When we plan for a community, there is always something already there. Even a plan for an entirely new community (something that is quite rare) must address the natural conditions of the land, the statewide road network and other features that already exist. In most community plans, existing population, existing housing stock, the local job market, traffic loads and patterns, shopping habits and a variety of other social, economic and physical characteristics of a community provide the context from which a new plan must start. This chapter explains how planners inventory and evaluate existing conditions as a starting point for a plan.
Weblinks from Chapter
- Washington, Minnesota, Comprehensive Plan
- U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, North American Industrial Classification System
- Alachua County, Florida, GIS Portal
- U.S. Bureau of the Census, Information on the American Community Survey
- U.S. Bureau of the Census, User Friendly Entrance through American Factfinder
- Working as a group, gather some basic data on your community. Assign someone to get a soil survey, someone to get USGS maps, and someone to get a map of utility systems and service areas; if you have more people, assign more of the topics discussed in this chapter. Examine the data that you have gathered. What do they tell you about your community, even without taking the further steps necessary to analyze the data?
- Obtain basic data on your community from the last three available censuses. What are the population trends? How do those compare to the trends of your county or metropolitan region? To those of the state? Is the population getting older or younger? Why? From what you know about the community, can you explain those trends?
- Obtain copies of the most recent comprehensive plans prepared for your community. Compare the information in those to some of the descriptive data that you have obtained. Do those plans provide a realistic starting point for an existing conditions analysis?
- Look at the growth patterns of your community and study any recent building projects of the local school board or district. Are they complementary, or at least compatible? If not, why not?
- Invite your local planner to come to class and give a talk on existing conditions in the community. After the speaker leaves, discuss what she or he has presented in the context of what you have read here. Does your community (at least as represented by that professional) have a good understanding of where it is now?
See exercise 3 above, which would also make a good full-class exercise.
- This map of Midtown Wichita, Kansas, shows existing land use using standard color codes. Note that it is difficult to provide this level of detail for an entire community.
- For Waynesboro, Virginia, planners from consulting firm LandDesign mapped land-use trends, in addition to creating a separate map that shows existing land use. For the complete planning study, go to the Waynesboro Planning Department comprehensive plan website.
- In analyzing existing conditions, Alachua County, Florida, prepared maps showing strategic ecosystems and also analyzing the hydrologic formations affecting the Floridian, Aquifer, a major source of fresh water. For a complete set of plan maps, go to the map gallery.
- For other existing conditions inventories, analyses, reports and maps, see Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; Grandview, Missouri; Camas, Washington; Sandusky, Ohio; and Derby, Kansas.
- U.S. Geological Survey Topographic Maps Ordering Information
- Soil Conservation Service, Soils Manual
- Soil Conservation Service, County Soil Surveys
- U.S. Bureau of the Census, TIGER Maps
- Federal Emergency Management Administration, Floodplain Maps
Common Search Terms
Use these terms in search engines to find additional examples and other resources:
existing conditions, opportunities and constraints