economic development. While the comprehensive plan deals with growth and development in general, it must not be vague or difficult to interpret. The success of the comprehensive plan depends on the community's commitment to planning and its acceptance of the plan as a valid expression of community attitudes, values, and agreed-upon direction. It helps ensure predictability in the future by guiding decisions and courses of action that are taken today.

The comprehensive plan can be referred to as the general plan, master plan, or even the land use plan, and is meant to serve several purposes.

Fulfills Legal Obligations
Alaskan communities must have an adopted comprehensive plan before they may adopt land use regulations such as a zoning ordinance. Increasingly, state and federal agencies require a plan as a condition of receiving grants.

Provides Vision of the Future
The plan contains long-range goals, objectives and policies that describe how, where, and in what manner physical development of the community will occur. The plan contains a map depicting intended land use by both type and location. The plan also links together physical development with considerations about social needs and economic development.

Serves as a Decision-Making Tool
The plan is a guide for decision-making and a blueprint for growth. Elected officials and planning commissioners will rely on and use a thoughtfully prepared plan when they make decisions that affect and shape the community's future.

Serves a Coordinating Function
The plan provides an opportunity to place under a single cover, policies for a wide range of municipal activities such as land use, utilities, recreation, and transportation This coordinating function of the plan can reduce the opportunity for contradictory policies from different municipal departments.

Economic Development Plan

What is a Capital Improvement Plan?

Economic Development Plans can be used to expand opportunity for commerce and industry and provide more jobs or job opportunities in the community. Economic development is about retaining existing businesses, starting new businesses in your community, and encouraging businesses to relocate to your community. Typically, planning commissions and the media focus only on the businesses moving to the community and ignore the other two opportunities. A company just starting up or an existing company adding jobs may actually be more valuable than a business relocating to your community. New and expanding businesses may actually provide more, and often better jobs, than relocations do. Economic development plans also address ways to reduce costs of living within the community.

Housing Plan

What is a Housing Plan?

Housing Plans address infill, urban renewal, rehabilitation, and small business development. Housing is one of the most important elements in our lives and our communities – socially, physically, and economically. In Alaska, federal agencies such as the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Rural Development, and the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) as well as the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and regional housing authorities influence the funding of affordable housing in communities. Location of new housing and the feasibility of rehabilitating older housing are the greatest determinant of where future infrastructure, such as water, sewer, and utilities, will go.

Open Space Plan

What is an Open Space Plan?

Open space plans to meet the need (psychological and physical) for contrast and change from the indoor environment. Whether it be private open space (retention of vegetation through site-development requirements) or public (parks or wilderness), open space relieves the stressfulness of the urban environment. The open space plan is not the same as the parks and recreation plan. Open space plans define areas for active and passive uses and policies for acquisition and management. The plans can also set aside natural areas such as wetlands, habitat or subsistence use areas as open space. As with parks, once land is developed (i.e. with structures or roads), it almost never reverts to open space.

Parks, Recreation and Trails Plans

What are Park, Recreation and Trail Plans?

These are an expression of the community's objectives, needs, and priorities for the provision of leisure space, and recreation services and facilities. The plan provides a guide for public policy and private decisions related to the scope, quality, and location of leisure opportunities to meet the needs of residents and visitors. The plan should be long-range and comprehensive. It should describe alternatives, recommendations, and guidelines for public and private decisions related to the use and preservation of open space for recreation. The plan should detail community recreation needs (parks, trails, facilities) and translate them into specific sites to acquire or develop. It also details policies, practices, or criteria related to the design and management of these spaces and services. The community will review how a specific subdivision will impact those needs defined in the Parks, Recreation, and Trails Plans. This is important because once land is developed, it almost never reverts to a pre-developed condition.