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What Is Planning?


The following is intended to foster a better understanding of planning. Some people that do not have a complete understanding of planning look at planners as bureaucrats that create regulation to control people just for the sake of control itself. That could not be further from the truth.

What is planning? What makes human beings unique? The fact that we can plan. Our greatest achievements--from the ancient Roman cities to modern skyscrapers--have all resulted from our ability to envision the future and muster the resources needed to achieve it. That is what forms the core set of skills and philosophy underpinning the profession of planning.

Planning is not, of course, reserved for professional planners. We plan our day, think about our children's future, and plot an itinerary for a trip. Doesn't it make sense to think about the future of our communities and to take the trouble to ensure that the decisions we make today will result in a viable and healthy future?

Professional planners have studied the way our lives are influenced by physical, economic, and social forces. It's their job to help the rest of us shape the kinds of communities we want. Part of the job is done through zoning, the division of land into different types of uses to avoid nuisances and promote healthy and orderly development. Zoning is a tool, but it's not planning.

Planning involves many tools, including economic and demographic analysis, natural and cultural resource evaluation, goal-setting, and strategic planning. Besides being the only profession specially trained to look at how these elements fit together, planners bring something more. They can offer options--so that communities and their citizens can achieve their vision of the future. Planners are the key to implementing the wishes, hopes, and aspirations of citizens all across the spectrum. Isn't that what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he envisioned a true American democracy?


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