National Park Service
Heritage Preservation Services   —   Historic Preservation Planning Program

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Historic Preservation Planning for Local Communities

A Typical Planning Process

Step 1. How Do We Do Planning? Planning for Planning

It’s important to design your planning process very carefully.

By consciously designing a planning process — or developing a plan for planning — rather than “just doing it,” you can make sure the desired products or outcomes are actually achieved.

There are four major factors to consider:

  1. What resources are available?
    • Who will be involved? Staff, commission members, the public, a consultant?
    • How much will it cost? Time, budget, etc.?

  2. How can we structure the process to get the outcomes we want?
    • Who are the plan’s audiences and what are their needs?
    • Legal requirements?
    • Public participation strategies?

  3. What do we want to get out of the process?
    • Plan document?
    • Partnerships?

  4. What information is available for planning?
    • Historic and cultural resource inventories?
    • Historic contexts and other technical studies?
    • Issues and trends affecting historic and cultural resources?

Local Example
The Town of Verona, Wisconsin

In getting ready to begin the planning process, Verona’s on-line Planning Resource Center recommends considering the following questions:

  1. How can I get the information I need to plan?
  2. What are the current issues and changes needed to the existing plan?
  3. How do current community conditions differ from our vision for the future?
  4. What are current community conditions, and what information should the new plan contain?
  5. What trends, models, simulations, and issues should I examine?
  6. What are the opinions and viewpoints of the public and what changes would they like to see?
  7. What legal authority do we have for the plan and its implementation?
  8. What alternative scenarios for the future should we evaluate, and what are the consequences if we maintain the status quo?
  9. What plans in other communities might have helpful examples for our planning effort?
  10. What tools and strategies are available for implementing our plan?
  11. How can we plan for “smart growth”?

[For more details on these questions, see the Town of Verona Planning Resource Center.]

Public Participation

Public participation is a key element in all community planning and decision-making, including preservation planning.

Not only is public participation a fundamental feature of our democracy, but it makes good sense to involve those who are affected by the plan or whose decisions affect the preservation of our valued heritage.

Participants who have the chance to influence the planning outcome — the plan’s vision, findings, and goals — will take ownership of the plan and support it. The broader the base of support for the plan, the greater the chance it will be accepted and used.

Public means all those who need to be involved in the planning effort outside your office, including……

  • Preservation and cultural resource professionals,
  • Local, state, tribal, and federal government planners who may be among the primary users of the Plan,
  • Elected officials who make decisions that affect resources,
  • Traditional cultural groups,
  • Those whose opinions are generally not known and who have typically not been part of the preservation community,
  • Those who play key roles in shaping public opinion, and
  • Other individuals and groups who may be affected by the planning process and the Plan.

Goals of public participation

  • To provide the public with information so they can understand the process, the issues, and the values, and so they can participate in a meaningful way.
  • To provide full opportunities for the public to affect and influence the planning process and the outcome.
  • To learn from the public about their interests, concerns, and ideas.
  • To build consensus and public support for the vision and goals of the State Plan.

Additional guidance can be found in the Sources of Additional Information and the PLANNING COMPANION — just click on the menu links to the left. Guidance can also be found in the Community Toolbox from our Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.

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