PlaceMap is an interactive digital option for residents to share planning ideas.

Mapping a New Home: Using PlaceMap to Channel Public Input

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Thursday March 07, 2013

Have you been meaning to attend an Interim Zoning committee meeting or Community Visioning week event but missed the opportunity to be there in person? No problem. Just “map” it out with PlaceMap, the new online interactive tool designed to record your ideas for the city, at your own convenience.

Form Based Codes Committee Consultant Paul Dreher of Dreher Designs and Projects for Public Spaces created the site to keep the momentum going after the Community Visioning Week meetings in mid-February. Form Based Code is created for the people, and PlaceMap is intended to be an easy outlet for residents to share exactly what they want their living environment to provide for them and future residents.

“It was fantastic to get over 200 people there to Community Visioning Week, but the opportunity is to get 10 times that many people weighing in [with PlaceMap],” Paul Conner, director of Planning and Zoning said at the Feb. 26 Planning Commission meeting. “It’s giving people a chance to provide input on their own time and on their own terms.”

The City of Burlington initiated a tool similar to PlaceMap last fall for its waterfront plan. Thousands of comments helped give the city perspective, Conner said.

Residents can access the site via the project’s site, The site provides a PlaceMap tab which displays in bold “The Power of 10.”

What does that mean?

“A great place typically has at least 10 things to do in it; a great neighborhood has at least 10 great places,” according to the PlaceMap site.

What are 10 things about Vermont that makes it unique? What are 10 things about South Burlington that attract current residents to it? What are 10 things about your neighborhood that you can’t find elsewhere? Can’t add up to 10? That’s where you come in.

When residents hit the “Share an idea” button, they are prompted to select the area of interest. Next, residents have 200 words to fill out “My idea to improve this place” and infinite space to expand on queries such as  “so that people could_______” and “because I want South Burlington to be________” The resident would then proceed to rate the place by categories and then finally map it out. The area is then identified by a digital thumbtack. Repeat areas have the number of comments displayed atop the red thumbtack.

Existing comments consist of suggestions brewed at Community Visioning Week as well as contributions made by residents who have contributed on their own time.

If residents need a jumpstart, they can view existing ideas and have the freedom to further comment on them. Filtering  through 21 categories such as “walkable and bikeable,” “city housing,” or “street life/vibrancy,” will provide context for the suggestions.

Robert Ryan suggested the sidewalk on Hinesburg Rd. at Tilley drive is short by a hundred yards and could use improvements for safe walkability and bikeability. One of Jen Black’s many comments suggests to liven the UMall with more green--”too much pavement,” she said. Keith Epstein would like the parks and recreation path to connect with the bike path. Having a sense of connection and pushing for safety are common themes thus far.

Get involved in the future of your city.  Visit the city website, and weigh in with your own suggestions for improving our quality of life by mapping a new home!


SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent