Resources & Information


Useful Computer Programs State-by-State Information
Online Tools References & Reviews
Planning Firms Planning Resources by Subject / Category
Links to Other Materials Planning Organizations & Publications


Useful Software (at little or no cost)

Open Office: An open source version of Microsoft Office. It has all of the same features without the glitches. The cost of the program is $0, although it is suggested that you donate a few bucks to the organization that provides the program. It is 100% compatible with Microsoft Office, as well as a whole host of other programs, and works equally well on DOS machines, Macs (Mac version is called NeoOffice), and Linux. If you have not tried it out, Open Office takes a few minutes to download and install, but is well worth the time. One added benefit--it doesn't seem to be prone to crashing or glitches. We use Open Office and NeoOffice here at Dorsett Publications, and in four years, we have never lost a file or had the program lock up and fail. No blue screens of death here. This package has everything you need in an office program.

CMapTools: A free concept mapping software program from the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (Florida State University System). CMap is an excellent tool for designing process, planning projects, or simply sorting out ideas for a report. It is designed to be intuitive, but the website provides ample support and examples if you need them. CMap also has a couple of useful extras: 1) It allows you to set up concept maps that can be shared and co-created (others can work on the same map or add in resources), and 2) it allows you to attach other files (maps, online sites, documents, spreadsheets, etc.) to the concept map as you work on a project.

State-by-State Information

A Guide to State Enabling Legislation was created to go along with the article on understanding state enabling acts and provides a list of the locations for the planning enabling legislation in all 50 states. (Fall 2010)

Online Tools


Links to Other Materials

Each article includes links to useful information and direct examples of projects and programs on the web.

Open Government and the Freedom of Information Act.


Planning Organizations and Publications

Professional Planning Organizations

  • The America Planning Association. In addition to the national organization, the APA also has single and multi-state chapters and special divisions (County Planning, Environmental Planning, Small Town and Rural Planning, etc.) If you need access to information about planning, the state-level chapter of the APA is a good place to start. The American Planning Association is the primary organization for professional planners. Most of the materials are available to members only, but they do provide a significant amount of non-member information. The APA does have a section for Planning Commissioners and they sell planning commissioner training materials through their bookstore. The APA products (books, training cds and dvds, special reports) are a bit pricey, but they are the leading publisher of planning materials and information. The American Institute of Certified Planners is the APA's professional institute.
  • National Association of County Planners (NACP). NACP is an affiliate organization of the National Association of Counties and the only national organization dedicated to grappling with county-level issues and challenges. Their membership fees are vey reasonable, and they provide an excellent resource for anyone working in county planning. Most of their resource materials are available on their website at no charge, a real plus for citizens and planners interested in county-level issues.

Planning Publications

  • The Planning Commissioner's Journal (PCJ). PCJ has been around a long time (at least by publishing standards)...some 20 years...and has been providing excellent information to citizen planners and to those appointed to various local planning boards. Their articles are generally fairly short (1 to 3 pages) and written in clear, direct short an enjoyable and informative read. While citizens and planning commissioners are the target audience, professional planners would do well reading PCJ...if for no other reason than it offers easy to understand explanations of complex planning ideas and terms. The annual subscription rate is $55 per year, but they offer a discount rate for group subscriptions.

Planning Resources (Non-Profit Organizations, Information Clearinghouses, and Thinktanks)

  • Cyburbia. I have long been a fan of Cyburbia. Like Planetizen (listed below), Cyburbia has changed over the years, but it still remains one of the best planning forums online. Membership is free, and it takes very little time to join in the fray. It is also an excellent place to find out-of-the-box ideas for addressing planning problems, as well as some rather lively discussions.
  • Planetizen. In some ways, Planetizen is the equivalent of an online daily newspaper for planning and planners. If you are a planning junkie (a bit like a news junkie), this is the place to go to keep up with what is happening in planning. In addition to news, they also have feature articles, op-eds, announcements (jobs, publications, projects, etc.), and many of the other features associated with your local paper. As a side note, if you are a member of AICP and need continuing education credits, check out their courses. One of the single best continuing ed courses I took online as a six part class on the Census and ACS from Planetizen. The courses are accessible to citizen planners and professional planners alike and are significantly less expensive than their APA counterparts.

The idea behind The Community Planner is to to help citizens, community planners, and appointed and elected officials grapple with planning by providing readers with information, instructions, and examples. We are always open to suggestions and counterpoints, both of which add depth to the discussion. (mhd)


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Christiansburg, VA 24073



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Christiansburg, VA 24073
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Last updated on: 3 April, 2013