Chapter 4 | Analysis of Existing Conditions


When we plan for a community, there is always something already there. Even a plan for an entirely new community (something that is quite rare) must address the natural conditions of the land, the statewide road network and other features that already exist. In most community plans, existing population, existing housing stock, the local job market, traffic loads and patterns, shopping habits and a variety of other social, economic and physical characteristics of a community provide the context from which a new plan must start. This chapter explains how planners inventory and evaluate existing conditions as a starting point for a plan.

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  1. Working as a group, gather some basic data on your community. Assign someone to get a soil survey, someone to get USGS maps, and someone to get a map of utility systems and service areas; if you have more people, assign more of the topics discussed in this chapter. Examine the data that you have gathered. What do they tell you about your community, even without taking the further steps necessary to analyze the data?
  2. Obtain basic data on your community from the last three available censuses. What are the population trends? How do those compare to the trends of your county or metropolitan region? To those of the state? Is the population getting older or younger? Why? From what you know about the community, can you explain those trends?
  3. Obtain copies of the most recent comprehensive plans prepared for your community. Compare the information in those to some of the descriptive data that you have obtained. Do those plans provide a realistic starting point for an existing conditions analysis?
  4. Look at the growth patterns of your community and study any recent building projects of the local school board or district. Are they complementary, or at least compatible? If not, why not?

Discussion Questions

  1. Invite your local planner to come to class and give a talk on existing conditions in the community. After the speaker leaves, discuss what she or he has presented in the context of what you have read here. Does your community (at least as represented by that professional) have a good understanding of where it is now?
    See exercise 3 above, which would also make a good full-class exercise.


Supplemental Resources

Common Search Terms

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existing conditions, opportunities and constraints