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Iowa State University Extension

Good places become great places with community and regional planning

Gary Taylor and Alan Vandehaar

As Iowans seek ways to make their communities more attractive, ISU Extension is helping local elected officials and volunteers better understand how to use planning to create great places, cities and neighborhoods where people want to live. According to ISU Extension specialists Gary Taylor and Alan Vandehaar, planning allows communities to make efficient decisions about where and when to build streets, parks and other public works and to invest tax dollars wisely.

“Planning gives a community a way to set up some strategies for how it’s going to grow,” said Taylor, who also is an assistant professor in community and regional planning at Iowa State. “It also allows communities an opportunity to minimize conflict between landowners. If you have a land use plan that designates where different types of land uses should be located in the future, then it gives the individual private landowner an opportunity to make investments that make sense.”

Extension offers training programs in planning for local elected officials and “citizen planners,” such as the volunteers on the planning and zoning commission or the board of adjustment, Vandehaar said.

A three-hour workshop provides an introduction to planning and zoning, while the 12-hour Planning Officials Academy covers the development review process from start to finish. The ISU Extension specialists also will provide specific training for a community.

“Since 2005 we’ve done roughly 35 to 40 workshops around the state and reached about 1,800 people,” Taylor said.

Today’s citizens are taking an active approach to planning, he said. “When you have citizens actively involved in planning, then you also have a strong group of advocates in your community that are making sure the provisions of the plan are being carried out.”

With active citizens, local vision, public leadership and a combination of private and public development, communities can become great places to live, Vandehaar added.

Listen to an interview with Taylor and Vandehaar.

This article appeared in June 2009 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter