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.

The Planners Guide to CommunityViz is the first book to explain how to support planning projects with CommunityViz, GIS-based software that planners around the world are using to help decision-makers, professionals, and the public visualize, analyze, and communicate about development proposals, future growth patterns, and the outcome of particular plans or developments. It shows the planner which tools and techniques to use and how to use them for maximum effectiveness on planning projects large and small.

Full of practical examples and case studies, the book shows how CommunityViz can enliven the comprehensive planning process-from visioning, to public participation, to values mapping, to build-out analysis. Chapters show how to use CommunityViz to analyze zoning regulations, calculate the costs of community services, and evaluate development proposals requiring design review. In addition, it is applicable to transportation planning, natural-resource planning, land-development suitability assessment, and urban economic development analysis.

About the Authors

Doug WalkerDoug Walker is president and principal of Placeways, LLC, and is recognized nationally for his work as a developer of and practitioner with decision-support and visualization software programs. He has more than 25 years of experience including having been a senior executive for two major U.S. technology corporations. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in physics from Carleton College and a master of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois.


Tom DanielsTom Daniels is a professor and associate chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania. He has written or co-authored five other books about environmental, small town and rural planning. He has a doctorate in agricultural and resource economics from Oregon State University.

A Q&A with the Authors

Briefly, what is your book is about? What are its benefits to readers?
"Advances in computer technology and software are creating an exciting new generation of planning practice [and] helping drive this transformation is CommunityViz. Our book is the first to explain how to support planning projects with CommunityViz. It is full of practical examples and case studies. There are also chapters on everyday planning applications such as analyzing zoning regulations, cost of community services, and development proposals requiring design review."

Is there a particular segment of the planning profession or any nonplanning professional groups that might be especially interested in your book?
"It will appeal to any reader participating in planning projects that are supported, or could be supported, by CommunityViz. Readers do not need to be hands-on CommunityViz users to benefit from the book's insights on how to make best use of the tool, yet the book also contains valuable guidance for CommunityViz analysts."

Are there any non-planning professional groups that might be interested in the book?
"Besides professional planners, the book is designed to speak to planning students and educators; members of the public who want to engage more actively in their community's planning process; developers, architects, and landscape architects; natural resource management professionals; and GIS professionals."

Does the book have potential for classroom use, and if so, what type of classes?
"It has ample classroom potential, particularly for graduate planning courses on GIS and visualization. There is no other textbook on CommunityViz, and the range of planning applications that CommunityViz offers. The book [also] could be used in an  upper-level undergraduate GIS course, and graduate courses in geography, GIS, and environmental studies."

What would convince people to buy your book?
"If someone is interested in promoting public engagement and innovative planning processes and philosphies, this book should capture their attention. There's also the book's eye-catching color illustrations and practical applications of CommunityViz, which address real planning problems."

Product Details

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

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