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Civic Participation

Participation by a wide variety of community stakeholders in the planning process is essential. In an excellent report by the Center for Livable Communities titled Participation Tools for Better Land Use Planning, the value and necessity of civic participation is outlined in the following five points.

Civic participation in the land use planning process:

1. Ensures that good plans remain intact over time

2. Reduces the likelihood of contentious battles before councils and planning commissions

3. Speeds the development process and reduces the cost of good projects

4. Increases the quality of planning

5. Enhances the general sense of community and trust in government

The report provides descriptions and resources for a range of civic participation techniques including Computer Simulation, Simulation Games, Guided Tours, Design Charettes, Visual Preference Survey, Visioning, Media Strategies, Facilitated Meetings, and Formal Neighborhood groups.

National Charrette Institute In order to foster healthy communities, this Portland-based nonprofit institution teaches the process of collaborative community planning and facilitates charrettes.

Community Rules: A New England Guide to Smart Growth Strategies A guidebook by the Conservation Law Foundation and the Vermont Forum on Sprawl for volunteer board members, planners, concerned citizens, and others who want to achieve smart growth in their communities through better planning, zoning, and permitting.

Glynwood Center This New York organization strives to help communities integrate their natural resources, cultural heritage, and economic development potential, and thus embrace community stewardship.

Groundswell A publication of the Vermont Design Institute that highlights tools for community building, visioning, design charrettes, design review districts, and open-space planning, and also discusses principles of sustainability, defines design vocabulary, and includes several inspirational pieces.

Participation Tools for Better Land Use Planning Published by the Local Government Commission.

Lights, Camera, Community Video The Orton Family Foundation, in partnership with the American Planning Association, offers this manual aimed at boosting citizen involvement in community planning, based on work with five communities in Vermont and Colorado. The manual is written to help a community produce a high quality, professional video that documents the history of a community and identifies areas that need attention in the planning process.

Pathways to Planning A tool to help communities diagnose and address current planning issues and needs, from the Vermont Forum on Sprawl in partnership with the Orton Family Foundation, includes citizen involvement strategies.

Planning for Community, Energy, Economic, and Environmental Sustainability (PLACE3S) A land use and urban design method created specifically to help communities understand how their growth and development decisions can contribute to improved sustainability.

Putting the People into Planning: A Primer on Public Participation in Planning A "how to" manual for developing and managing successful programs for citizen involvement. Published by the Oregon Land Use Information Center.

Building Citizen Involvement: Strategies for Local Government This training workbook, developed jointly by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the National League of Cities (NLC), is designed to give elected and appointed local government officials the information, tools, and skills needed to be effective in promoting citizen involvement and community problem solving. ICMA Telephone number for orders: 800-745-8780. E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

CUBE: The Center for Understanding the Built Environment. Sponsors Box City and Walk Around the Block, programs to provide children with hands-on introduction to community design and planning principles.

The Smarter Land Use Project Works to help citizens’ groups with proposed land development and revitalization. Provides a collaborative, citizen-based process for conceptualizing new land development and revitalization projects.

The Neighborhood Charette Handbook Describes the Charette method as one of the best tools to build a successful planning and community sustainability process.

Integrative Strategies Forum Sponsors a Sustainable Communities Program with an emphasis on citizen participation in developing and implementing local visions of a sustainable future.

Community Voices for Sustainability -- A Workshop Guide Presents a guide for helping community members identify genuine decision-making opportunities and for building a community-wide process for promoting sustainability. Available from the Izaak Walton League of America Sustainability Education Project, 707 Conservation Lane, Gaithersberg, MD 20878-2983.

Creating a Local Greenprint for Growth This working paper from the Trust for Public Land includes a chapter specifically on Engaging the Public, with strategies for keeping the public informed and involved in land conservation.

Ruth Vreeland Public Participation Guide This web page from the Institute for Local Self Government in California offers Public Participation Tips, a glossary of land use terms, and information on how to get involved in land use decisions.

Picture Maryland This 32-page booklet and companion website offer a citizen's guide to shaping the future of Maryland. Picture Maryland provides citizens with information about community design, open space, transit, and other growth issues, and furnishes contact information for local government planning offices.

Massachusetts Citizen Planner Training Collaborative The CPTC provides local planning and zoning officials with tools to make effective decisions regarding their community's current and future land use. Their website offers example bylaws and on-line training sessions.

North Carolina Citizen Planner Training Program This 10-module training program was developed by the North Carolina chapter of the American Planning Association. It is designed to familiarize planning commissioners or board members with the planning process in the state. The program can be downloaded as shareware.

Community & Environmental Defense Services A combination of a traditional nonprofit, a law clinic, and a consulting group that helps people organize and obtain services to defend their community and environment from the impact of poorly planned land development activities.