Giffels Webster rolls out online municipal planning, zoning tools

DETROIT — Giffels Webster, a Detroit-based consulting firm in infrastructure and land development issues, announced this week the introduction of three new web tools that make the community planning process easier for citizens, developers and municipal officials.

The new tools are:

  • Picture This, a web platform that gives individuals a new way to voice opinions about the way their community looks and functions
  • Online property marketing that helps share information about ongoing developments
  • Interactive zoning maps that make zoning information accessible to anyone with internet access

“We believe that a more informed plan is a better plan,” said Scott Clein, PE, LEED, AP, president and partner at Giffels Webster. “These tools will strengthen our ability to help build better communities by encouraging communication with residents.”

“Picture This” engages citizens in the planning discussion

Implemented earlier this year in Brighton and DeWitt Township Picture This enables residents to take photos, upload them to an interactive community map, and pin comments about why and how those places matter. It can be accessed from computers, smart phones and tablets. Before the introduction of the platform, citizens did not have this type of convenient method to provide their feedback about parks, streetscapes, land use, development and more.

Since the program was introduced, both Brighton and DeWitt Township have seen positive engagement from the community. In fact, data gleaned from Picture This will be incorporated into the comprehensive plan for both communities. Giffels Webster plans to roll out the tool to other participating communities, including Ann Arbor and Rochester.

The Picture This user interface on an iPhone. An example of a photo uploaded by a resident is above. Giffels Webster illustration.

“The more input we have before assisting a community with a new long-range plan, the better,” said Rod Arroyo, partner and director of community planning at Giffels Webster. “Picture This enables us to better understand the perspective, concerns and vision of people who live in the community. They can share photos and comments about great places that make them proud, as well as other places that need some enhancement or change to fit a desired long-range vision.”

Online property marketing gives community projects great exposure

Giffels Webster recently assisted Grand Blanc Township with online property marketing for the township’s Technology Village concept. Working with Esri, a GIS mapping software platform, Giffels Webster created a web video and website offering a complete property description, including conceptual development and market information.

A conceptual map of Grand Blanc’s Technology Village. Giffels Webster illustration

“Through interactive web marketing of ongoing projects, Giffels Webster is able to create buzz around commercial developments and attract new businesses,” said Jill Bahm, principal planner with Giffels Webster. “We are helping our client communities take the next steps that can turn great plans into great places.”

Interactive zoning maps are a great tool for developers, officials

Giffels Webster recently released a new interactive zoning map, which stems from last year’s acquisition of Clearzoning. The map is initially being tested in Lathrup Village, and then will be rolled out to other communities. The interactive zoning map is an extension of Giffels Webster’s Clearzoning capabilities. When the user selects a parcel and clicks “Clearzone It!,” they receive information about local zoning ordinances and property information.

The tool is especially useful for builders and municipal officials to store, track and discover zoning data essential to a community. Also, residents can use the tool to check how the zoning laws might affect their home construction projects.

An interactive zoning map of the city of Lathrup Village. Giffels Webster illustration.

“Interactive zoning maps offer a far easier, interactive alternative to the old way of obtaining zoning information, which meant first using a paper map and then digging through pages and pages of regulations to find basic information,” said Arroyo. “Interactive zoning maps offer a user-friendly alternative that is available around the clock and around the world. In a matter of seconds, users can learn a property’s zoning classification and important setback, height and siting regulations.

Going forward, Giffels Webster officials said the firm plans to continue developing additional online planning tools with the help of its outstanding planning and GIS teams.

More about the company at



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