Step-By-Step Guide

Step One: Define Your Study Area

The size and shape of your study area will depend on a variety of factors including community capacity (funding, personnel, volunteer support), the landscape (scale, complexity), or if neighboring communities are also participating. You may want to begin with a single corridor, or corridor segment,  and then branch out to others in the future. Consider also working with other communities in the region on a major road corridor that encompasses several municipalities. This type of coordinated effort can yield more consistent results across municipal lines.

Step Two: Create A Base Map

You will need to gather data on the corridor study-area you have selected and compile them into a serviceable map. This base map will form the graphic basis for your study. Have a map printed that includes your target area. Nearly all Vermont communities have access to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping, which provides access to many different digital “layers” of information. The following information, or “layers,” are useful to include on a base map:

  • Orthophotograph (an aerial photograph corrected to be measurable, like a map)
  • Property lines, including road rights of way and privately owned parcels
  • Road and street names
  • Municipal boundaries
  • Contour lines (topography)
  • Underground utility lines, such as sewer and water
  • Current zoning districts
  • Prime agricultural soils
  • Wetlands
  • Historic sites
  • Floodplains
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Endangered plant species
  • Public or conserved lands
TIP:This map should help you begin to understand the issues, opportunities and constraints of the corridor. Also, you do not have to have all the “layers” on one map. Multiple maps or a larger sized map can be used – whatever serves your needs.

Step Three: Conduct a Visual Analysis

A visual analysis simply means using images to understand the visual qualities of an environment. Photographs, maps, and other graphic materials can help you break down complex landscapes into manageable components. This analysis will help your community understand the landscape along the corridor – what it is now, how it evolved and how it may be significant.

Landscape Inventory

The purpose of a landscape inventory is to identify the presence and location of physical features and other factors that present development opportunities and constraints.  The inventory usually consists of a map containing a range of available data, such as:

  • Topography
  • Soils
  • Transportation infrastructure
  • Utilities
  • Historic sites
  • Floodplains
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Endangered plant species habitat
  • Prime agricultural land
  • Public or conserved land
  • Land ownership
  • Zoning districts

Some of these features present physical constraints to development.  Mapping steep terrain, floodplains, and wetlands will help you identify areas where construction is less likely to occur.  Barriers such as railroads and slopes can prevent access to suitable lands.  Other factors – such as conservation easements, endangered species habitat, or prime agricultural land designation – may present legal or regulatory limits to development.  On the other hand, transportation infrastructure, utilities, and buildable soils all present development opportunities.

As you begin to compile the layers of information on the landscape inventory map, you will begin to see which areas of the corridor are best suited for development and which areas will likely remain undeveloped.  Also investigate the current pace of growth, recent zoning and building applications and permits to obtain information on development demands and trends.

TIP:Do not just rely on the map – get outside and walk the land to gain a sense of how physical features fit together. Also consider having low elevation aerial photographs taken of the corridor as they can illustrate context more effectively.

Go to next section: Landscape and Land Use History