The Planners Guide to CommunityViz

The Essential Tool for a New Generation of Planning

By Doug Walker, Thomas Daniels

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What does the future look like? Planners wrestle with this question daily as they strive to bring a community's vision of itself to life, in all its complexity. Here is an authoritative and accessible guide to a tool that combines 3-D visualization, data analysis and scenario building to let planners and citizens "see" the future impacts of a plan or development.

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Page Count
Date Published
April 1, 2011
APA Planners Press and the Orton Family Foundation

About the Authors

Doug Walker
A long-time practitioner of geodesign for planning, Doug Walker is the president of Placeways, makers of the popular CommunityViz software for planners and diverse web-based planning applications. Placeways' planning services consultants are scenario planning and analysis experts who support projects throughout the country.

Thomas Daniels
Tom Daniels is a Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania where he teaches courses on Environmental Planning, Land Use Planning, Land Preservation, and Growth Management. From 1989-1998, Tom served as the Director of the Lancaster County, PA farmland preservation program. He often serves as a consultant to local governments on growth management issues. He is the co-author of The Small Town Planning Handbook (3rd edition, APA, 2007), and The Planners Guide to CommunityViz (APA, 2011). He is the sole author of The Environmental Planning Handbook, 2nd edition (APA, 2014) and When City and Country Collide (Island Press, 1998). Tom has made many presentations at the APA National Conference and for APA's PTS program.

Table of Contents

I. Foundations
Chapter 1: Getting Started
Chapter 2: Technical Needs and Data Resources for CommunityViz
Chapter 3: Planning Study Design Guidelines
Chapter 4: Custom Impact Models and Analysis
Chapter 5: Three-Dimensional Scenes
Chapter 6: Getting the Most from 3-D
Case Studies: Klamath River, California and Oregon; Manchester, Vermont

II. Community Visioning, Values, and Growth Projections
Chapter 7: Visioning
Case Study: Metropolitan Boston, Massachusetts
Chapter 8: Growth Projections
Case Study: Middlebury, Vermont
Chapter 9: Value Mapping and Special Places
Case Studies: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; Exeter, Rhode Island

III. Making Plans
Chapter 10: Local Comprehensive Plans
Case Studies: Durango, Colorado; Moorseville, North Carolina
Chapter 11: Regional Land-Use and Transportation Plans
Case Studies: Greater Nashville, Tennessee;Washington County, Utah
Chapter 12: Site Selection and Assessment
Case Studies: Squamish, British Columbia, Canada; Calumet County, Wisconsin
Chapter 13: Resource Plans
Case Studies: Topsham, Maine; Delmarva Peninsula, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia

IV. Reviewing Regulations and Development Proposals
Chapter 14: Analyzing Zoning Regulations
Chapter 15: Cost-of-Services Analyses, Capital Improvements, and Pro Formas
Chapter 16: Design Review and Form-Based Codes
Case Study: Westminster, Colorado

V. Communicating and Interacting
Chapter 17: Public Meetings, Presentations, and Charrettes
Case Studies: Fort Lupton, Colorado; Northern Rocky Mountains, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Alberta and British Columbia, Canada
Chapter 18: Reports, Displays, and Websites
Chapter 19: Beyond Planning Projects



"GIS is more than maps — it's also sketching, modeling, analysis, visualization, and with the help of the CommunityViz extension, an ideal tool for community planning and citizen engagement. This book vividly demonstrates the multi-purpose, multi-layered nature of the technology. As a result, CommunityViz is changing the way planners use GIS. With its transparent and flexible design, CommunityViz opens up the planning process to more people. At the same time, it takes a lot of guesswork, speculation, and pure subjectivity out of the planning equation."

—Jack Dangermond
President, Esri

"I've been waiting for this book for years and it's all I hoped it would be. The Planners Guide to CommunityViz makes it clear that CommunityViz is not just planning software, but a well-aligned vision of planning supported with tools, processes, techniques and even caveats. This will be the cornerstone documentation for GIS-based planning decision support for years to come."

—Scott N. Lieske, PhD
University of Wyoming

"CommunityViz emerges as a mature tool with unmatched flexibility to construct and test robust scenarios at multiple scales in planning for sustainability. Along the way this engaging book also serves as a practical and straightforward primer on community planning."

—Uri Avin, FAICP
Regional Growth Management Leader
Parsons Brinckerhoff

"When communities and organizations want a tool that is easy to use, affordable, and informative, we recommend CommunityViz. Its flexibility, transparency, and robust modeling make it a tool we turn to in our mission to create vibrant, sustainable communities through informed and equitable decision-making."

—Ken Snyder
President/CEO, PlaceMatters

"For regional planners who are serious about engaging the public in the tough work of scenario analysis, CommunityViz is a critical tool. This book tells our story and offers many other concrete examples of how CommunityViz can support thoughtful, comprehensive deliberation."

—Holly St. Clair
Director of Data Services
Metropolitan Area Planning Council