APA PA Chapter News: November

The Latest News from PA Chapter of APA…

We live in a technological age, and planners, like everyone one else, need to adjust to the ever-evolving tech landscape, which can be very daunting at times. This month, we provide information and links that can help planners keep up with this rapidly changing topic, including two stories on Artificial Intelligence and a story about a GIS planner and his helpful insight on GIS trends and resources. Enjoy!

Land Use Law Update
December 6 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

This session will review opinions of the federal and Pennsylvania courts issued since the last APA PA annual conference and highlight developments in the law. The session will cover the adoption, administration, interpretation and enforcement of MPC-enabled ordinances; floodplain, stormwater and wetlands management; other state and federal statutes impacting land use (e.g. fair housing statutes, RLUIPA); and Pennsylvania and federal constitutional issues (e.g. due process, takings). (PLEASE NOTE: This is the same session from the APA PA Annual Conference, if you attended)

Deadline to register is December 5.

Law CM credit is pending approval. You must attend the webinar live to earn CM credit.

**The Pennsylvania Chapter is not responsible for the materials or opinions of the speaker(s) you will hear**

Planning Webcast Series

Earn over 50 CM credits each year online – at no cost to members of participating organizations that support the Planning Webcast Series. Webcasts take place live on Fridays from 1:00 – 2:30 PM ET and are worth 1.5 CM credits (for live viewing only) unless otherwise noted. More information online.

For APA members that need CM credit for on-demand education sessions are available. The Planning Webcast Series, sponsored by APA Chapters & Divisions, are offering credit till the end of the year (12/31/2023). More information online.

Communication and Membership Committee

The Communication and Membership Committee is looking for volunteers to contribute articles for our monthly E-News. If you are interested or would like more information, please contact Amy Evans or Amy McKinney.

Opportunities for Giving

Each year the Chapter offers a scholarship to support individuals seeking funds for academic degree programs, internships, and professional development activities.  If anyone would like to contribute to the Chapter’s Scholarship fund, donations can be made here. We accept all major credit cards, or you can send a check. Please make your check payable to “PA Chapter of APA Scholarship Fund” and mail it to P.O. Box 4680, Harrisburg PA 17111.

Election Results

Congratulations to our new officers that will begin their term on January 1, 2024.

  • Leah Eppinger, AICP – President
  • Christina Arlt, AICP – Vice President
  • Pattie E. B. Guttenplan, AICP, RLA – Treasurer
  • Laura Ludwig, AICP – Secretary

Coming to Terms with Transformational Tech, For Better or Worse
By Amy Evans, AICP

Planners typically embrace technology because it offers improved ways of understanding our communities and relating to our fellow community members. Without it, our ability to engage with people, measure opinions and behaviors, map physical features and data, and compute trends and forecasts becomes ever more limited.

In fact, the biggest technological challenge that planners face today may be simply keeping up with it. New tools are proliferating as technology finds its way into every corner of our profession, from GIS to social media, public participation, broadband access, zoning review, and more. And these tools are more powerful than ever, with AI tools and assistants promising – some may even say threatening – to redefine how everything, from how emails are composed to how complex plans are developed.

If you are new to AI and looking for a good grounding in the subject, this 40-minute podcast from APA’s research director Peta Hurtado, AICP is worth a listen. For more technical dives, this quick read from Urban Design Lab provides an approachable overview, while a recent Bloomberg piece dives into the possibilities and limitations inherent both in specific AI design tools and in its broader use.

Planning Trend: Artificial Intelligence
By Betsy Logan

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a rapidly emerging and changing technology that has the potential promise to revolutionize the planning field. While AI is already in much of the technology we use daily (algorithms for movies, filtering spam, etc.), web services such as ChatGPT allow you to incorporate AI into your daily planning practices. One example is using ChatGPT to draft ordinances or policy guides. DALL-E, an AI application in Canva, can be used to create images, such as the picture made for this article showing an “urban planner designing a traditional neighborhood town.” While this technology is not problem-free, learning to use AI now can provide additional ideas on incorporating it into your workflow. In the long term, some of the anticipated uses of AI in planning practice include the following:

