Zoning Practice — March 2012

Ask the Author

Here are reader questions answered by Devin Lavigne, AICP, author of the March 2012 Zoning Practice article "New Tools for Zoning and Development Visualization."

Question from Emily Dozier, AICP, Poughkeepsie, New York:

A question about using aerial Pictometry: we find Bing's bird's-eye views very useful, and wanted to include some in a recent plan. However, we were cautioned against publishing a document with Bing images in it. Can you provide guidance about what images (including Bing, Google Earth, and others) can be used in published planning documents?

Answer from author Devin Lavigne, AICP:

There is no question that the bird's-eye views are extremely useful to our field. They provide a unique perspective of site or study area and can enrich a document with interesting imagery. The bird's-eye images on Bing are provided by Pictometry International Corporation. If you look closely at the bottom of your screen on Bing, you will notice a Pictometry Copyright for the image. Using a copyrighted image without consent of the copyright holder is illegal, and acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission. However, our plans serve a public purpose, and to that end use of the imagery may be a "fair use" under the copyright law. But I would first consult an attorney.

Our firm maintains subscriptions to Pictometry's image database and we have a separate use agreement. I attempted to contact Pictometry to ask them how one would obtain permission to use an image from Bing, but I was transferred several times and did not manage to speak to anyone, and only "Coming Soon" is written on their website under Terms of Use. Google on the other hand makes it easy and clear. Visit this link for usage and permission guidelines: www.google.com/permissions/geoguidelines.html.

Question from Diane Zahm, AICP, Blacksburg, Virginia:

My students are working on a visual preference survey (VPS) as a way to determine what the Town of Fincastle, Virginia, likes or does not like with regard to development. Once we have the VPS results my goal is to use the results to help folks see how things "fit." For example, I can imagine people scoring some new subdivision home very positively, but if you actually put it somewhere in town, its size would be completely out of scale with existing development.

We are fast running out of time for the semester and, given the schedule for the VPS, I know the students won't have much time to do the 3-D work. I think details such as materials, colors, etc., are critical to the conversation, or otherwise we won't know much as we move into the development of regulations or design guidelines.

Any advice?

Answer from author Devin Lavigne, AICP:

How much detail you need to provide will vary by community, and likely the more sensitive a community is to new development, the more accurate illustrations will need to be. I once prepared quick 3-D development scenario for a site in a very affluent community, and the entire workshop focused on the size and proportion of the windows. Unless you are an architect that directly responds to community desires and can accurately represent them in 3-D illustrations, it may be best to draw from other imagery of existing development (in that community or elsewhere) that conveys what you are recommending.

For the visual preference survey, consider breaking the survey intro different sections and creating separate categories for images based on geography. This would allow you to be able to "apply" the results to appropriate areas.