Urban planners typically do the following:
- Meet with public officials, developers, and the public regarding development plans and land use
- Gather and analyze economic and environmental studies, censuses, and market research data
- Conduct field investigations to analyze factors affecting land use
- Review site plans submitted by developers
- Assess the feasibility of proposals and identify needed changes
- Recommend whether proposals should be approved or denied
- Present projects to planning officials and planning commissions
- Stay current on zoning or building codes, environmental regulations, and other legal issues.
Urban planners identify community needs and develop short- and long-term plans to create, grow, or revitalize a community or area. For example, they may examine plans for proposed facilities, such as schools, to ensure that these facilities will meet the needs of a changing population. As an area grows or changes, planners help communities manage the related economic, social, and environmental issues, such as planning a new park, sheltering the homeless, or making the region more attractive to businesses.
Some planners work on broad, community-wide plans, while others focus on specific issues. Ultimately, all planners promote the best use of a community’s land and resources for residential, commercial, or recreational purposes.
When beginning a project, planners work with public officials, community members, and other groups to identify community issues or goals. Using research, data analysis, and collaboration with interest groups, planners formulate strategies to address issues or meet goals. They also may help carry out community plans, oversee projects, and organize the work of the groups involved. Projects may range from a policy recommendation for a specific initiative to a long-term, comprehensive area plan.
Planners use a variety of tools and technology in their work, including geographic information systems (GIS) tools that analyze and manipulate data. GIS is used to integrate the data with electronic maps. For example, planners may use GIS to overlay a land map with population density indicators. They also use statistical software, visualization and presentation programs, financial spreadsheets, and other database and software programs.