Creating Planning Documents

PAS Report 589

By Allyson Mendenhall, Claire Hempel, AICP CUD, Emily Risinger, Stephanie Grigsby, AICP

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Planners routinely create plans, reports, and guides to capture research, recommendations, program or process details, and stakeholder input. Creating these deliverables is a complex undertaking. Teams must work within project budgets and meet multiple deadlines while coordinating the involvement of collaborators representing different sectors, stakeholder interests, and levels of government.

A key element of successful planning processes or analyses can be whether the final report communicates project outcomes correctly, clearly, and compellingly.

Creating Planning Documents aims to advance planners’ ability to create successful planning documents and reports. Written by planning practitioners and based on hard-earned experience, this PAS Report standardizes guidance for planning documentation. It offers tools and knowledge required to create first-class planning documents by containing project scopes and using efficient processes. Seven chapters guide readers through the documentation process from concept to delivery, with checklists and templates to help track and coordinate production efforts.

The recommended practices detailed in Creating Planning Documents are valuable resources that will help any planning office efficiently produce high-quality planning documents.

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As an added feature, APA has created editable versions of templates in the report for planners to customize for their own projects.

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Executive Summary

About the Authors

Allyson Mendenhall, PLA, LEED Green Associate, is the director of Legacy Design at Design Workshop and a principal in the Denver office. She leads initiatives related to practice-based research, project sustainability agendas, and protocols for project and quality management. 

Claire Hempel, AICP CUD, PLA, LEED Green Associate, is a principal in Design Workshop’s Austin office. She oversees a wide range of planning and design projects, and has led numerous comprehensive community and environmental planning efforts. 

Emily Risinger, LEED Green Associate, NCI CS, is an associate at Design Workshop and executive director of the Design Workshop Foundation. Her work is recognized through many awards and speaking engagements. 

Stephanie Grigsby, AICP, PLA, LEED Green Associate, is a principal in Design Workshop’s Lake Tahoe office and serves on the board of directors of the Landscape Architecture Foundation. 

Design Workshop is an international practice providing landscape architecture, land planning, urban design, and strategic services to developers, government agencies, institutions, and other clients engaged in improvements to the land. 

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
Nov. 1, 2017
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

Table of Contents


Executive Summary

Chapter 1. An Industry Standard for Planning Documents
Why This Report?
Who Is This Report Written For?
About This PAS Report

Chapter 2. Scoping Considerations for Document Production
Scoping Considerations for a Planning Document
Developing a Project Schedule
Developing a Project Budget
Managing Change

Chapter 3. Planning the Document
Launching the Planning Document Effort
Planning the Document
Determining Writing and Graphic Style
Printing and Digital Specifications

Chapter 4. File Setup and Management
Initial Document Setup
Adding Content
Folder Structure and File Naming

Chapter 5. Content Collection and Creation
Research and Data Collection
Content Creation
Copyright Law
Citations and Recommended Stylebooks

Chapter 6. Draft Production
Draft Management
Editorial Process

Chapter 7. Document Delivery and Project Wrap-Up
Printing Considerations
Finalizing the Document
Digital-Only Deliverables
Wrapping Up a Successful Planning Document

Appendix A. Fee Spreadsheet Template
Appendix B. Document Production Checklist
Appendix C. Sample Tables of Contents
Appendix D. Exhibits Checklist
Appendix E. Table of Contents Checklist
Appendix F. Sample Style Guide
Appendix G. Comment Log Template
Appendix H. Quality Control Checklist: Written Content
Appendix I. Quality Control Checklist: Graphic Content
Appendix J. Quality Control Checklist: Adobe InDesign Printing and Delivery
Appendix K. Printing Checklist