THE SPECIFIC CONCERNS OF PLANNING
What might a community seek to achieve through planning? In a growing community, planners might be concerned with shaping the pattern of growth to achieve a sensible and attractive land-use pattern. That concern means avoiding both oppressively dense development and overly scattered, fragmentary development. It means encouraging a pattern of development that gives residents ready access to recreational, cultural, school, shopping, and other facilities. It means having a street pattern that is convenient to use and through which traffic flows without excessive congestion. It means separating incompatible land uses and activities, for example, high-intensity commercial activity from residential areas. In a modern planned community, it might mean providing a system of pathways so that pedestrian and bicycle traffic is separated from automobile traffic.
The community's planners will also be concerned with the location of public facilities like schools and social service centers, both for the convenience of the people served and for reinforcing the development of a desirable land-use pattern. If the community anticipates or desires significant industrial or commercial development, its planners will be concerned with seeing that sufficient, conveniently located blocks of land are available and that they are served with adequate roads, water, and sewer facilities.
In an older community that is not growing and that does not anticipate growth, planners may be concerned primarily with preserving or improving that which now exists. Thus planners may focus on measures to preserve the quality of the housing stock. In many communities planners will also be concerned with housing cost questions, specifically, how to provide housing for the community's lower-income residents. In many older communities, planners devote much effort to preserving historic buildings and other landmarks. If the community is concerned (as many are) about the health of its downtown, planners may be involved in implementing street improvements and other changes designed to help downtown businesses compete successfully with establishments in outlying areas.
In a community that faces a serious unemployment problem or that sees its property tax base as being inadequate, economic development may be a major task of the planners. Much of their effort may be devoted to creating conditions that encourage existing industry to remain and expand, and new firms to locate within the community.
In recent years much planning effort has focused on environmental issues: how to guide and manage development to minimize environmental damage. For example, a planner may be concerned with evaluating the relative environmental merits and financial costs of landfill disposal versus incineration for a municipality's solid wastes and then with helping select the best site. As concern with climate change has grown, planners in many communities have become concerned with minimizing the total use of nonrenewable energy in transportation and buildings.
Planners employed by regional planning organizations may be concerned with improving the regionwide road network, with acquiring or developing land for a regionwide park and open-space system, or with improving regionwide sewage disposal and water systems. They will also be concerned with encouraging coordination between the planning efforts of the various municipalities in the region to avoid duplication of capital facilities and interference effects (for example, community A siting its landfill operation at a point where it borders a residential area in community B).
This is far from a complete listing. It is simply meant to give some feeling for the range of planning issues.