Community planning is facing many challenges around the world, such as the rapid growth of megacities as well as urban sprawl. The State of Michigan in the United States is attempting to re-invent itself through place making by using participatory planning supported by new information tools, models and online training. The Michigan State University Land Policy Institute framework for place making includes Picture Michigan Tomorrow, an informatics initiative to democratize data and incorporate it into scenario planning methodologies and tools, and Citizen Planner, an on-ground and online training program for local planning officials. Still in the early phases of implementation, these initiatives provide promising models for use in other regions of the world that seek consensus among citizens, developers and government on the vision and plan for their communities.
The growing population of the world continues to gravitate towards population centers to meet basic human needs such as housing, employment, food and water. Demographers with the United Nations have noted “the world is in the midst of a massive urban transition” (Hill, Wolfson & Targ, 2004). According to statistics prepared by the United Nations Population Division and Environment programs:
In 1975, just over one-third of the world’s population lived in urban areas. Currently, [n]early half of the world’s population (47 percent) lives in urban areas, a figure which is expected to grow by 2 percent per year during 2000 - 15. By the year 2025, the United Nations estimates that almost two-thirds of the world’s population will live in densely populated metropolitan areas. Much of this growth will continue to occur in megacities like Tokyo, Japan; Cairo, Egypt; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Mexico City, Mexico; Bombay, India; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Hill, Wolfson & Targ, 2004)
The growth of megacities will have profound impacts on the quality of life on vast numbers of the world’s people. Methods for responding to growth through city planning vary considerably among nations around the world. Much of the variation is deeply rooted in each country’s value system. The system imposed by each nation provides unique opportunities and constraints for addressing human settlement planning concerns within each nation. In Europe, for example, there is a strong tradition of top-down land-use planning in many countries. However, recent trends have been to transfer some of this authority to local municipalities. In Brazil, statutes emphasize a citizens’ right to sustainable cities and the participation of municipalities and citizens in development decisions. In China, the law sets targets and tasks for improving the environment through urban planning. However, in reality there is not yet a functional national law to address land-use concerns (Nolan, 2006).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Place Making: The process of designing the physical attributes of a community that make it pleasurable and unique.
Scenario Planning: A process of forecasting multiple future outcomes to simulate the impact of changes in scenarios. Scenario planning avoids the dangers of single point forecasts by allowing users to explore the implications of several alternative futures. By surfacing, challenging and altering beliefs, planners are able to test their assumptions in a non-threatening environment.
Smart Growth: Generally refers to compact, transit accessible, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use development patterns. In contrast to prevalent development practices, Smart growth refocuses a larger share of regional growth within central cities, urbanized areas, inner suburbs, and areas that are already served by infrastructure. (see American Planning Association Smart growth Policy 2002 at www.planning.org/policyguides/smartgrowth.htm)
Informatics: Informatics is the discipline of science which investigates the structure and properties (not specific content) of scientific information, as well as the regularities of scientific information activity, its theory, history, methodology and organization. Mikhailov, A.I., Chernyl, A.I., and Gilyarevskii, R.S. (1966) “Informatika – novoe nazvanie teorii naucnoj informacii.” Naucno tehniceskaja informacija, 12, pp. 35–39.
Participatory Planning: Participatory planning as defined here involves the systematic effort to envision a community’s desired future and planning for that future, while involving and harnessing the specific competencies and input of community residents, leaders, and stakeholders in the process. (Author Definition).
Planning Officials: The local elected or appointed citizen responsible for making planning and zoning decisions. This term is interchangeable with planning commissioner, zoning board member, zoning board of appeals member, council member, or township or county board member as used in this chapter. (Author Definition).
Sprawl: A low-density land use pattern that is automobile dependent, energy and land consumptive, and requires a very high ratio of road surface to development served (Michigan Society of Planning, Patterns on the Land, Trends Future Project, final report, 1995).