  • Traffic Management and Mobility Solutions
  • Infrastructure Development
  • Data Analysis and Predictive Modeling
  • Urban Resilience and Disaster Management
  • Community Engagement and Decision Support

Over the past few years, the APA has published and presented several documents and webinars related to the benefits of AI use and its drawbacks. One crucial item regarding AI is the ethical implications of using it. According to the Planning Advisory Service published Report 604, “Planning with Artificial Intelligence,” by Thomas W. Sanchez, Ph.D., “The ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI) is a complex and multifaceted issue…” (p. 49). Biases, transparency, and fairness are only some ethical challenges that users should be aware of when using AI. Planning.org has some create in-depth reports, memos, and articles where you can obtain more information on the ever-changing technology that is AI.

Planner in Tech: Colin Murtoff
By Brian O’Leary, AICP and Elle Steinman

Mapping, GIS, data analysis, and scenario development are key aspects of contemporary planning, and many firms and organizations have specialists supporting these areas. One of these specialists at the Chester County Planning Commission is Colin Murtoff, who handles projects that deal with mapping and spatial analysis. On a typical day, Colin can be found working on projects that range from static maps for municipal comprehensive plans and studies, to interactive maps that add additional levels of user-interaction.

After graduating from West Chester University with a degree in Geography and Planning, Colin pursued an internship at a local town planning and landscape architecture corporation where he was able to gain experience and apply his GIS skills. When he recognized the opportunity for professional growth in a field that interested him, Colin applied to an open position at the Chester County Planning Commission in 2016 – and the rest is history!

While Colin enjoys all of his projects and views each one as a new opportunity to further his knowledge and skills in the GIS field, some of his favorites include working on the county’s Historic Resource Atlas Project, as well as the National Register Historic Resources Interactive Map. “I’ve always had an interest in historic resources and historic preservation, and these projects were, and continue to be, educational and of great interest to me,” he said.

Originally from Carlisle Pennsylvania, Colin graduated from Boiling Springs High School and currently resides in Chester County just a few miles outside of the West Chester Borough. In his spare time, he can most likely be found playing golf or volleyball, hiking, or at the gym. “A body in motion stays in motion, and I love to keep it moving,” Colin noted. Additionally (and something most people don’t know), is that Colin is a horror theme fanatic and he’s always looking for the next movie or show to provide a good scare.

Colin’s favorite place in Chester County is downtown West Chester, as he explained that it provides the perfect mix of nostalgia and an opportunity to make new memories. He also enjoys spending time at St. Peter’s Village, Longwood Gardens, and Marsh Creek State Park.

When asked what his favorite life philosophy is, Colin replied with a simple phrase that he reminds himself often. “Our lives are often filled with constant stress, and it can be easy to fall into thoughts of anger and negativity. If I ever find myself doing this, I simply remind myself to ‘choose happiness’ whenever I can. A simple, yet helpful reminder,” he commented.

When asked about GIS at Chester County, Colin noted that GIS is an integral part of the planning process at CCPC and other planning departments across the state of Pennsylvania. Advancements in GIS technology have steered the county in the direction of creating interactive maps and applications, using ArcGIS Online resources such as Experience Builder, Instant Apps, Dashboards, Sites and Storymaps, with the goal of informing the public about planning efforts through a robust, interactive map-based system. This system allows its users to pan and zoom to access various levels of detail and analyze information of interest to them and their constituents.

Colin added that the technology and GIS world is rapidly changing. To help planners understand these trends, he graciously offered the following links:

The Future of GIS: Trends and Innovation in GIS Technology

A Monumental Shift for Planners Starts with GIS (ESRI Blog)

Current Community Planning (ESRI)

Also, getting the data needed for GIS maps can be challenging. The following resources can be helpful:

Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access (PASDA)

PA Office of Administration GIS Data

Open Data PA

Pennsylvania DEP Open Data Portal

Pennsylvania DCNR Open Data

PennDOT Spatial Data Portal

PA-SHARE: Pennsylvania’s Historic and Archaeological Resource Exchange